Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s 45-minute long meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi on Tuesday (October 6) has set off a buzz in political circles that his YSR Congress Party could soon join the NDA government at the Centre.
Jagan, a protestant Christian by faith who has massive following among the youth, has been maintaining friendly relationship with the BJP leadership ever since he took over the reins of the State in May last year.
This is his second visit to the national capital in the last two weeks. On September 22, the chief minister undertook a two-day visit to Delhi and met Union Home minister Amit Shah, reportedly to have preliminary discussions on his party joining the NDA, besides issues pertaining to the state. He, however, could not get the appointment of the Prime Minister then.
Neither the BJP nor the YSR Congress has made any official statement so far on the possible alliance. They have not denied the media reports to this effect either. There has been intense speculation on social media platforms about the ‘imminent coming together of the two parties’, a development that could dramatically alter the political dynamics in Andhra Pradesh.
A top source in the YSR Congress said that his party could consider joining the ruling alliance if the Centre grants special category status to AP, an emotive issue that had dominated the 2019 election campaign but has since become largely irrelevant. It was in protest against the Centre’s firm refusal to grant special status that the Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party had walked out of the NDA in 2018 and severed political alliance with the saffron party.
Pending issues discussed
“There is no need to attach any political significance to the meeting. It essentially focused on pending issues concerning development projects and central assistance,” the official sources said when asked about the Modi-Jagan meeting. The party MPs Vijaysai Reddy and Mithun Reddy accompanied the chief minister.
However, this has not stopped the local media from speculating over the emerging contours of the alliance between the two parties.
The YSR Congress sources said that the political pact could be a win-win situation for both the parties.
Just last week, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the NDA’s oldest ally, walked out of the alliance, opposing the controversial farm bills. Last year, it was the Shiv Sena which jumped the ship following differences over government formation in Maharashtra.
At a time when the NDA leadership is losing out in the perception battle in the wake of trust deficit among the partners, the entry of YSR Congress into the ruling fold, an addition from the southern state, could help boost the confidence.
With 22 MP seats, the YSR Congress is the fourth largest party in the Lok Sabha. It also has six MPs in Rajya Sabha. This will add to the comfort level of the NDA leadership to push through important legislations.
The YSR Congress has been supporting all important decisions of the Centre, from the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to the recent farm bills and power sector reforms, the controversial moves that had triggered widespread opposition protests.
The Jagan government has also accepted the option given by the Modi government to go for additional borrowings to offset the GST compensation dues by the Centre, though more than 12 states, including the sibling Telugu state of Telangana, have opposed it.
It also extended support to the BJP in the election of Harivansh Narayan Singh as deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha last week.
The BJP is looking for new political allies after the exit of Shiv Sena and SAD and the YSR Congress can come in handy for passage of crucial bills, particularly in the Rajya Sabha. On the other hand, the YSR Congress needs the support of the Modi government to tide over the financial crisis and fund its populist schemes.
Moreover, a CBI case is still hanging over Jagan’s head pertaining to his alleged illegal assets. He is also keen on getting a CBI probe ordered into the alleged land scam in Amaravati involving his bete noire and former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu. Joining the NDA will make things easy for him.
VDP Associates, a data-analytics firm involved in election surveys, tweeted on Monday: “BJP has reportedly offered 2 cabinet and 1 Minister of State (Independent) to YSR Congress.
“If YSRCP joins the NDA, it will be a win-win situation for both Jagan as well as the BJP,” says political analyst Ramakrishna Sangem.
Footprint in south
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 YSR Congress 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 full backing on shifting the state capital from Amaravati to Visakhapatnam and abolition of the opposition-dominated Legislative Council.