New Delhi: Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader N Chandrababu Naidu was the power behind the throne as it were during the BJP-led NDA`s term in office from 1998 to 2004.
He scuttled the BJP`s plan to create Telangana when it formed Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh in 2000. BJP leaders now openly acknowledge that they could not create Telangana because of Naidu`s `no` to the idea. He was the one who pressed for then Andhra Pradesh governor Chandra Kant to be made vice president when APJ Kalam became president in 2002.
With the defeat of TDP and BJP in the 2004 and 2009 state assembly and Lok Sabha elections. The glory days of Naidu`s power in the NDA set up – he was a kingmaker during the United Front interlude from 1996 to 1998 when he played a key role in making Deve Gowda and IK Gujral to be made prime ministers – had become a are now over. While BJP is basking in the reflected glory of its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Naidu and his TDP seem to be knocking at the door of BJP.
According to sources in the BJP, Naidu with his depleted, and even decimated, political clout in Andhra Pradesh does not have much offer to the main opposition party in the country. The BJP even believes that Naidu might be wanting to rising tide of popularity of the party`s PM candidate, Narendra Modi. In 1998 and 1999 Lok Sabha elections, it was the overwhelming victories of TDP which was a source of strength to the NDA at the centre. But it is quite clear that Naidu and TDP do not command that kind of voter loyalty. That is now the privilege of Jaganmohan Reddy.
It is believed that Naidu was in the national capital ostensibly to disscuss the prickly issue of the formation of Telangana, but he was really looking to ingratiate himself with the NDA and even eyeing the post of the NDA convenor, which was held by JD (U)`s Sharad Yadav until the JD (U) decided to party ways with the BJP.
BJP`s internal analysts seem to feel that Naidu is intensely aware of the fact that he cannot match the popularity of Jaganmohan Reddy, son of the late YS Rajasekhara Reddy and head of the breakaway YSR Congress, who has been released on bail after 16 months in prison. Jaganmohan Reddy has a hold over the Dalit population along the coastal Andhra belt, many of whom are also Christians.
There are two other important caste segments which are looking for a political anchor. They happen to be the Kammas, the dominant farmer community which was the bedrock of the TDP, and then the Kapus, the backward class intermediate caste in rural Andhra. The Kammas are losing faith in the TDP that it can provide the political foothold. The Kapus, who had looked to film star-turned-politician Chiranjeevi to do for them what NTR did for the Kammas, have been disappointed. Chiranjeevi could not win over the assent of castes other than the Kapus the way NTR did, who was backed by the Kammas but other prominent backward castes too voted for him.
The BJP feels that the Kapus might vote tactically for Jaganmohan Reddy and it hopes that the Kammas may opt for the BJP because Modi has to an extent fired their imagination. The Kammas have never belonged to the core Congress voter constituency, and they are forever looking for a anti-Congress and non-Congress alternative. BJP sources admit that right now the propsect of the party winning the loyalty of a key segment of society in Andhra Pradesh is still in the realm of possibility.
The BJP in Andhra Pradesh has bitter memories of Naidu when the TDP was part of the NDA from 1998 to 2004. Naidu would deal with the top leaders of the BJP in New Delhi, and get whatever he wanted from the central government, and he would look down with contempt the BJP members and cadres in the state. The BJP also admits that Naidu would appropriate the Vajpayee government welfare schemes as his and take political credit for them in the state.
It is then an altered relationship between the BJP and TDP. The BJP still remains a weak political player in the state except in parts of Telangana, but the TDP is a pale shade of its former self. The BJP is cautious and it does not want to turn down the hand of friendship of a politically weakened Naidu.
Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr