Gujarat appears to have saved Telugu Desam-BJP friendship. The BJP strongman and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who did not respond to pleas for appointment for over a year, saw Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu the other day, after he won the elections in his home state by a whisker.
Though Modi-Naidu meeting may not produce the results that the state is expecting immediately but it indicated some kind of a thaw in the relations between the two leaders.
Naidu was not seen overly happy after the meeting and was business-like while speaking to reporters. He referred to the demands that he had raised as the right of the AP people guaranteed by the AP Reorganisation Act 2014, which implied that Modi remained non-committal as Naidu poured out his grievances.
At one stage he pointed out that if the Centre does not intervene to resolve inter-state issues, he may have to seek a legal remedy. But he neither said he was happy or unhappy but only pointed out that Modi had promised to sort out certain issues relating to AP.
When reporters asked whether the alliance between the TDP and BJP was intact since there were reports that it was in last stages, Naidu shot back at them, asking what had made them arrive at the conclusion. “Our two MPs are in central cabinet. What more proof do you need?” he asked, which only showed that he was grinning and bearing for the difficult phase to pass.
Naidu fought and won the 2014 elections with the help of Jana Sena Chief Pawan Kalyan and the mojo of Narendra Modi. Risking backlash from the Muslim minorities, Naidu had carefully crafted a coalition, the calculus of which had helped him ride to power after being in Opposition for 10 long years.
Naidu wants the same formula, which stood the test of the electoral challenge in 2014, posed by his adversary YS Jaganmohan Reddy, to remain intact and see him through in 2019. He needs it to be in fine fettle as this time, he would have to reckon with anti-incumbency factor, too.
That appears to be the reason why he has not done anything that would upset the coalition apple-cart and showed to the entire world how much patience he has in the face of continuous anti-TDP rant by the state level leaders of the saffron party.
The YSRC taunted him to snap relations with the BJP since it was not overly enthusiastic in helping the state come out of the woods financially or otherwise, and the leaders who migrated to the BJP from Congress kept spewing verbal venom against him, particularly his sister-in-law Daggubati Purandeswari for being ungrateful to the Centre by interpreting a certain decision of Naidu as anti-BJP.
But Naidu remained unfazed, firmly convinced that conciliation and not confrontation would help him get funds from the Centre since he had no bargaining ammunition with him unlike when he was the Chief Minister prior to 2004 when he could dictate terms to the NDA as the latter was in need of his MPs’ support for survival.
Having won a brute majority in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Modi had suddenly shot into the stratosphere, unreachable to Chandrababu Naidu. As Naidu needed liberal funding for his twin dream projects – Polavaram and Amaravati – he chose to wait – even as it took too long for the funds to arrive – rather than fly off the handle now and risk everything.
Naidu had even remarked in the past when there used to be a high octane clamour for special category status that if he increased the heat for SCS, the Centre might just grant it and then not bother about anything else. No one knows if he was convinced but he said the special package that Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitely had offered was more than equal to the SCS and that he was settling for it, with an eye on keeping his relations with the BJP warm.
As the days went by, Naidu’s game-plan did not work the way he had anticipated but the recent elections in Gujarat appear to be a game-changer for Naidu. After the pyrrhic victory in his home state, Modi appeared to have mellowed down suddenly, and began listening to cries for help from Amaravati. Who knows what happens in 2019 and who knows whose help he might be in need!
Modi apparently decided that an all-weather friend like Naidu could not be thrown by the way side but be taken on board as Naidu could not only pledge TDP support but could charm like-minded parties into jumping on the NDA bandwagon, should the need arise.
Only once did Naidu let the bottled-up emotions inside him issue out in the Assembly after the Centre dashed off a letter raising objections to the way the sub-contracting of Polavaram project works was being done. He said he was exercising extreme restraint since the BJP was his ally. But very soon he piped down and advised his minions not to go after the BJP, taking his statement in the Assembly as the cue. It remains to be seen if patience really pays off for Naidu. #Khabarlive