Why is Chandrababu Naidu  so eager to relaunch TDP in Telangana?
Andhra Pradesh chief minister and TDP leader N Chandrababu Naidu is trying to revive his party in Telangana, a move that has invited a strong reaction from the Congress. PTI photo

Why is Chandrababu Naidu so eager to relaunch TDP in Telangana?

Many feel Naidu wants to test the waters in the elections to rural local bodies this year and to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation next year

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader N Chandrababu Naidu now looks determined to launch the party in Telangana where it had but disappeared.

Nadu appears emboldened by three factors: the return of the TDP to power in Andhra Pradesh, the defeat of his arch-rival K Chandrashekar Rao, and the emergence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), his ally, as a major force.

Naidu, who came to Hyderabad on Saturday (July 6) to meet his Telangana counterpart A Revanth Reddy to resolve certain bifurcation issues, addressed party activists on Sunday.

Naidu’s appeal

Revealing his resolve to launch the party in Telangana, he sought the approval of the cadres by asking whether a party born on the soil of Telangana can function from the state or not. He also asked his supporters if the TDP should strive or not for the welfare of the Telugu people. Naidu, who earlier rarely uttered the word Telangana, ended his speech by chanting ‘Jai Telangana’. Thunderous applause ensued.

In the past 10 years, Naidu has never had such congenial conditions in Telangana to give oxygen to the TDP. His recent attempt to rejuvenate the party was made in November 2022 when he appointed K Jnaneswar, a Backward Caste leader, as the state president.

Persona non grata

But Naidu chose not to contest the Assembly elections in November 2023 and decided to extend support to the Congress. Enraged, Jnaneswar jettisoned the party to join KCR’s Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS).

Naidu became a persona non grata of sorts in Telangana when the BRS government implicated him in a cash for vote case in 2015. CID sleuths caught TDP leader Revanth Reddy, now the chief minister of the state, while offering money to an MLC to vote in favour of the TDP in MLC elections.

Flees Telangana

As Naidu’s name cropped up in the investigation, his arrest looked imminent. Consequently, Naidu shifted base from the common capital Hyderabad to Vijayawada overnight. He left the Telangana TDP to local leaders. He neither addressed any meeting nor toured any city outside his residence in Hyderabad since then.

Left in the lurch, party MLAs and MLC quit the party leading to the disappearance of the TDP from Telangana. KCR was the major beneficiary of the exodus as MLAs quietly merged the party with the TRS. Revanth Reddy chose to join the Congress.

Why embrace Telangana now?

Now Naidu wants to stage a comeback by stating that the two Telugu states are like his two eyes.

Why was Naidu in such a hurry to announce his decision in the first-ever meeting, he had with party workers in a decade? Many observers feel Naidu wants to test the waters in the elections to rural local bodies this year and to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) next year.

Will it be smooth affair?

Naidu’s enthusiasm met with strong rebuttal from the Congress, which called it a BJP game plan. Revanth Reddy, participating in YSR’s birth anniversary in Vijayawada on Monday, cautioned Naidu that his attempt would invite an equal reaction.

Reminding him that he was heading a coalition of Babu, Jagan and Pawan (BJP), Revanth Reddy said: “The Congress will work to dethrone it (TDP) in the 2029 elections.”

BJP strategy?

Back in Hyderabad, Congress working president Turpu Jayaprakash Reddy alleged that Naidu’s talk of strengthening the TDP in Telangana was part of a BJP strategy.

“The BJP entered Andhra Pradesh by joining hands with the TDP and Jana Sena. The saffron party wants to replicate the same design in Telangana as well,” Reddy said while cautioning people to be vigilant about Naidu’s politics.

‘Two eyes’ claim debunked

Former BRS MP B Vinod Kumar wondered how a neighbouring state which has conflicting interests would become a second eye for any chief minister.

“How could a chief minister represent the aspirations of another state? The disputes over sharing of Krishna and Godavari waters have remained unresolved. Andhra and Telangana have different interests. Without resolving these issues, how would Telangana people believe in Naidu’s friendly gestures?” he asked, stating that any attempt to revive the TDP would certainly rake up regional sentiment.

BJPs gameplan?

Many observers feel that Naidu is acting at the behest of the BJP which is now seen as the alternative to the Congress in the state. In fact, the BJP is dreaming of forming a government in 2028 if the TDP and Jana Sena alliance is extended to Telangana.

“The TDP has a strong base in the form of Kamma community which is spread in many Assembly constituencies in the state, especially in the GHMC region. Of late, the consolidation of the caste took place on an unprecedented scale, which found expression in huge rallies in Hyderabad and Khammam when Naidu was arrested last year. These forces, along with Pawan’s fans, will certainly lead to the formation of the Telangana NDA,” said a BJP leader on the condition of anonymity.

Telangana and Naidu

Will the Telangana people who see Naidu as anti-Telangana roll out the red carpet to the TDP?

Most unlikely, says Dr Tirunahari Seshu, a political commentator from Warangal.

“Naidu may be under the notion that the BRS will be obliterated and the TDP can occupy its space by his two-eyes theory. The BRS’ capacity to re-emerge as a force cannot be underestimated. Telangana people would not allow Naidu to have a hold on the state,” said Dr Seshu, who teaches Economics at the Kakatiya University.

Congress leadership cautioned

Another commentator who doesn’t want to be named said the Congress ought to be more cautious about the TDP’s entry as it is bound to augment the BJP’s position in the state. According to him, Chief Minister Revanth Reddy’s resolve to finish the home-grown BRS has become a temptation for Naidu to talk of a TDP launch in Telangana.

“When in power, KCR unwittingly helped the BJP gain a toe hold in the state by targeting the Congress. Now, by targeting BRS, Revanth appears to be following the same model. This will further strengthen the BJP and allow its ally TDP to step into the state by employing a pro-Telangana vocabulary. The Congress high command should warn the state leaders against the cannibalism of the BRS,” he said.
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