Amit Shah to meet Jr NTR as BJP stirs the Telugu political pot

The meeting with NTR’s grandson will follow the BJP No. 2’s meeting with TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu.

ByVasu Gandikota

Published Aug 21, 2022 | 12:36 PMUpdatedAug 21, 2022 | 10:31 PM

Jr NTR on Campaign

In a development that is bound to set off ripples in political circles of the two Telugu states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Union Home Minister Amit Shah — the No. 2 in the BJP central leadership — is scheduled to meet one of the top stars of Telugu film industry, Jr NTR, who comes from a political family, during his visit to Hyderabad on Sunday, 21 August.

According to exclusive information available to South First, the meeting — the venue of which is as yet unknown — is slated to happen shortly after Shah finishes one with former chief minister and TDP president Nara Chandrababu Naidu at Ramoji Film City (RFC), close to the Shamshabad international airport.

Media baron Ramoji Rao, who owns RFC, is expected to be present when Shah and Naidu meet.

Shah is arriving in Hyderabad on Sunday afternoon to address a public meeting at Munugode, the Assembly constituency going for a bypoll, following the resignation of sitting Congress legislator K Rajagopal Reddy, who will be joining the saffron party in the presence of the home minister.

Later, Shah will travel to RFC and from there to the airport for his flight back to Delhi.

What is BJP’s plan for the Telugu states?

While the TDP and the BJP have been friends in the past, the initiative taken by BJP leaders to facilitate a meeting between Shah and Jr NTR is likely to set off intense speculation over what the saffron party’s plan for the Telugu states is.

Jr NTR is the grandson of late NT Rama Rao, the TDP’s founder, and goes by the same name.

Nara Chandrababu Naidu

TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu. (Supplied)

Junior’s father, Harikrishna, was among those who joined hands with Chandrababu Naidu when he dethroned the senior NTR in 1995.

However, relations between Naidu and Junior have never been great, and there has been no love lost between the two over the years.

This is precisely what makes Shah-Junior meeting interesting.

While Naidu has been making overtures to the BJP for a tie-up in Andhra Pradesh as he seeks to regain power in the 2024 elections by defeating YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, it’s more than likely that the BJP will seek its pound of flesh first: a tie-up in Telangana, which is scheduled to go to polls six months before, in November-December, 2023.

A TDP-BJP tie-up for Telangana?

Though the TDP’s vote bank shrunk to a pathetic 3 percent in the 2018 polls in Telangana, BJP leaders are of the view that even a minuscule addition to that vote share from multiple partnerships would help tilt the scales against the ruling TRS and its leader, Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao.

As the Congress keeps diminishing with each passing day, thanks to internal squabbles and poor leadership at the state level, the BJP is smelling an opportunity for itself.

Surveys done so far seem to indicate that the BJP is likely to get at least 30 percent of the vote share, a significant jump from the previous election.

Unlike the Congress, which has a vote bank in almost all segments but not enough to win a sizeable number of seats, the BJP’s presence is heavily concentrated in a little over 30 of Telangana’s 119 Assembly constituencies, where it’s expected to be locked in a straight fight with the ruling TRS, with the Congress reduced to the margins.

Improving vote share

The BJP’s plan is to improve the share by at least 5 percentage points and thereby increase the number of seats where it can put up a tough fight from 30 to at least 50.

Moreover, Kammas, who are aligned with the TDP, form a sizeable number in at least 30 Assembly constituencies in Telangana. And Naidu has nothing to lose by propping up the BJP in Telangana if it’s going to politically damage his bete noire, KCR.

Amit Shah

Union Home Minister and BJP No 2 Amit Shah. (AmitShah/Twitter)

As for Jr NTR, what Shah will seek from him is unknown thus far. A Union minister who facilitated the meeting did not go beyond requesting the film star to agree to a conversation.

Political watchers are of the view that Jr NTR may not be comfortable doing anything that could solely benefit Naidu to come to power in Andhra Pradesh. Those in the know of his thinking are also ruling out the possibility of the film star formally joining the BJP as he will be “one among many” in the saffron party.

Or, will the BJP merely solicit Jr NTR’s campaign skills to aid in its efforts to upset KCR? And, how will Jr respond to the overtures by the BJP? Multiple questions are expected to crop up soon.

In 2009, when the then Congress chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy returned to power for a second time, Jr NTR campaigned extensively for the TDP but only ended up taking the blame for the party’s defeat.

Ever since, for a variety of reasons, the relationship between the star and Naidu has been under strain.