Contrary to the widespread expectations, in the state political circles, leaders of Andhra Pradesh's ruling Telugu Desam Party, which recently pulled out its ministers from the Narendra Modi government but continues to be a constituent of the NDA has not been invited to the dinner being hosted by the UPA chairperson. Speaking to Firstpost, highly placed sources in the All India Congress Committee confirmed that neither TDP nor the YSR Congress was invited for the dinner which is believed to be the diplomatic move by Sonia Gandhi to form a broader coalition of political parties to take on the ruling BJP.
Though the TDP ministers resigned from the NDA, they are still politically and technically part of the BJP-led NDA and any invitation to N Chandrababu Naidu would mean political impropriety. The Congress should not be seen as desperate to rally allies, the sources in AICC told Firstpost. However, the Congress leadership according to sources were keen on extending the invitation to TDP supremo. If he has formally quit the NDA, the Congress would have been more than happy to invite him whether or not Naidu would oblige. But, now that he is still with NDA, it is improper for the Congress to invite and if Chandrababu rejects the invitation, it would be a thorough embarrassment for the Congress. Thus, the signals emanating from the Congress camp are quite clear. The Congress seems to be considering Chandrababu as a prospective ally if in case the TDP finally leaves the NDA. This is precisely the reason why even the opposition YSR Congress was also not invited for the dinner as per the Congress sources though Jaganmohan Reddy is not an NDA ally. The Congress leaders are skeptical of Jaganmohan. His unconditional support to BJP nominees in presidential and vice-presidential elections despite not being an ally of the NDA strengthens such an understanding of YSR Congress. The Congress also feels that YSR Congress may not even be favourable for any friendly gestures from it as Jaganmohan fears vindictive action by Modi-Shah duo.
Speaking to Firstpost YV Subba Reddy, member of Parliament and a close relative of YS Jagan said that the YSR Congress cannot have any friendship with Congress as it is the party responsible not only for the arbitrary bifurcation of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh but also harassment of Jaganmohan while in power.
But, the more important political reason for not inviting YSR Congress is that the Congress is not keen on sending wrong signals to Chandrababu as the party considers him to be a possible ally in 2019 or at least in the post-poll scenario.
It is true that the TDP took birth as an anti-Congress political formation. But, the political situation has completely altered now. In fact, TDP supremo headed the United Front which was in power at the Centre with the Congress support, reminds a senior TDP leader close to Chandrababu.
The Congress is not a principal contender for TDP either in Andhra Pradesh or in neighbouring Telangana. The TDP is a victim of TRS machinations in Telangana. Despite a section of the Telangana TDP leaders showing enthusiasm to ally with the ruling TRS, Chandrababu is yet to endorse the proposal. Any alliance in Telangana will be incumbent upon the imperatives of Andhra Pradesh politics.
In Andhra Pradesh, the ruling TDP is locked in a bitter fight with the YSR Congress. The TDP won the 2014 elections with a slender margin of little over two percent votes. The estrangement with BJP would certainly mean a loss of votes for the TDP however small it may be. Thus the electoral arithmetic makes it indispensable for the TDP to look out for allies to compensate for the loss of BJP and any possible anti-incumbency. The Congress is no longer the principal adversary for the TDP.
Pre-poll surveys reveal the growing support for the Congress in parliamentary polls though the people are not ready to pardon the grand old party in Assembly elections for arbitrary bifurcation of the state. This is precisely because of the Congress vocal support for special status demand and the BJP's blunt denial of the same.
However, the only irritant in the possible tie-up between the TDP and the Congress is the bifurcation narrative actively promoted by Chandrababu himself. The TDP came to power in 2014 only by the political narrative that the Congress has done enormous injustice to the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh. Thus, the TDP leaders are still wary of any possible negative fallout of alliance with Congress in 2019. But, speaking to Firstpost a senior TDP leader told on condition of anonymity that the TDP allied with BJP in 2014 despite the saffron party instrumental in enacting bifurcation. The Congress and the BJP are to be equally blamed for the arbitrary bifurcation. The people of Andhra Pradesh endorsed TDP's alliance with BJP in 2014 as they felt that the new state needs hand-holding from the Centre.
Similarly, the political narrative in 2019 would be not the arbitrary bifurcation but the political arrogance of BJP. The Modi government not only rejected the special status despite vociferously demanding the same while in opposition and was not serious in implementing the provisions and promises of bifurcation. The anti-BJP sentiment would be much stronger than the anti-Congress sentiment as the latter promised special status and has declared that it would accord such a status to Andhra Pradesh if voted to power at the Centre.
The dinner diplomacy did not include any party from Andhra Pradesh. This only reveals the Congress intentions to ally with TDP rather than YSR Congress in 2019.
The writer is former MLC in Telangana, former editor, The Hans India and Professor, Journalism, Osmania University.
Updated Date: Mar 13, 2018 18:56 PM