It’s Kabhi Haan, Kabhi Naa (sometimes yes, sometimes no) in Andhra politics with both the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) being caught in a dilemma over their future relationship.
While the central BJP leadership has been dropping hints of warming up to Jagan, the state unit has virtually declared a war against his government, both presenting the picture of a divided house.
There are also contradictions within YSRCP over its relationship with the saffron party. A senior minister and Jagan’s close confidant B Satyanarayana went to the extent of saying that his party was willing to join the National Democratic Alliance if it benefits the state.
However, Deputy Chief Minister Amzath Basha has threatened to quit the cabinet if his party joins hands with the NDA. He also said his party’s decision to support the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in the Parliament was a “grave mistake”
Notwithstanding BJP national secretary Sunil Deodhar’s latest statement, saying there was no move to forge an alliance with either YSRCP or Telugu Desam Party, there are multiple reasons why Modi and Jagan need each other’s support.
It is significant that none of them has been critical of each other on any issue in the last eight months.
The BJP’s defeat at the hands of regional parties in Jharkhand and Delhi and its shrinking support in the Parliament after the exit of Shiv Sena has made it vulnerable to the opposition’s attacks. Besides, one state after the other has been adopting resolutions against the CAA whereas the YSRCP had supported the new citizenship law.
Moreover, the saffron party is desperate to expand its footprint in the South where its nationalist agenda has few takers, barring Karnataka. It needs to piggyback on a formidable regional player like YSRCP to improve its strength in Andhra where it drew blank in the last year’s elections, both in the assembly and in Lok Sabha.
As a result, the option of striking a deal with Jagan is very much on the BJP’s table. On his part, Jagan, facing the CBI and ED cases pertaining to illegal assets and quid pro quo deals, wants the Centre to go easy on him. Besides, he also wants the Centre’s backing on shifting the state capital from Amaravati to Visakhapatnam and abolition of the opposition-dominated Legislative Council.
Signs of bonhomie
After refusing the audience to Jagan twice in the past, Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed to meet the Chief Minister in Delhi last week and the meeting went on for over two hours. It came close on the heels of the saffron party’s debacle in Delhi assembly polls.
There is a growing perception in the political circles that the BJP is keen on reaching out to the regional players like YSRCP to seek support for the passage of crucial bills in the Rajya Sabha.
It may well be a win-win situation for both parties. The YSRCP is seeking the Centre’s endorsement for the abolition of the Legislative Council which had blocked the legislation on the creation of three state capitals. The opposition TDP has a majority in the Council.
“The YSRCP is going to increase its strength in Rajya Sabha in the coming months and BJP needs its support. At a time when BJP is finding itself in self-defence mode losing state after state, YSRCP coming forward to provide support is politically valuable,” senior analyst Ramesh Kandula said.
YSRCP, which has two members in the RS, is expected to improve its tally to six by April this year and to 10 by 2022 when the TDP ceases to have any representation in the Upper House. In the Lok Sabha, YSRCP is now the fourth largest party with 22 MPs.
In the event of the two parties coming together for mutual convenience, the Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP will weaken further.
On the raging issue of shifting the capital, the BJP has been sending out conflicting signals. The Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai stated in the Parliament that it was entirely the state’s prerogative to decide on the location of the capital.
The previous TDP government had notified through a GO in April 2015 that Amaravati would be the new capital city. But, the present dispensation came up with a legislation seeking decentralisation of administration and creation of three capitals—Visakhapatnam as the executive capital, Amaravati as legislative capital and Kurnool as the judicial capital.
The party’s national spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao went a step further, saying it would be “wishful thinking” to expect the Centre to intervene in the matter and stop the shifting of the capital, unless there was a constitutional breakdown.
This is in sharp contrast to the stand taken by the party’s state unit which has thrown its weight behind the farmers’ agitation protesting against shifting of the capital.
“If necessary, we will request Prime Minister to intervene in the capital issue and do justice to farmers of Amaravati,” state’s BJP president K Lakshminarayana said.
“We are for decentralisation of development but not in the way that the present government is doing. This is nothing but dictatorship,” he added.
“Before the elections, all parties had supported Amaravati as the state capital. Jagan was also a party to it. He wanted the capital city to come upon 30,000 acres. The previous TDP government had spent ₹9,000 crore and also raised money through bonds. All this is public money,” the saffron party’s core committee said in its resolution.
Jagan is caught in a Catch-22 situation on the controversial CAA-NRC issue. His party supported the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) and voted in its favour in both Houses of the Parliament.
However, following public pressure, the Chief Minister made a public statement opposing the NRC while remaining silent on the CAA. On the other hand, deputy chief minister Amzath Basha has been saying on record that his party would not support any move that was “detrimental” to the interests of the Muslim community.
The Chief Minister’s political advisor justified the stance, saying “We see NRC and CAA as distinct from each other. The YSRCP voting for passage of the CAB and Jagan’s opposition to NRC exercise are not contradictory.”