Why the TDP bent over backwards to give BJP 25% of the Lok Sabha seats in Andhra Pradesh

Whether Jagan or Naidu, it was anyway a win-win for the NDA; on top of it the BJP has six Lok Sabha seats too.

ByVasu Gandikota

Published Mar 11, 2024 | 8:55 AMUpdatedMar 11, 2024 | 8:55 AM

Chandrababu Naidu discussed with Amit Shah the possibility of an alliance between the BJP and the regional party for the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. (X)

It’s a deal that perhaps has no parallel in Indian electoral history — something only a Narendra Modi-Amit Shah combine could have swung, adopting tactics they are renowned for.

As the BJP sealed an electoral alliance in Andhra Pradesh with the Nara Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP and the Jana Sena powered by actor-politician Pawan Kalyan, one couldn’t ignore the numbers and the story they told.

Naidu has parted with six of the 25 Lok Sabha seats at stake to the saffron party, which has less than one percent vote share in a state heavily polarised between TDP and the ruling YSRCP of Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy. That’s 25 percent of the seats.

With an estimated seven percent vote share, the Jana Sena got two Lok Sabha seats but 24 of the 175 in the Assembly. The BJP central leadership, not keen on rewards at the state level, settled for just six Assembly seats.

Andhra Pradesh will see simultaneous polls for the Lok Sabha and the Assembly.

Also read: TDP, BJP seal alliance

Naidu falls in line

What prompted TDP supremo Naidu to crawl when asked to bend?

According to those privy to happenings over the last couple of months, the proposal for an alliance came from the BJP and Naidu could not muster the courage to say ‘No’ despite stiff opposition from his party’s rank and file, who were unwilling to colour themselves saffron.

The reasons are two-fold: Naidu believes that the backing of the BJP will ensure that the official machinery stays neutral, thereby making election management even-handed. His biggest fear is that TDP voters will not be allowed to go to booths and exercise their franchise, and even finding election agents could be tough.

Secondly, he expects funding to improve if donors know that he has the blessings of Delhi.

For the politically influential and financially strong Kamma community to which Naidu belongs, 2024 is a do-or-die battle. A defeat this time will make their survival extremely difficult, with Jagan expected to go all out to diminish their clout.

Hence, the desperation, despite being aware that Muslims, a majority of whom are already with Jagan, will totally consolidate in the YSRCP’s favour after TDP’s dalliance with the BJP.

Also read: BJP district chiefs’ demand

The BJP’s motives

But why has the BJP chosen to go with TDP, despite Modi’s known antipathy towards Naidu after the latter’s vitriolic attack against him in the run-up to the 2019 elections?

Two reasons again. If insiders are to be believed, for all the grandstanding by the BJP about winning big in the coming election, internal assessments apparently reveal that the party could end up with 225-250 seats – short of the simple majority mark of 272. Therefore, the clamour for new friends, whether it’s Biju Janata Dal in Odisha or the TDP in Andhra.

Also, while Jagan is more than likely to support the BJP if needed, the same is not true of Naidu. In the absence of a pre-poll alliance, he could swing towards the Opposition INDIA bloc should he get the chance. Prudence suggests it’s better to win him over before the polls.

Also read: Jagan ‘ready for five more years’

Jagan’s plight

In one sense, it’s a bitter pill to swallow for Chief Minister Jagan, who went the extra mile to please the BJP dispensation, both within and outside Parliament.

For instance, he was ditched once in 2021 when he wrote the famous letter against Justice NV Ramana a few months before he was due to become the Chief Justice of India. Jagan had Delhi’s blessings when writing the letter, but in the end, the regime favoured Ramana.

Again, last year, he had sought and received Delhi’s endorsement before having Naidu arrested and sent to jail.

Using the multiple cases slapped against Naidu, the BJP has now bent the TDP chief into an alliance on its terms.

Also read: The Alliance template

Political equations on the ground

Political analysts are wondering whether there will be a transfer of votes between the allies – TDP, Jana Sena and BJP.

It’s unlikely to matter.

The coming election is about Jagan, with those who are for and against him ready to do battle. The upper castes (Kammas, Brahmins, Vysyas and even a section of Reddys) and the urban educated are against Jagan for what they perceive as his “squandering of public money on doles” without focusing on development.

The Dalits, the prime beneficiaries of the YSRCP’s many welfare schemes, are solidly with him.

That leaves the Backward Classes (BCs), the traditional backbone of the TDP. Jagan has made quite a few moves to woo them. Also, their rivalry with the Kapus, the community to which Pawan Kalyan belongs, is a part of Andhra’s political history.

Will the BCs reconcile with the Kapus being part of their grouping, or will a section of them tilt towards Jagan? That’s something to watch for.

Overall, at this stage, it appears to be a tough battle. The only clear winner at the moment is the BJP. Whether Naidu triumphs or Jagan retains power, it’s a win-win for the saffron party. Either way, it will add 25 Lok Sabha seats to the National Democratic Alliance’s kitty.