In a significant political development, TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu and Jana Sena chief Pawan Kalyan met in Vijayawada on Tuesday, 18 October.
The meeting created a flutter in the political circles as it came even as the ruling YSRCP and the TDP have been readying their workers for the 2024 Assembly election.
The leaders, incidentally, met for the first time after parting ways post the 2014 polls.
The “impromptu” meeting, Naidu said, was in solidarity with the actor-politician who was “ill-treated by the YSRCP government” in Visakhapatnam.
“I felt very bad about the way the Vizag police and the YSRCP government treated Pawan Kalyan in Vizag. The meeting was not on my schedule today, it was an impromptu one. I felt it was my responsibility and duty to extend my solidarity to him,” Naidu said after the meeting.
Political observers, however, viewed the meeting as a precursor of a political realignment in the state.
Call to ‘save democracy’
After the meeting, the leaders urged all Opposition parties in the state to join hands to “save democracy.” They said democracy was under threat in Andhra Pradesh under the YSRCP rule.
“Elections may come and go, but for democracy to survive, political parties should survive. However, the current government is creating a fear psychosis and harassing everyone,” the former chief minister said.
Naidu added the meeting was just a beginning of something bigger.
“So, for democracy to survive in the state, political parties should first survive and for that to happen we all need to join hands to save democracy. This is only the beginning, and we will hold many such meetings and discussions hereafter,” he said, giving out clear indication of a possible political realignment in Andhra Pradesh.
Pawan Kalyan echoed similar sentiments, and urged Opposition parties to join hands to save democracy.
BJP disappoints Pawan
A few hours before the meeting, Pawan Kalyan expressed disappointment over his party’s alliance with the BJP.
“Though we (BJP-Jana Sena) are in an alliance, I somehow feel that it is not going well. Both the BJP central leadership and we know and understand that. I sought a roadmap from the BJP to fight the ruling YSRCP, and the time is running out,” he told party cadre at the Jana Sena’s headquarters at Mangalagiri.
“I don’t have any desire for any posts. My wish is to save the state from the rule of rowdy and goonda elements. I need to change my strategies. I am not against Modi or the BJP. I have utmost respect towards Narendra Modi, but can’t be in slavery,” he added.
The actor-turned-politician also asked the workers whether the party had enough strength and machinery at the grassroots level to face elections effectively.
Meanwhile, parallels were being drawn between Tuesday’s meeting with a similar one they had before the 2014 polls.
In 2014, Naidu visited Pawan Kalyan’s residence in Hyderabad and returned after striking a political understanding. After the 2014 polls, the TDP-BJP alliance formed a government in Andhra Pradesh.
Though Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena was not in the fray in 2014, he supported the TDP-BJP alliance and toured the state along with Narendra Modi and Naidu.
Later, Pawan Kalyan drifted away from the TDP-BJP camp and his party contested the 2019 polls in alliance with the Left parties and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
BJP plays down meeting
The BJP, meanwhile, preferred to play it safe, considering the fast-changing political equations in the state.
“I don’t think he (Pawan Kalyan) will leave us and join hands with the TDP. After the Vizag incident, every leader has been talking to Pawan Kalyan, extending solidarity,” BJP state general secretary S Vishnuvardhan Reddy told a TV channel.
He pointed out that even the Left leaders have spoken to the actor-politician.
“Even though leaders of the Left parties have spoken to him, it doesn’t mean he is joining hands with them. In fact, our party leaders too spoke to him and our state unit chief Somu Veerraju personally went and met him,” he explained.
Incidentally, the BJP did not warm up to Pawan Kalyan’s earlier proposals for a grand Opposition alliance to take on the YSRCP. The Jana Sena leader had indicated that he was open to an alliance with both the BJP and the TDP.
According to analysts, the BJP remained cold to Pawan Kalyan’s overtures as he wanted to rope in the TDP: a party the BJP wanted to push out of the scene.
The BJP’s stony silence on joining hands with TDP has been seen as the saffron party indicating to Pawan Kalyan that it was game to work with him, but not with the TDP.
Until a few days ago, both the Jana Sena and the Opposition TDP indirectly pushed the narrative of a need to join hands so that there would not be any split in the anti-incumbency vote in 2024.
Due to the lack of response from the BJP, both parties remained silent on the proposal to forge a “Mahagathbandhan” of sorts.
Though the Jana Sena and the BJP were allies, they had never taken up joint programmes in the last two years.
While the BJP planned its protests against the ruling dispensation, the Jana Sena had its own programmes. Tuesday’s meeting is also being seen as a fallout of trust issues between the two parties.
The ruling YSRCP, however, said a veil had been removed.
“The veil hiding Naidu and Pawan Kalyan has been removed now. They were working in tandem and had a secret pact to fight us. Now, it is out in the open. Nothing new in this,” Andhra Pradesh Housing Minister Jogi Ramesh told reporters at the YSRCP headquarters.
Pawan tears into YSCRP
A day after he was denied permission to hold the Jana Vani programme in Vizag, Pawan Kalyan went ballistic against YSRCP leaders on Tuesday.
He returned from Vizag to the party headquarters in Mangalagiri and addressed party cadres, showing his footwear as a warning to YSRCP leaders.
The YSRCP leaders often call him a “package star”, accusing him of working at the behest of Chandrababu Naidu, and taking money from the latter to attack the YSRCP and its chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Pawan Kalyan’s one-and-a-half-hour speech was laced with expletives. He also said he was ready for a fight with “YSRCP goondas” even on the streets with hockey sticks or fists.
He went on to say he was ready to take on any of the YSRCP’s “goonda MLAs”. He also targeted the Kapu MLAs of the ruling party.