The unrest in Andhra Pradesh over the imminent change in the location of the state capital has trigged the re-alignment of political forces.
Actor-politician Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party (JSP) and the BJP came together on Thursday (January 16) to form an alliance to “protect the interests of the state and its people.”
The announcement was made after a meeting of the leaders of the two parties held in the coastal city of Vijayawada in the backdrop of raging protests in the region against the Jagan Mohan Reddy government’s move to shift the capital from Amaravati to Visakhapatnam.
The opposition parties have made a common cause with the protesters from 29 villages in Guntur district who had voluntarily given over 33,000 acres of land for building the capital city at Amaravati in Vijayawada-Guntur region.
“The BJP and JSP will work together to come to power in AP in 2024. We will work together for the people of the state,” Pawan Kalyan told the reporters after the meeting.
The development signals re-alignment of political forces in a state that saw YSR Congress Party, headed by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, pull off a landslide victory in the April 2019 assembly elections, bagging 151 seats in the 175-member assembly.
In all probability, the Telugu Desam Party, headed by N Chandrababu Naidu, will be next in the line to join the opposition alliance to take on the YSRCP which has acquired an aura of invincibility.
All the three opposition parties—TDP, BJP, and JSP—are on the same page as far as supporting the cause of Amaravati is concerned.
Neither the BJP nor JSP could make any dent in Andhra politics in the last elections. While BJP drew blank, JSP could win just one assembly seat. However, the combined force is likely to have a bearing on the coming elections to rural and urban local bodies.
Lauds Mod-Shah combine
Pawan Kalyan, a maverick star whose party had bombed at the ballot box office last year, showered praises on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah for their commitment, hard work, and dedication for the welfare of the people.
“We are fortunate to have strong and honest leaders at the Centre who have a great vision. This augurs well for the development of AP which needs their guidance and help,” the actor said.
“We will work for corruption-free governance and we will take on the caste-ridden and dynastic politics of the state,” he said.
Along with Pawan Kalyan, the chairman of the party’s Political Affairs Committee Nadendla Manohar, the state BJP president K Lakshminarayana, Rajya Sabha member G V L Narasimha Rao and BJP’s state in-charge Sunil Deodhar attended the meeting.
“In the interest of the future of the state and the country, Pawan Kalyan has come forward to work together under the leadership of Modi. The BJP welcomes him,” Lakshminarayana said.
The announcement came close on the heels of Pawan Kalyan’s visit to Delhi where he met BJP national working president J P Nadda and other leaders.
Pawan Kalyan (47), the younger brother of Telugu megastar and former Union minister K Chiranjeevi, had launched Jana Sena Party in the run-up to the 2014 general elections but did not contest the elections.
Instead, he supported the TDP-BJP combine and campaigned for its candidates, claiming himself to be an “ardent fan” of Modi.
However, he contested the 2019 elections in alliance with the CPI, CPI (M) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The alliance was routed at the hustings. The actor himself failed to win either of the two seats he had contested – Bhimavaram in West Godavari and Gajuwaka in Visakhapatnam. The party registered a meagre vote share of 6.78 percent and lost deposits in as many as 120 assembly seats. It drew blank in the Lok Sabha elections.
In the last couple of months, the maverick star has been dropping enough hints that he was gravitating towards the saffron party.
“I never distanced myself from the BJP. I only differed from the party on the issue of Special Category Status for Andhra Pradesh because it was the aspiration of the people,” he had said at Tirupati last month.
Of late, he has been emphasizing about Hindu sentiments while commenting on the affairs of the Tirumala temple board, though the actor was never known to be religious in the past. He has also echoed the views of the BJP and TDP leaders while opposing the introduction of English medium education in schools by the YSR Congress government.
While supporting the NDA government on controversial issues like abrogation of Article 370, he has, of late, stepped up attack on the Jagan Mohan Reddy government on the issue of religious conversions.
“I have respect for Amit Shah whereas YSRCP fears him,” he remarked last month, setting off speculation about his party joining hands with the BJP.
The ‘power star’, as he is popularly known, has also questioned the state government over its collection of 23.5 percent tax from Hindu temples while increasing subsidies for Hajj and Jerusalem pilgrimages, an issue closer to the BJP’s heart.