Jana Sena supremo Pawan Kalyan on Thursday, 12 January, strongly defended his proposed alliance with the TDP, saying there was no need to face a “heroic death” while going it alone.
However, he also indicated that the alliance could still fall apart and he could “go it alone” if he was forced to “compromise on our respect”, suggesting that the finer details are yet to worked out.
Addressing a Yuva Shakti, or Youth Power, meeting at Ranasthalam in Srikakulam district, he asked the cheering crowds if they would assure him of their support in the coming elections.
If yes, he was willing to go it alone.
But, he said, past experience had taught him that, as part of a strategy, it was better to join hands with others, even diametrically opposite parties, if he has to face down a dictator — a not-so-oblique reference to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and YSRCP supremo YS Jagan Mohan Reddy.
The Jana Sena leader clarified that his comments about not splitting anti-YSRCP votes in the past were only to be seen in the context of the “stability of state”.
Related: BJP ‘road map’ may leave Pawan Kalyan with no choice
“Without surrendering ourselves, or lowering, compromising, on our respect, we will go for the alliance — if not, we will go it alone. Why will I get into an alliance that lowers your (Jana Sena workers’) dignity?” he asked, in what can be seen as a veiled warning to the TDP.
Though neither TDP Chief N Chandrababu Naidu nor Pawan Kalyan have openly said that there was a discussion about the alliance during their meeting on 8 January, it is understood that the alliance proposal has been sealed.
It is also learnt that there were discussions at the meeting about seat-sharing for the 2024 elections to the state Assembly as well as the Lok Sabha, though nothing has been finalised.
Details to be worked out?
Pawan Kalyan’s remarks that he would go it alone if his self-respect was compromised in the alliance is being seen as an indication that while, indeed, there were serious discussions about the alliance as well as seat-sharing, there is till no agreement and hard negotiations are underway.
On 8 January, after their two-and-a-half-hour meeting, both leaders told the media that they had discussed only how to fight against the undemocratic and anarchic rule of YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s government.
“When he came and met me after the Vizag incident (in October), it was my duty and responsibility to stand in solidarity when he faced such a situation. That’s why I went and met him. Believe me, there was no discussion about seat-sharing at all during the meeting,” Pawan Kalyan said in Ranasthalam on Thursday.
Pawan Kalyan has been repeatedly advocating for a three-way Jana Sena-TDP-BJP alliance. With the BJP making it amply clear that it is not interested in such an alliance, the Jana Sena leader has little option but to talk to the TDP.
As head of the nascent Jana Sena in 2014, Pawan Kalyan had campaigned for both the BJP and the TDP, with both parties coming to power at the Centre and the state, respectively.
But his decision to strike out on his own in 2019, in an alliance with the two Communist parties and Bahujan Samaj Party, came a cropper, with the Jana Sena winning no more than one seat in the 175-member Assembly.
Pawan Kalyan said that he could have done wonders had his party won at least 10 MLAs in the 2019 elections. Due to a lack of MLAs, he is now fighting on the ground.
He said that he would be happy with both options — of absolute power for Jana Sena or power-sharing with like-minded parties.
“Due to the split of votes, technically YSRCP won 53 segments in the 2019 elections. But this time, we don’t want to allow the split of votes,” he added.
He targeted Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy for his jail tenure in the CBI’s quid pro quo cases and referred to him by his prison number.