The question of YSRCP joining the NDA has come to the fore in view of the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy in Delhi on Tuesday. Earlier, the CM traveled to Delhi to meet Home Minister Amit Shah on September 23 and 24. It was supposed to be a preliminary meeting. The prospects of the YSRCP joining the NDA may have come up in the discussion or the meeting may have been arranged only to discuss that issue. The YSRCP leaders flatly deny that there is any such move under consideration. But the speculations persist.
Modi is on the verge of a Cabinet expansion. He is keen on having new partners after the exit of the Shiv Sena and the Shiromani Akali Dal from the NDA. Jagan Mohan Reddy has been supporting the Central government in all aspects. He has been a dependable ally outside the ruling alliance. That is a good enough arrangement. Why join the alliance? What is the additional advantage that would accrue to the BJP or the YSRCP?
Recent changes in BJP
The BJP in Andhra Pradesh has been slowly gaining ground at the cost of the TDP. It has been raising some religious issues and making statements embarrassing the ruling party and the chief minister. The party has removed two office-bearers of some standing. Ram Madhav, who was general secretary in charge of Jammu & Kashmir and northeastern States, has been divested of the position. He used to comment often against the State government. G.V. L. Narasimha Rao, a Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh and national spokesperson of the party, used to be critical of Oppositon leader Nara Chandrababu Naidu and supportive of the ruling party. His name was not among the new spokespersons. A dynamic leader, Somu Veerraju was brought in place of Kanna Lakshminarayana as president of the State unit of the party. NTR’s daughter, Daggubati Purandeswari was elevated to the position of party’s national general secretary. It was interpreted as an attempt to woo leaders from the TDP and strengthen the BJP. She gave only one interview to Eenadu, before quarantining herself, in which she was unduly critical of YSRCP. The ruling party leaders have attacked her for her comments. An atmosphere is perceived as though the BJP would grow into the main Opposition in the State relegating the TDP to the second position.
BJP’s growth will be affected
As against this background, if the BJP takes YSRCP into NDA fold, the BJP leaders in Andhra Pradesh will not speak against the government. Two BJP representatives may join the YSRCP government and two YSRCP MPs may join the NDA government. They will become unnatural allies. The growth of the BJP as an Opposition party in AP would be stunted. The TDP will have opportunity to exploit any occasion in the future to flay the government. It will be the only main Opposition party to stand against YSRCP government. There is already a feeling that the TDP has been slowly picking up the threads and if the BJP goes out of the way, it would gain momentum. The BJP in AP did not expand because of its alliance with the ruling TDP for more than four years. The story will repeat for the BJP if it became an ally of the ruling party.
Is there a desperate need for the BJP to rope in the YSRCP? It has comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha. In the RS, whenever it fell short of numbers, YSRCP or BJD can always supplement. By having the YSRCP in the NDA, there is no gain for the BJP except that it can boast of having a partner in the deep South. In the bargain, it would lose an opportunity to grow into the main Opposition party in AP and allow the TDP to retain its position.
Distancing the left, minorities
By joining the NDA, the YSRCP would be distancing itself from the minorities, especially the Muslim community. The CPI leadership is already against the government and has been fighting shoulder to shoulder with the TDP. The CPM which has been a bit considerate will also become critical in case the ruling party joins the NDA. The Congress, though a shadow of what it was, is already against the ruling party and has been working with the TDP on many issues.
Pawan Kalyan, the hero-cum-politician and the chief of Jana Sena party will have to take a fresh look at his relationship with the BJP. He has been strident in his criticism of the chief minister and the ruling party. He may opt to leave the BJP and go back to the TDP. Chandrababu Naidu would be the leader of a group of parties which include TDP, Congress, Jana Sena, CPI and CPM. Anyone and everyone who is opposed to either the YSRCP or the BJP would be walking into the TDP camp. It is nothing but strengthening a weakened Naidu by sending to his camp Pawan Kalyan and the left parties besides the Congress party and the Muslim community which is about 7-8 percent of the State’s population.
Giving scope to Opposition to question
The BJP-YSRCP alliance would give scope to the Opposition leaders to question the ruling party about the special category status, secular principles, devolution of funds and many other subjects. The YSRCP will have to bear the brunt of the religious policies followed by the BJP. It would forego the right to criticize the lopsided economic policies of the Central government.
The court cases, former finance minister, Yanamala Ramakrishnudu, was referring to, do not have substance to prove any of the charges, according to senior bureaucrats such as Ramakanta Reddy, former chief secretary of undivided AP. Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy himself had requested the courts to dispose of the cases as soon as possible. CBI can do and undo things and it is no doubt a ‘caged parrot,’ as the Supreme Court had described. It was allegedly used during the UPA regime to fix Jagan Mohan Reddy since he walked out of Sonia’s meeting and dared to launch his own party. The same CBI could do the bidding of the present ruling alliance. It is enough if the agency is fair in its actions. For that there is no need for YSRCP to join the ruling alliance.
Benefits for YSRCP
There are sure to be some immediate benefits for the YSRCP by joining the BJP-led NDA. The cacophony about religion and religious places would cease with the BJP becoming a partner in the State government. Chandrababu Naidu talking about temples and religion will have no value. He may exploit it if the BJP raised its voice. But he cannot create an atmosphere all by himself. He is generally not considered religious. Jagan Mohan Reddy can block Naidu’s efforts to gain entrance into the Modi durbar and become an ally again. It is public knowledge that Naidu has been desperately trying to get into the good books of Narendra Modi whom he attacked during the 2019 election campaign. If Naidu can succeed in his attempts and got close to Modi, he can create fresh trouble for YSRCP chief. Naidu could be prevented from becoming an ally of the BJP by having understanding with Modi, a person who does not forget or forgive.
All things considered, It would be in the interest of both Modi and Jagan Mohan Reddy if they remain friends without becoming partners in the NDA and giving scope to Naidu to stage a comeback.