As had been predicted by many analysts after the party lost the recent assembly and Lok Sabha elections, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has begun to implode.
four Rajya Sabha MPs of the party quit and joined the BJP and what is surprising that two of them were extremely close to party boss Chandrababu Naidu. All four of them are businessmen and they resigned even as Naidu was on a holiday in Europe.
One of them, YS Chowdhry, was a minister of state in the last National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government before Naidu decided to withdraw from the government on the grounds that Andhra Pradesh was not getting a special package that would help it to develop fast. Chowdhry was reputedly very close to Naidu and his importance in the party arose not from his political acumen but for being a resource mobiliser.
The same is the case for CM Ramesh, a construction baron. In view of the closeness of these MPs to Naidu, many initially wrongly perceived it as a move planned by the TDP chief himself.
Chowdhry told the media after breaking away that he quit because he was against TDP’s breaking away from the NDA a few months ago, but analysts said that numerous CBI cases against his company were the reason for his switching sides.
The Age Factor
These analysts said that Naidu at 70 was past his prime and the fact that the TDP could secure no more than three Lok Sabha seats out of 25 from Andhra Pradesh and 23 assembly seats of 175 in the recent elections was good enough reason to anticipate that the party will disintegrate.
Added to this is Naidu’s resolve to bequeath the leadership of TDP to his son Lokesh who besides losing his seat in the recent polls isn’t seen as a person with much potential. TDP men are against the move but can’t say much in the party ruled by Naidu with an iron hand.
Interestingly, the MPs quitting TDP were pictured handing over their resignations to fellow Andhra Pradesh denizen and vice president of India Venkaiah Naidu. Earlier an important minister in the Modi government, many perceived that in the past Venkaiah was very close to Chandrababu Naidu and that this was the reason why BJP could not make it big in Andhra Pradesh.
Analysts had reasoned — correctly or otherwise — that his elevation to the position of VP was a move to take him away from active politics and open the doors for BJP in Andhra Pradesh.
The expectation is that over the next few days and weeks some more TDP MPs from the Lok Sabha and MLAs will quit the party as BJP would begin to ramp up its activities in Andhra Pradesh. This will mark the beginning of BJP as a major party in Andhra Pradesh where it has been virtually non- existent till now and has played second fiddle to the TDP.
According to well-informed sources, BJP wants to form its maiden state government by 2024 when the next assembly election is held in the state. Until then, YSRCP led by Jaganmohan Reddy will be allowed to continue.
Jagan has a few CBI cases against him and given so he will not be vocal against the BJP as it initiates an expansion spree. The BJP feels that although it is in power, the party is perceived as north and western party. This limits its attractiveness.
The Caste Equations
In a state where caste politics plays a paramount role, the BJP can be expected to poach on the Kammas a highly enterprising and resourceful community that forms the support base of the TDP.
Further, the BJP will look towards the support of Kapus, a community that comprises over 15 percent of the population of Andhra Pradesh, but not part of the ruling class.
The Kapus have been looking for empowerment over the last decade but its moves have come as a cropper. Most notable was the attempt made in 2009 by Telugu film megastar Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party a thinly disguised Kapu supported the party to gain power. Subsequently, Praja Rajyam was merged into the Congress party.
In the past, the TDP and the Congress were the main parties in undivided Andhra Pradesh but with the state having been divided BJP and YSRCP will be the major outfits now onwards. TDP was formed in the early 1980s by Telugu film superstar NT Rama Rao who wanted to empower the Kammas in a state that was ruled with a heavy hand by Reddys.
The Kammas and Reddys were traditional rivals in the villages. Though TDP came to power and NTR ruled for some years and became the chairman of the National Front in 1989, Chandrababu Naidu made short work of his father-in-law NT Rama Rao through a coup and he grabbed power in 1995. A sad NT Rama Rao died shortly thereafter.
Kingshuk Nag is an author and journalist.