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How BJP-TDP bonhomie in Andaman is complicating matters for on-off allies in Andhra Pradesh

TDP as kingmaker in Port Blair municipal council polls chose to support BJP. Their camaraderie has irked JSP, BJP's ally in Andhra Pradesh, where assembly polls are due next year.

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Hyderabad: Estranged partners BJP and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) breaking bread at Port Blair has Andhra Pradesh’s political circles abuzz, given how the former has been categorically denying the possibility of their rapprochement in the southern state.

The development also comes at a time when Pawan Kalyan, chief of the JanaSena Party (JSP), an ally of the BJP in Andhra, has expressed his discomfort over the two parties cosying up.

Elections to the 175-member Andhra assembly are due next year.

TDP’s S. Selvi got elected as chairperson of the Port Blair Municipal Council in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Tuesday, and will hold the post for the next two years of the tenure. Selvi’s appointment comes as part of a power-sharing agreement the BJP and TDP came to during the council polls in 2022. The BJP held the seat for the first one year and will be back for the remaining two years of the tenure of the council. 

The BJP won 10 seats while the Congress-Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) alliance won 11 and one seat was bagged by an independent candidate in the elections held for the 24 wards of the Port Blair Municipal Council. The TDP emerged as the kingmaker with two seats and chose to support BJP. The parties agreed to share the chairperson’s seat.

Former Andhra Pradesh chief minister and TDP chief N. Chandrababu Naidu and BJP’s national president J.P. Nadda expressed satisfaction over the partnership.

“Congratulations to TDP’s Smt. S Selvi on being elected the chairperson of the Port Blair Municipal Council in alliance with BJP. Her appointment is a reflection of people’s faith in the alliance as a harbinger of progress. I wish her a successful tenure in the service of people,” Naidu tweeted Tuesday.

Andaman and Nicobar TDP president Manikya Rao Yadav told ThePrint Tuesday that the party will continue supporting BJP and is ready to support them in their fight for the lone MP seat in Andaman, which is currently held by Congress’s Kuldeep Rai Sharma.

“Congratulations to the BJP-TDP alliance on this impressive victory in the Port Blair Municipal Council election. Your hard work & dedication for the people of Port Blair have paid off & this victory is a testament to the trust that the people have in PM @narendramodi Ji’s vision,” Nadda had tweeted Tuesday.

Also Read: Performance matters, not my age, says 72-yr-old TDP chief Naidu as he aims to reclaim Andhra

The Andhra conundrum

The top leaders’ contentment over the BJP-TDP alliance at Port Blair comes at a time when back in Andhra Pradesh, BJP’s alliance partner JanaSena Party (JSP), headed by actor-turned politician Pawan Kalyan, is even “ready to go solo” in 2024 state polls, further adding to the opposition alliance conundrum in the state.

Hinting at growing differences with the BJP, Kalyan said Tuesday that he would not hesitate to come out of the alliance with the party, adding that he would not become a scapegoat for 2024 polls.

“Had the BJP state leadership worked with the JSP the way I had expected, TDP would not have been in the picture. I do not have any extra love for TDP. I only have respect for Chandrababu Naidu, for his capability,” Kalyan was quoted as saying in a report in The New Indian Express.

So, what’s the scene with opposition parties in Andhra Pradesh?

The state government is currently headed by the Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSRCP. There are four opposition parties in the state: TDP, BJP, Congress and JSP. Both JSP and TDP have time and again made it clear that they do not want to split the anti-YSRCP vote.

JSP has one legislative member from Razole constituency — Rapaka Vara Prasada Rao — who had unofficially aligned himself with the ruling YSRCP party. Both BJP and Congress don’t hold a single seat in the assembly. TDP has 19 functional MLAs in the state assembly. The party had won 23 assembly seats in 2019 but four of its MLAs switched loyalties to YSRCP without officially joining the party. The move to unofficially align with YSRCP is to avoid disqualification under the anti-defection law.

JSP chief Pawan Kalyan himself has had an unsuccessful journey so far. He lost in both the constituencies he contested in 2019.

Over the last few months, Naidu and Kalyan’s meetings have led to speculation of the growing bonhomie between them and a possible alliance. But, JSP has been in an alliance with the BJP for over two years.

Although there was no concrete discussion of an alliance in the meetings, senior TDP leaders had told ThePrint in January that Kalyan was keen to work with their party. TDP leaders also said that their party does not have any major objection to working with BJP.

While the latest move by Naidu and Nadda appreciating the alliance in Port Blair might seem like their parties have extended olive branches to each other after falling out in 2018, it is too premature to consider any possibility of a partnership in Andhra Pradesh, leaders of both parties told ThePrint Tuesday.

The parties, which contested the Lok Sabha polls together in 2014, split in 2018 after Naidu walked out of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), demanding special category status for Andhra Pradesh. 

The BJP, however, has been against the idea of working with Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP in the state, at least for now.

State BJP leader Vishnu Vardhan Reddy told ThePrint Tuesday: “We have had a bad experience with Naidu previously and we do not want that to happen again. BJP’s central leadership has made it very clear. Relationships between parties in Andaman municipality will not reflect anything back in Andhra Pradesh, it works entirely differently here.” 

In 2021, Kalyan had alleged that the BJP had prevented him from contesting the Greater Hyderabad Municipal polls in Telangana. A few months back, talking to ThePrint, Reddy had said that the party had also told Kalyan that he will have to choose between TDP and BJP.

Meanwhile, if the Naidu-Kalyan alliance goes through, it will be a powerful ‘Kamma-Kapu’ alliance. Naidu hails from the socially-influential Kamma community and the group rallies behind him. However, the same cannot be said for Kalyan, who is a Kapu leader. The Kapu community — which forms about 24 per cent of Andhra’s population according to the last census — has always split when it comes to supporting a single party.

(Edited by Anumeha Saxena)

Also Read: NTR vs YSR & Naidu factor: How Jagan’s plan to rename university reopened old wounds, feuds


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