Hyderabad: Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu is in a tricky situation, a catch 22 dilemma, not being able to decide whether to swallow insults or to rebel. He has every reason to call off the alliance with the BJP. His heart tells him to sever ties with the BJP and build bridges with the Left parties. But his mind cautions him against the adventure since Narendra Modi is very clever and he remains the most powerful politician in the country unlike Vajpayee or Advani with whom Naidu played games.
In the past when the TDP was a partner with the BJP, Naidu had a royal reception in Delhi. He met Prime Minister Vajpayee or Deputy Prime Minister Advani at will. Even his party colleague Erran Naidu used to talk to the prime minister straight on phone at any length.
Things are entirely different today. Naidu badly wanted to meet Modi before going to the US. Union Minister of State Sujana Chowdary tried his best for two days to get an appointment of the PM for his party leader but in vain.
To rub salt on the wound, the prime minister chose to spend an hour with Naidu’s bête noire YS Jagan Mohan Reddy when he (Naidu) was away in the US. Emerging out of prime minister’s residence, Jagan said he had no differences with the PM excepting on two issues, Special Category Status for AP and remunerative prices for agricultural yield. The young opposition leader declared his unconditional support to the NDA candidate in the forthcoming presidential election. This is strange because even the NDA partners like Shiv Sena are yet to announce their commitment.
This new-found bonhomie between Modi and Jagan has naturally caused envy and a feeling of insecurity among the TDP leaders. Ministers like Devineni Umamaheswara Rao have attacked Jagan for genuflecting at Modi for the fear of criminal cases. They found fault with the PM for granting interview to Jagan while the BJP is in alliance with the TDP. In the meanwhile, Andhra Jyothi, considered to be favourable to Naidu, has published a story saying that Jagan has submitted a letter to Modi requesting for action to be taken against the officers of Enforcement Directorate stationed in Chennai and Hyderabad, Gowd and Gandhi respectively) for acting to the advantage of Naidu. Union Home Ministry is looking into the complaint. The newspaper accused Jagan of meeting the PM for seeking personal favour and not to represent the people. The next day, Karunakara Reddy, YSRCP leader, told a media conference that the representation quoted by the newspaper is an old one that was sent to the PM in February and in the latest letter handed over to the PM by Jagan on May 10, the opposition leader has demanded remunerative price for farm output and Special Category status among other things.
Naidu returned from the US trip in this atmosphere. He stayed back in Delhi to consult friends in legal fraternity. The Supreme Court had earlier issued notices to Naidu in ‘note for vote’ case. He is concerned about it. On his return to Amaravati, Naidu spoke disapproving the meeting between Modi and Jagan ridiculing the latter for trying to curry favour with the PM to avoid punitive action by ED and the CBI.
This discourse against PM meeting the AP opposition leader did not go well with the BJP. Local BJP leaders were forced to criticise TDP leaders for their disparaging remarks against their supreme leader, Modi.
M Venkaiah Naidu, who has been helping Chandrababu Naidu in maintaining good relations with Modi and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR) was cut up with the loose talk indulged in by the TDP leaders. He said on Saturday that there is nothing wrong with the PM meeting an opposition leader from a state. The controversy is the result of lack of understanding of political formalities and niceties. Venkaiah Naidu also clarified that the decision to have or not to have an electoral tie-up with the TDP will be taken by the BJP at the time of next elections in 2019.
These developments have caused unease for Chandrababu Naidu. For almost one year Naidu could not talk to Modi one-on-one despite many attempts. The enigmatic nature of Modi has been keeping Naidu guessing. This has not been his experience with Vajpayee. The impending visit of BJP president Amit Shah has been causing apprehensions among the TDP leaders. The BJP leadership has been trying to build the party at grassroots level. The booth committees have been formed. Amit Shah during his 3-day tour of AP starting May 25 is going to address the members of the booth committees. The growth of the BJP is going to be only at the cost of the TDP. And Naidu knows it better than anybody else. Against this background, Naidu has been scratching his head not knowing what to do.