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Withdrawing of ministers, a drastic step taken by Chandrababu under compulsion

Saturday, March 10, 2018
By Prakash Bal Joshi

As expected in the pre-poll year, lots of hedging and repositioning is taking place in India due to political compulsions of regional parties surviving on sentiments of people from certain regions. Despite their ideological assertions, political exigencies prevail forcing them to readjust their positions.

Telegu Desam Party (TDP) chief Chandrababu Naidu is a seasoned politician who has fine-tuned the art of adjusting himself and his political party according to changing political scenario in the country. He knows very well that unless and until he secures his position through ballot box in his own state, he can play very little role at the national level. He did not get the kind of political mileage and prominence he had during his first stint during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure as a prime minister, reflecting changing trends at the national level. He also had to face lot of adjustments as the state which once he led has been bifurcated into two separate states and he need to consolidate his own position first before talking about alliances at the national level.

Taking stock
As result of his taking stock of the situation and urgent need to consolidate his own position he asked two TDP ministers from the Union Cabinet, Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Y S Chowdhary to quit the Modi government over the long pending issue of special status to Andhra Pradesh. The decision was taken after he held a meeting with his own elected representatives.  The ministers tendered their resignation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi due to "unavoidable circumstances". While taking such a drastic step, Chandrababu had instructed ministers to make it clear that they were leaving the cabinet but the party was not leaving the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the BJP. Naidu wanted to make it clear that the resignations are given only on specific issue of not getting special status from the Union government and he had no other political issues against the BJP led NDA.  It is not only   the TDP, but several other regional parties like Shiv Sena, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have been assessing the situation and fine-tuning their strategies. The Sena has been hitting out at the BJP for quite long despite being partner in Union as well as the State cabinet in Maharashtra.

In response to the TDP action, the BJP also asked its two ministers Dr Kamineni Srinivas and Pydikondala Manikyala Rao to withdraw from the state cabinet led by the TDP chief minister Chandrababu Naidu. Taking a cue from the situation, Congress President Rahul Gandhi has thrown a carrot to the TDP saying that if his party comes to power, then he will give special status to Andhra Pradesh. For resigned minister Chaudhary, this is hypothetical position and does not make any difference in present scenario. The TDP does not want to go away from the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team but at the same time does not want to lose its grip over the state which is feeling left out by not getting the status as a special state requiring additional funds and planning.

Like TDP, the BJP is also sensitive to the people’s mood in the state in the pre-election year and would not like to ruffle the feathers. Chandrababu Naidu has warned the BJP that if the central government ignore the sentiments of the people of the state, the NDA will suffer ultimately as other parties will influence them more.

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley tried to pacify the TDP by promising that the central government would give Andhra Pradesh financial assistance equivalent to a special category state. He agreed with the assessment that Andhra Pradesh was financially suffering when the state was bifurcated but added that such a category did exist when the state was bifurcated in 2014. However, the TDP found the assurance coming too late and vague. The Central government has suggested creation of a special purpose vehicle (SPV) where NABARD could give the money so as not to upset the fiscal deficit of the state. However, the state government has not yet responded to the suggestion made by the Union government.

What exactly is the reason for Chandrababu to take such a drastic step. Chandrababu Naidu’s main rival in the state is YSR Jagan Mohan Reddy have been engaged in war-of-words over well-being of the state and recent interaction between Jaganmohan and BJP leaders has upset Naidu. Now that Naidu has distanced himself from the BJP, the BJP and YSR Congress may come close in near future. The possibility can not be ruled out. Andhra Pradesh BJP chief K Hari Babu   thinks that there is a window of expansion in the present developments in the state. Since the state assembly poll will be held along with the Parliament elections, the equation in the state are based on this assumption. The BJP can emerge as a third alternative in the state which has 25 Lok Sabha seats out of which the party won only two seats.

Staging a comeback
With the results in three north-eastern states going BJP way, Naidu has taken care to ensure that he remains part of the NDA alliance though for regional compulsions trying to show that he has state’s interest uppermost than what happens on the national scene. The BJP is obviously happy that the two powerful regional parties are keeping away distance from the Congress which is eager to stage a comeback in the next general elections. In fact, TDP’s decision to remain part of the NDA while resigning from the Modi government is nothing but effort by Naidu to hedging its bets as the BJP’s clout increases at national level.

It is actually very delicate balancing act which the BJP will have to undertake to pacify and keep the regional parties in good books. They should not take such drastic steps for their own regional compulsion which might create a destabilising image where the BJP may appear to be not in control of the situation. Or else if the general ambience and political climate is changed from comfortable to hostile, the BJP’s overall planning will go haywire.

Though the BJP with its performance in the Northeast, the party has once again got a better record of wins, it cannot be forgotten that the party could do it basically due to its tie ups and understanding with the regional parties and groups in those regions. The war over statue disfiguring is creating law and order situation, it will also affect the BJP’s over all image if it is not dealt with an iron hand and contained before it goes out of hand.  

The party has already strained relations with the Shiv Sena which is hell bent on criticising the state as well as Modi government in Delhi. The party, which is part of the central as well as the state government, has already announced its decision to fight next Parliament elections on its own giving a window of opportunity for the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party to come together and fight the elections to improve their positions due to division of saffron votes. There is still uncertainty whether the state and the parliamentary elections will be hold simultaneously in Maharashtra or held separately. Ultimately, the alliances with the regional partners are crucial for the BJP in 2019.

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