The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Shri N. Chandrababu Naidu calling on the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, in New Delhi on January 15, 2015.

Is the alliance between Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and BJP on its death throes? When AP Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu said the other day that he will do a namaskaram and break-up with the BJP if the saffron party does not want to stay with him, it opened up a Pandora’s Box.

Though it is too early to say that Naidu’s “warning” is indicative of a Last Tango in Amaravati between him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for the time being, it could be construed that it is an attempt to make the BJP top brass sit up and ponder over why Naidu, who is as patient as Job, blurt out such harsh words, knowing well the consequences.

The political chemistry had never been that great between the two leaders, but they have been living together. Both of them had struck the alliance ahead of 2014 elections with the BJP strongman eyeing Naidu’s MPs and Naidu seeking Centre’s help for reconstruction of the State, which lay crippled since the division.

After the elections, Modi emerged as some kind of a supernova with brute majority in Lok Sabha which meant that he did not have to depend on Naidu for political survival. But for Naidu, Modi’s support is a sine qua non for building the capital, Polavaram and other projects promised in the State Bifurcation Act.

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As they fought the general elections together, both Naidu and Modi took the other’s law makers into their cabinets which was intended more to project themselves as politicians of virtue and not as ‘opportunists’. Neither did Modi need Naidu in NDA nor was BJP needed by Naidu.

Their journey began on a major discordant note with the Centre turning down AP’s plea for special category status and now BJP is making no secret of its displeasure to Naidu’s brand of politics. Though no senior leader of the party had made any comment, the state level leaders, found fault with Naidu admitting YSRC MLAs into the TDP and promoting four of them into the Cabinet.

This has set-off speculation that the BJP was worried that its image of promoting clean politics would be sullied if it continued its journey with the yellow party. For this one question, Naidu has no answer and he carefully skirts this issue whenever he launches a tirade against the YSRC.

Engineering defections from YSRC into TDP has been Naidu’s strategy to kill Jaganmohan Reddy softly by the election time. After M Venkaiah Naidu became the Vice-President of the nation, the State felt as though it had been orphaned.

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He used to take up with various ministries issues related to division of the state. The umbilical cord is now gone and on top of it Venkaiah Naidu has suggested that Speakers should not take more than three months in disposing of petitions of parties seeking disqualification of their members for defection at a time when Naidu is facing flak from the YSRC for harbouring its MLAs and taking four of them into his cabinet.

When Naidu said he would chart his own course if BJP considers the TDP an anathema, he wanted to know what kind of reaction he would get from the saffron party. If it is a positive reaction, it would help keep the YSRC chief under check. Though it is an old hat, he had to take this gamble, since he does not want Jaganmohan Reddy to be off CBI’s hook which he believes he will if Modi teams up with him.

Another reason is that if he gets a clear indication that BJP does not want a change of partner, it would help him plan his election strategy.
As indications are that Modi will ride to power once again since he appears to have acceptance across the country, Naidu wants to use his panache to get the attractive but elusive votes so necessary to cross the magic figure and help him return to power.

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Without Modi’s mojo, Naidu would have only Pawan Kalyan on his side and that may not be enough. As he is thorough in his approach to politics and therefore he wants the alliance to survive and Jaganmohan Reddy’s footsie with Modi gets a curt rejection.

Naidu knows very well that YSRC lost several Assembly seats by a whisker in the last election. With Jaganmohan Reddy being on a padayatra across the state, Naidu cannot risk ignoring any increase in support to him. With Jana Sena chief Pawan Kalyan, making it clear that he would intercede with the government for resolution of people’s issues, it has become more or less clear that he is on the same page as Naidu.

The YSRC dismisses the actor as a political device Naidu is using to divide the Opposition votes and strengthen his own winning prospects. The ball is now in BJP’s court. It remains to be seen who the BJP would consider a better bet. Whether it is Chandrababu Naidu, who carries on his shoulders the weight of the anti-incumbency, or Jaganmohan Reddy against whom cases filed by the CBI are still pending. #KhabarLive