Will Chandrababu Naidu be Cong's knight in shining armour in Andhra?

Veteran Congress leader J C Diwakar Reddy could well consider an alternative career in Tollywood. Known for his witty one-liners, Reddy describes Chandrababu Naidu as the Congress party's 'maternal uncle'.

Explaining the new-found relationship, Reddy says, "When a mother is on her death bed, she likes the custody of her children to be given to her brother. Likewise, Y S Rajasekhara Reddy has put our party in Naidu's hands. As long as he is there to take care of our party, there is no threat to our government.''

The reference here is to Naidu emerging as the knight in shining armour who has come to the rescue of the damsel in distress (read Congress) in the face of two separate no-confidence motions moved by the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and YSR Congress.

Individually both motions fell short of the necessary 30 MLAs (one-tenth of the strength of the House) but in an interesting political move, the YSRC decided to support the TRS, taking the number of legislators in favour of the no-trust vote to 45. The Speaker decided to take up the debate on the motion immediately on Friday so that the debate and voting are finished before the state budget is presented on Monday.

Chandrababu Naidu. Agencies.

Chandrababu Naidu. Agencies.

Naidu has issued a whip asking all 85 Telugu Desam MLAs to remain on neutral gear, thus ensuring the no-trust vote can only bark but not bite. The reason is Naidu is once bitten, twice shy. The last time he moved the no-trust motion in December 2011, he claims the YSRC had promised 50 Congress MLAs would defy the whip and vote for the motion. But Jaganmohan Reddy could deliver only 17 votes. No wonder TDP MLAs chose to explain their stance vis-a-vis the no-trust motion thus : "We cannot bank on the purchasing power of the YSR Congress.''

Naidu was further hit when the by-elections forced by these defections brought no cheer to the TDP, as it failed to win even a single seat in June 2012. What's more, five of TDP's MLAs are sailing with the two parties and it is well-known that there is little love lost between Naidu and the leaders of these two outfits. Naidu takes potshots at Jagan's alleged corruption everyday and a couple of days back, derisively labelled TRS as a "thoka party'' (a tail or an appendage to a bigger party).

For both TRS and YSRC, this then will be an opportunity to use their vocal chords to get into campaign mode. The two parties, dismissed by Kiran as "sub-regional parties'' will focus on Telangana, power crisis and water shortage and use the platform of the Assembly to reach out to the captive television audience.

Reinforcing the feeling that the TDP is more a target of this no-trust vote than the Congress, the TRS and YSRC are leaving no stone unturned to taunt Naidu, accusing him of match-fixing with the ruling party. The former chief minister has taken a calculated risk in not going with the rest of the opposition.

He realises that the TDP does not stand to gain by making the government fall now as it is not prepared to face early elections. He is also convinced that the TRS and YSRC have moved the motion only to strike their own private deals with the Congress. Though with the government sitting pretty thanks to the TDP benevolence, it is unlikely that Kiran Kumar Reddy will want to strike a deal.

Both parties would also hope some Congress and TDP legislators break ranks and vote for the motion. This will boost the morale of the two parties and demonstrate that they can hurt the two main parties politically. With this in mind, the YSRC has even strategically asked Congress MLAs who support it (like former minister Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy) to withdraw his resignation from the membership of the House so that he can openly defy the Congress whip.

The Congress and TDP have no time to seek disqualification of such known black sheep so it would prefer that they expose themselves on the floor of the House. Kiran has also held out the carrot of a cabinet expansion after the local body polls in June to stem desertions.

But even while everyone will be pointing fingers at each other inside the House, a lot has been happening outside. Reinforcing the belief that the Congress and the YSRC are indulging in a kabhi haan kabhi naa courtship, the chief minister likened his party to the Ganges which can accommodate any number of parties or leaders. Coming close on the heels of the YSRC honorary president Vijayalakshmi's interview to 'The Economic Times' earlier this week, in which she said that her party could support a possible UPA 3 at the Centre after the 2014 elections, this reveals that the two parties are in whispering sweet nothings to each other in secret chatrooms.

However, after calling YSRC a party headed by a "corrupt'' man, the Congress will have to cook up a defence for striking a deal with the same outfit. Or risk taunts of Kiran teri Ganga maili.

Updated Date: Mar 15, 2013 12:42 PM

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