A few days ago, the president of Jana Sena, Pawan Kalyan addressed a large public meeting in which he made it clear that it is imperative for Jana Sena to have electoral alliance with TDP in order to ensure that anti-YSRCP votes do not get split. Pawan Kalyan was keen that YSRCP does not get undue electoral advantage because of opposition vote split. Apparently, this statement is based on several assumptions though it sounds sensible and logical. But, a realistic assessment of the situation on the ground raises several questions about the simplistic assumptions involved in Pawan Kalyan’s statement. A few questions that need answers are discussed here.
1. YSRCP obtained around 50 percent of the vote share in 2019 and won the elections in Andhra Pradesh with thumping majority. Now, the question is whether the alliance of Jana Sena and TDP be able to get more than 50 percent of vote share in 2024, considering that the vote bank of YSRCP comprising of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Christians, Muslims, a substantial section of Kapus and other Backward Castes, apart from Reddys, has remained intact? There has been no erosion at all in the vote bank of YSRCP during the past three and half years of Jagan’s rule. The vote bank is now as strong, if not stronger, than it was in 2019 because of the implementation of several welfare measures in the shape of “Nava Ratnalu”. These welfare schemes have benefited many people in the vote bank of YSRCP. On the other hand, there is no sign of any section people moving closer towards Jana Sena or TDP since 2019. But. it is true that the recent public meetings of both Jana Sena and TDP have attracted large crowds and their road shows have been very well attended. This good attendance must be attributed to the intense polarisation of the electorate on party lines since 2019 and is not because of any significant accretion of strength to Jana Sena and TDP. It must be remembered that TDP had secured around 40 percent and Jana Sena around 6 percent of the votes cast in 2019 and all of those people who voted for them are now actively attending the meetings and road shows of Pawan Kalyan and Chandrababu Naidu. There is no evidence to suggest that either Jana Sena or TDP have been successful in attracting fresh accretion of strength because they have announced any alternative programme or new schemes comparable to “Nava Ratnalu” by them.
2. In the proposed electoral alliance by Pawan Kalyan, the transfer of votes between Jana Sena and TDP may not take place as assumed. Pawan Kalyan’s main base is youth and they are not likely to shift their vote to TDP headed by the grandfatherly septuagenarian Chandrababu Naidu. The younger generation is attracted by the youthful and charismatic figures like Pawan Kalyan and Jagan Mohan Reddy. The youth that Pawan Kalyan has been able to attract would rather vote for candidates of YSRCP headed by young and charismatic Jagan Mohan Reddy than the candidates of TDP headed by old and staid Chandrababu Naidu. Other than youth, Pawan Kalyan’s following mainly comprises Kapu community people who are very keen that a Kapu like Pawan Kalyan should become the Chief Minister. But, as a result of the proposed electoral alliance between the smaller Jana Sena and much bigger TDP, there is no such chance for Pawan Kalyan to become Chief Minister. Thus, there will be no major incentive for Kapu voters to vote for TDP candidates in the proposed electoral alliance. Further, most of the well established Kapu leaders are already sailing with YSRCP and Jagan has given them ministerial berths. Therefore, Kapu leaders will naturally encourage Kapu voters to vote for YSRCP candidates. In the result, the proposed electoral alliance may actually damage the prospects of the candidates of both Jana Sena and TDP.
3. It is natural to expect that Jana Sena will bargain very hard for a large number of seats to be allotted to it in the proposed electoral alliance with TDP. In the process of seat allotments and adjustments, a very large number of aspiring candidates of both Jana Sena and TDP are likely to get disappointed. Such disappointed candidates will be encouraged by YSRCP to contest as rebel candidates and they will be supported with sizeable funding. The anti-incumbency vote against YSRCP may thus get split up, leading to YSRCP romping home victorious. This is exactly what happened in 2009 when PRP led by Chiranjeevi contested the elections, leading to the victory of Congress party because of the splitting of anti-Congress vote. Exactly same thing could happen if the electoral alliance were to take place.
4. Assuming hypothetically that the electoral alliance of Jana Sena and TDP somehow scrapes through and wins the next general elections, a realistic question arises as to how long will such a coalition government last? In the very nature of coalition governments, they are considered to be weak and unstable. Given that Pawan Kalyan is a mercurial film personality with his own ambitions of becoming CM, he may not just standby patiently and allow the coalition to last for more than a few months. Even if he allows, will the MLAs of Jana Sena and TDP not defect to YSRCP if substantial financial rewards and other inducements are given to them? It must be remembered that defections did take place in a big way from YSRCP to TDP during the earlier regime. Same thing may happen in reverse if Jana Sena and TDP alliance comes to power.
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5. In view of the distinct possibility of political instability looming large, even if the Jana Sena and TDP alliance wins the elections, the enlightened electorate of AP may decide to give one more chance to YSRCP, if only to ensure political stability and continuity in the State. The AP electorate may be loathe to countenance “Aayarams” and “Gayarams” that would be inevitable in a coalition government. However, YSRCP may be expected to become weaker in due course with the legal cases in courts against Jagan Mohan Reddy reaching their final stages.
In the final analysis, it appears that whatever may happen with regard to the forthcoming elections, difficult times seem to be ahead for the State of Andhra Pradesh. Perhaps, such a situation would prove to be an ideal platform for BJP to ultimately capture power in Andhra Pradesh. BJP has been waiting patiently to add Andhra Pradesh to its tally of States coming under its fold. Already, Telangana State is coming under the grip of BJP with good possibility for BJP to win power in the 2023 elections. Thus, it is just a matter of time before both of the Telugu States would fall into the lap of BJP and get ruled by Delhi.
What an irony indeed that would be! It was NTR who in 1983 strongly espoused the cause of federalism and brought to the fore Telugu identity and pride by clashing with the then powerful prime minister, Indira Gandhi. The ruling party at the centre was then Congress which was simply nominating Chief Ministers of the State. His hard fought success helped to establish the federal concept with autonomy for the State to choose its own Chief Minister. Once again that federal concept and Telugu identity and pride are in jeopardy, with BJP coming to power in both the Telugu States and ruling from Delhi. It will truly be an irony of political history that this could have happened mainly because of the actions of NTR’s own two proteges, namely, Nara Chandra Babu Naidu and Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhara Rao.
May God save the two Telugu States.