Tripura is far removed from Andhra Pradesh, but the spectacular victory of the BJP in the CPM bastion has a Telugu connection. Ram Madhav, one of the architects of the saffron surge in the Northeast, hails from Andhra Pradesh. This was one of the talking points of BJP supporters from the state on social media even as the results began pouring in on Saturday.
That is just incidental, of course. What they were not so eloquent about, though, is the brewing challenge to the BJP juggernaut from the south, specifically from the two Telugu states, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. In Andhra Pradesh, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president and Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu—an ally of the BJP and part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government—has been talking about “injustice” to the state since late last year. Of late, he has referred to alleged “injustice” to southern states as well.
His ongoing campaign focuses day in and day out on the failure of the Centre in implementing provisions of the A P Reorganisation Act and the special package announced for the state in lieu of Special Category Status. Andhra Pradesh has been rendered financially unviable following the creation of Telangana in 2014. Though the BJP—including the then prime ministerial candidate Modi—promised Special Category Status after coming to power, citing the 14th Finance Commission recommendations, it was denied. A special package, touted to be as good as special status, was announced.
The Centre has been miserly in releasing funds promised under the package. Other promises such as creation of a railway zone in Visakhapatnam, setting up a steel plant in Kadapa, and establishment of a plethora of institutions, have been subjected to the classic bureaucratic rigmarole. For instance, not a single paisa of the mutually agreed Centre’s share of `16,447 crore Centrally-sponsored schemes has been released till date. Adding insult to injury, neither has it agreed to bridge more than `4,117.89 crore revenue deficit recorded during the year 2014- 15.
The state’s actual revenue deficit for the year is a little over `16,000 crore. Besides, just five per cent of the funds required for the promised institutions has been released. This is exasperating for any self-respecting Chief Minister, and Naidu, being a seasoned politician, suspects this is more about politics than economics. State BJP leaders too allege that Naidu’s outbursts are more about politics than economics and insist the Centre has kept its word, going so far as to claim that no other state in independent India’s history has received as much aid as Andhra Pradesh and want the Chief Minister to answer queries from the Centre on utilisation of funds.
But they are no match to Naidu. The TDP’s high decibel campaign both inside and outside Parliament has turned the saffron party into a pariah in the state. By placing the BJP alongside the Congress—the original sinner—and playing the victim to perfection, Naidu has occupied the Opposition space too. It is now just a matter of time before he walks out of the NDA.
But who will he align with in 2019 when he is sure to face the anti-incumbency factor against a determined YSR Congress chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy? Against this backdrop, Telangana Chief Minister and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao has announced his intention to play a national role, a leading role at that, to “bring about a qualitative change in governance”.
He has already held talks with Sitaram Yechury, CPM general secretary, and the latter’s bete noire in West Bengal Mamata Banerjee to forge a Third Front. His move came just days after Naidu made it amply clear that he was willing to have an alliance with the TRS in Telangana in the next elections. The other party in Andhra Pradesh, Jana Sena led by actor Pawan Kalyan, has also made it more or less clear that it will align with the Left. It is safe to assume that the star will have no problem joining hands with the TDP once the latter walks out of the NDA. After all, he had supported Naidu in 2014.
Kalyan, who has been vocal in bashing the BJP and indicating that the south is being exploited at best and ignored at worst by the Centre, also pledged support to the Third Front idea floated by Chandrasekhar Rao. The calculation of the regional leaders is fairly simple: BJP cannot repeat its 2014 feat in 2019 and the Congress is too weak to replace the Modi government on its own.
T Kalyan Chakravarthy
Deputy Resident Editor, Andhra Pradesh