BJP wants to piggyback on YSRCP to south, but Jagan may find it hard to help without special status for Andhra

Even as Narendra Modi-Jagan Mohan Reddy hug has sparked rumours of the YSR Congress Party joining the NDA, it would be tough for the YSRCP to join the BJP-led alliance without extracting special category status for Andhra Pradesh from the Centre

Srinivasa Prasad May 28, 2019 20:06:32 IST
BJP wants to piggyback on YSRCP to south, but Jagan may find it hard to help without special status for Andhra
  • Though the BJP doesn't need YSRCP to form govt at the Centre, having Jagan on board would help its long-term goal in the south

  • The BJP probably sees a good chance of doing better in Telangana in the future with or without KCR on its side and is already doing well in Karnataka

  • But the BJP neither win a single seat in Andhra Pradesh nor did it raise its vote share significantly, just like in Tamil Nadu and Kerala

  • In Andhra Pradesh, BJP has hopes of increasing its foothold if the saffron party rides piggyback on Jagan’s party

  • But it won't be possible for Jagan to join NDA without extracting SCT for Andhra, and, it won’t be easy either for the Modi govt to go back on its earlier refusal to grant this

Enough has been said about how chemistry outplayed arithmetic in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. It’s time now to look at kinesics — the science of body language. If you don’t know where to start, you can begin with the hug that Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi and Andhra Pradesh chief minister-elect Jaganmohan Reddy exchanged in Delhi on Sunday.

After a bitter election, leaders of all parties in Andhra Pradesh are unanimous about one thing: the Modi-Jagan hug was warm enough to boil milk. After the hug, the faces of Modi and Jagan glowed like the chandelier above them. Then came an effusive tweet from Modi in Telugu and English which described their meeting as "excellent".

The hug and the tweet added to the other friendly noises, sparking speculation on whether or not Jagan is about to join the BJP-led NDA. Neither party needs the other politically right now, but it’s possible that both may be betting on a long-term win-win situation for themselves. The fact that Jagan met not just Modi but even BJP President Amit Shah in Delhi only provided grist to the rumour mill. The talk of Shah having offered two ministerial posts to Jagan’s YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) if it joined the NDA has been making rounds since Sunday.

BJP wants to piggyback on YSRCP to south but Jagan may find it hard to help without special status for Andhra

Andhra Pradesh chief minister-elect Jagan Mohan Reddy met Narendra Modi recently in Delhi. Twitter@NarendraModi

Before the Lok Sabha elections, it had been widely expected that Jagan would back the NDA if the latter fell short of majority in the Lok Sabha. It was believed Jagans' YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) would take the place of the Telugu Desam Party of former chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, who had been BJP’s ally till 2018. Besides Jagan, Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) was another leader in the South who was seen as a potential NDA partner.

BJP's southern ambitions

YSRCP, which has won 22 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in Andhra Pradesh, would have been a valuable asset for Modi in case of a hung Lok Sabha. But with 303 seats, the BJP has won enough majority on its own. It has no need for even the existing NDA allies, leave alone scouting for new ones.

But that’s not how the BJP leaders practise their politics. The party has in mind its long-term prospects in the South, and having Jagan on board would help its strategy.

The BJP has done exceedingly well in Karnataka by polling 52.4 percent votes and winning 25 of the 28 seats. After Karnataka it did best in Telangana where it picked up only four seats but significantly raised its vote share to nearly 20 percent from some seven percent in the Assembly election five months ago.

The morale of the BJP is truly high in Karnataka after the Lok Sabha election which it won largely because of the Modi factor.

The other factors that facilitated a BJP sweep in Karnataka are: the tendency of the state to vote differently in the Assembly and the Lok Sabha elections, constant infighting between ruling alliance partners Janata Dal (Secular) and Congress, virtual absence of governance in the state, the greed of JD(S) leader HD Deve Gowda to promote his family and the caste matrix.

In Karnataka, the BJP stands a good chance of toppling the coalition government by wooing eight MLAs.

Apart from the Modi factor, what appears to have helped the BJP in Telangana was a limited-extent negative vote against KCR. Other factors that went in favour of the saffron party include: disapproval by voters of KCR’s idea of a Federal Front without Congress and BJP, his abrasive style of functioning and his attempts to decimate the Opposition. The BJP also benefitted in Telangana from anti-incumbency against KCR to some degree, his loss of Hindu vote because of his association with AIMIM of Muslim rabble-rouser Asaduddin Owaisi and the decision by a section of his own supporters to vote for a different party in the national election.

The BJP probably sees a good chance of doing better in Telangana in the future with or without KCR on its side.

In Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, the BJP didn’t win a single seat; nor did it raise its vote share significantly. In Tamil Nadu, it has an ally in AIADMK. With minorities accounting for 45 percent of the population, Kerala is a tough nut to crack. But in Andhra Pradesh, it has hopes of increasing its foothold if — as the cliché goes — the party piggybacks on Jagan’s party.

Tough for Jagan to join NDA

But it won’t be easy for Jagan to formally join the NDA. Before the elections, he took a consistent stand that he would support “any party” at the Centre, which would grant “Special Category Status (SCT)" to Andhra Pradesh. This has been a key demand of the state since it was bifurcated and Telangana was formed in 2014. Chandrababu Naidu’s doublespeak over SCT was one of the reasons why he badly lost the election.

It would be tough for Jagan to join the NDA bandwagon without extracting SCT from the Centre. And, it won’t be easy either for the Modi government to go back on its earlier refusal to grant this status. That would only provoke other states to step up their own pending demands for a similar status.

And while taking any decision to join the NDA, Jagan can’t ignore its likely impact on his minority vote bank in Andhra Pradesh. By joining the NDA, Jagan will also leave himself open to allegations of a quid pro quo of Modi going slow on CBI cases against him. The last word, you can be sure, hasn’t been heard on this, with no immediate election round the corner in Andhra Pradesh.

The author tweets @sprasadindia

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