Is it a case of much ado about nothing? Or, is something really going wrong with the combined menu that the BJP and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) dished out ahead of the 2014 elections, bringing them to power in the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh? The year 2019 is still a long way to go, but political pundits and sections of media are already predicting that relation between the saffron and yellow parties is beginning to sour even before the two dispensations at the Centre and in the state are yet to complete a year in office. But, my own sense is that it is still a long shot and, as things stand, whatever is happening between the two is at best friendly banter and nothing more.
Yes, it is true that the BJP has, of late, been making noises about expanding in the south, beyond Karnataka, and the brainstorming sessions they have been having in Andhra Pradesh are reflective of this goal, which should not impact its equation with the TDP in the immediate context. Yes, it is also a fact that the TDP, once in a while, makes noises about the Centre not doing enough to help the growth of a state orphaned in the wake of division. The BJP promptly responds by chanting its inability to do much more than what it wants to for Andhra on the faulty Reorganisation Bill that the UPA regime came up with. It suits the BJP, it suits the TDP. One senior BJP leader, well-versed with the state, put it this way to me: It is good to have difference of opinion and may be some occasional fights between a husband and wife. It adds some spice to married life. It need not necessarily lead to a divorce.
Having said this, one cannot surmise that the BJP does not want to emerge on its own. The pre-requisite is to have a credible, acceptable face, which it currently lacks. Which is precisely what BJP president Amit Shah reportedly
told some Congress-turned-BJP wallahs when they argued that it is time the party stopped riding piggyback on the TDP:
First, get me 40 lakh members in Andhra. We will talk later. It is true that more Congressmen, desperate as they are, and unsure of when the party will recover the lost ground in Andhra, are eagerly waiting to paint themselves in saffron. If
and when the BJP allows them in, subject to the party finding a leader who could take along politicians of hues, it could cause more pinpricks to the TDP.
There is then the question whether YSR Congress chief Jagan Mohan Reddy, saddled with multiple court cases, will be able to keep the party afloat until 2019. It is now an open secret that some of his MPs have sounded out top BJP leaders but have been advised to wait in the queue. As the legal battle plays out over the next couple of years, the BJP might possibly look at two options: either neutralise the YSRC or swallow/absorb it. If and when that happens, in any case unlikely before 2018, it could then turn friends into foes with the TDP and BJP ranged on either side, a point that TDP leaders keep emphasising privately, whenever Jagan Mohan makes a visit to Delhi, ostensibly to discuss issues concerning the state, but with some other agenda as well.
In the meantime, the intention of Telangana Rashtra Samithi to cosy up to the BJP and, if possible, join the NDA government at the Centre, is a topic that keeps cropping up at political discussions over dinners. For now, even this remains within the realm of speculation.