NDA opening for BJP in Andhra

NDA opening for BJP in Andhra

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has found a footing in Andhra Pradesh (AP), where assembly elections are due along with the general elections soon. On Saturday, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) returned to the NDA, which it quit in 2018, and negotiated a seat-sharing deal with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Jana Sena. This opens up the political field in AP, which has become a bipolar polity, dominated by the ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) of chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy and the TDP led by Chandrababu Naidu. The appointment of Reddy’s sister, YS Sharmila, as the state chief has infused life into the Congress party — in oblivion since the bifurcation of AP in 2014.

Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu with Union home minister Amit Shah. (ANI)

The revival of the NDA is interesting for multiple reasons. One, it may allow the BJP a foothold in a state where it has minimal presence: Its vote share in the 2019 general and assembly elections was less than 1%. Naidu, the leader of the NDA in Andhra, has been magnanimous in offering five Lok Sabha seats (of a total of 25 seats) to the BJP besides six assembly seats (out of 175). This is an arrangement similar to the coalition arithmetic that the Congress has had with the Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu since the 1970s: The leader of the coalition, the DMK or AIADMK, would contest most of the assembly seats while allotting a significant number of Lok Sabha seats to the Congress, disproportionate to the latter’s base. This arrangement helped the Dravidian major and the Congress to do well in most elections. Naidu expects that an alliance with the BJP, and especially the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a campaigner, will act as a force multiplier for the TDP, which has been entangled in corruption cases.

The BJP’s AP strategy also follows its template for states where it lacks organisational clout. For instance, in states such as Maharashtra, Bihar and Assam, it tied up with a regional player, allowing the latter to dominate state politics. The combined strength helped the BJP to do well in elections and expand its organisation over time. In all three above-mentioned states, the BJP is now in a pivotal position (also proving the theory that the Congress weakens when it is in alliance and the BJP becomes stronger). The political dynamic of AP, like Tamil Nadu, is very different, but the NDA’s performance in AP will be keenly watched, as it will test the BJP’s capabilities to expand in southern India, where its influence is confined mostly to Karnataka.

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