Andhra: Is BJP dropping Jagan for Naidu? What Amit Shah’s tirade suggests
Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy seems to have clearly read the import of Union home minister Amit Shah’s speech that Andhra Pradesh has achieved nothing but corruption, farmer suicides, and misuse of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s generous assistance in the four years of the YSRC government.
Addressing a public meeting after launching the distribution of Jagananna Vidyakanuka school kits to children at Krosuru in Palnadu district, Jagan stated that the BJP may not be with the YSR Congress in the 2024 Assembly elections and that it will go on its own.
The YSR Congress boss was reacting to Shah’s unexpected excoriation of Jagan’s government on Sunday while addressing a Jan Sampark Abhiyan public meeting in Vizag.
Shah visited the port city as part of celebrations of the nine-year rule of Prime Minister Modi. Going hammer and tongs at Jagan, Shah tried to picture his government in poor light. He said land mafia, illegal mining, and corruption were rampant in Andhra Pradesh.
“The development of the state is not commensurate with the generous funding the Centre has provided. Corruption has eaten into the central funds. Jagan babu’s government should be ashamed of the fact that Andhra is number 3 in the country in farmer suicide,” Shah said.
End of bonhomie?
Shah’s sudden outburst rattled the ruling party and confused the TDP rank and file as it was quite unanticipated. Shah’s comments, however, do not look unpremeditated. Two days ago, BJP President JP Nadda also spoke on similar lines in Tirupati.
For four years, Jagan and the BJP high command enjoyed unusual bonhomie to the envy of TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu who has been bending over backwards to please the BJP for a rapprochement. Naidu severed the bond with the BJP before the 2019 general elections.
As a result of the cordiality, Jagan benefitted on many counts: CBI court’s trial into his disproportionate assets (DPA) cases has been allowed to go on unending, CBI could not arrest his brother-MP YS Avinash Reddy in his own uncle’s murder case despite high drama and generous release of funds to the state.
On his part, Jagan has also maintained unusual restraint without being provoked by the state BJP’s hostile posture. He never chose to utter a single word against either the state BJP or central leadership. Though the Andhra Pradesh BJP is unhappy that the high command’s intimacy with Jagan has destroyed the saffron party’s independent personality in the state, the cordiality continued till last Sunday when Shah almost gave a call to defeat Jagan in Andhra.
So, is BJP calling it a day? Is it the consequence of Naidu’s meeting with Amit Shah on June 3 in New Delhi?
Masking their delight at Shah’s branding of Jagan’s government as corrupt, Telugu Desam Party sources are guarded in their reaction. TDP former minister Somireddy Chandramohan Reddy was not ready to jump to a conclusion that BJP is ready to join hands with TDP to defeat Jagan.
“It’s true that what Amit Shah said in Vizag is in tune with the TDP stand on the misrule in the state. But it is for the first time the BJP high command spoke against chief minister Jagan. We have to wait and watch for more clarity to know if there is a change in BJP’s stand vis a vis YSRC government,” Reddy told The Federal.
In fact, TDP is passing through a strange predicament. The party clearly knows that the tie-up with BJP doesn’t benefit the party electorally as the BJP is a non-entity. The BJP’s defeat in Karnataka has further strengthened the view. Still TDP wants a front like it had in 2014 when BJP, TDP and Janasena joined hands. Why? Because, TDP is scared of Jagan’s poll management skill. TDP fears that Jagan with the silent support from the Centre will use the police and administrative machinery to his advantage.
So, TDP is under the impression that a tie-up with BJP would compel the Election Commission to exercise full control over the state administration which would prevent movement of Jagan’s men and money. “We can’t fight with two enemies at the same time. Our goal is to see that the Election Commission tightens Jagan’s hands during the election. For this we need to align with BJP,” another TDP leader said. And the TDP is ready to reciprocate the cooperation in ample measure.
What has always pushed the TDP towards BJP is not the ideology, but the government at the Centre led by the BJP. It has been true ever since it joined hands with the Vajpayee-Advani-led NDA. Now too TDP wants the Centre’s support to spur the Election Commission to be proactive during 2024 elections.
But Amit Shah’s critique of Jagan is seen by a few observers as an attempt to cheer up the BJP cadre whose morale is down due to the extraordinary steps the Centre is taking to bail out Jagan and his family members in DPA cases and a murder case. The question being asked is: “If Shah as union minister has information that Central funds are being misused, central agencies like CBI can raid the offices and book the culprits. Can anybody prevent it? So, this cannot be construed as the end of the road for Modi-Jagan friendship,” they argue.
However, Congress leader Kolanukonda Sivaji foresees a TDP-Janasena-BJP front in the state and Amit Shah’s statement is a hint. “After Karnataka election, BJP seems to have realized that sailing with Jagan who is presiding over a government that is more corrupt than that of (Basavaraj) Bommai’s would further damage BJP image in the south.
“The BJP high command has become unpopular in Karnataka as it backed 40 percent commission-Bommai government. BJP has realized the situation is much worse in Andhra. So, before it is too late, the BJP wants to quit and side with TDP to claim that it can’t tolerate corruption,” Sivaji said.
State BJP leaders see no future for the party in Andhra as long as the high command shields Jagan. They think the TDP is a more dependable ally than YSRC. “The TDP is more accommodative. BJP won many seats in Assembly and Lok Sabha when it had allied with TDP. At a point in time, BJP had as many as five ministers at the Centre. Going with TDP is more beneficial to the party. We hope Amit Shah’s statement will herald a new alignment of political forces in the state,” a senior BJP leader said on condition of anonymity.
A Telangana BJP leader said a tie-up between BJP and TDP was possible in the state for the 2023 elections. “Even after being driven out of the state, TDP still has enough residuary support among the BCs. Many senior leaders might have jettisoned the party due to pressure from BRS, many sections still like TDP to remerge as a force. The party’s strategy in southern states is expected to undergo a change following the defeat in Karnataka. So, a tie up with TDP in Telangana cannot be ruled out,” the leader, who doesn’t want to be quoted, said.
Either way, Amit Shah with his comments against Jagan has triggered intense speculation about the realignment of political forces in Andhra Pradesh before the 2024 Lok Sabha battle.