All it takes for politicians of every hue in Andhra Pradesh to get into gull electoral mode is just one by-election. That is the conclusion that can be surmised if one goes by the hyper-active electioneering that is happening as a run-up to the by-elections to the Nandyal Assembly constituency, which has been necessitated by the demise of Bhuma Nagi Reddy.
It has created feverish poll frenzy as would any seat that is fought as a prestige issue. Andhra Pradesh is literally in throes of an intense poll battle particularly with the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the YSRCP going all out to garner the support of the electorate, what with general elections less than two years down the line.
The ruling alliance in Andhra Pradesh does not show any signs of disunity though a section of BJP leaders are often critical of the Naidu government, oblivious of the fact that they are part of the ruling regime in the State. The occasional tone of dissent from Andhra Pradesh BJP leaders is, perhaps, an attempt to maintain the party identity in the State rather than be seen as riding piggyback.
Meanwhile, the BJP is playing the truest political card as a future game-plan by maintaining strategic proximity with YSR Congress. The BJP does not rule out a possible alliance with YSR Congress in case it has to sever ties with TDP, although as things stand, such an eventuality looks unlikely. But then, given the rough and tumble of political survival, it cannot straightaway be ruled out.
The YSR Congress extending unconditional support to BJP nominees in the Presidential and the Vice-Presidential elections only indicates a possible realignment in State politics. However on hindsight, the YSR Congress is wary of a tie-up with the saffron brigade as it could result in them getting to lose minority vote.
Meanwhile, the possibility of continuation of the existing political chemistry or the dawn of a new equation depends upon several factors, particularly those that will prevail as election draws closer. First, both the TDP and the YSR Congress are not averse to aligning with the BJP in 2019. At the same time, the BJP is open to embrace even YSR Congress. The party would weigh the relative advantages and disadvantages of varying options before taking a call.
As the Modi government continues to enjoy positive chemistry with the electorate, both TDP and YSR Congress are inclined to be part of the NDA bandwagon. The BJP would revisit the political alliances in Andhra Pradesh only if it perceives strong winds of anti-incumbency blowing across the State. The saffron brigade will be ready for any sort of post-poll arrangement as that will make political sense. Politics, of course, is not just chemistry, it’s more arithmetic.
The YSR Congress, in fact, has the option of having a truck with the Left parties. But, the party despite such a possibility in 2014 decided to go alone. Whether it will learn a lesson from that experience or continue to display political arrogance is still unknown.
Meanwhile, an alliance between the Left and the Jana Sena Party led by Pawan Kalyan is fast gaining credence. But, Pawan’s political strategy remains unknown and most of what is being projected is a fig of imagination. He is yet to define his political role, although he expressed his intentions to work with the Left. But, what role he would prefer to play in state politics is still abstract. Political circles are keeping their fingers crossed and refuse to believe that he is serious in opposing the TDP-BJP combine. In any case, Pawan Kalyan, whether he unites with the Left or not, is unlikely to be a significant player at the hustings given the present trends. Pawan himself believes that he would know his real strength only if he enters the political arena full-blast.
The situation in Telangana is much different. The Congress seems to be toying with the idea of forming a Bihar-type Mahagathbandhan to put a halt to the TRS juggernaut. The party has already indicated that it will not have any reservations even to rope in Telugu Desam Party. The Telangana TDP may not have much objection to join the Congress-led grand alliance in the state. The TDP has no alliance with BJP in the state.
The Telangana BJP has already made it clear that it would not sail with TDP irrespective of political and electoral arrangement in Andhra Pradesh and at the Centre. The TDP is, therefore, left with no choice. However, the Telangana TDP should get a clearance from Andhra leadership who may find it difficult to swallow the idea of allying with Congress that arbitrarily divided the State. The Congress deceit in dividing the state continues to be TDP’s political narrative in Andhra Pradesh.
The Congress plans of forming a Mahagathbandhan in Telangana are yet to fructify. Meanwhile, the idea of Congress-led grand alliance has divided the Left even before the move could take shape. While the CPI is willing to join the Congress-led alliance against TRS and BJP, the CPI (M) is averse to any understanding with Congress due to the political tactical line adopted at its All India Conference.
More recently, the CPI (M) leadership rejected the Congress offer of support to send the party General Secretary Sitaram Yechury to the Rajya Sabha. The party is unlikely to revise its stand before 2019 polls especially after the political math boomerang in West Bengal. The CPI (M) had an electoral understanding with Congress in West Bengal which is seen as the reason for unprecedented erosion of its vote bank.
Keeping in view the possible electoral understanding with the Congress, the CPI did not favour joining CPI(M) initiated conglomerate of mass organisations. The Left unity suffered huge jolt as electoral calculations started dictating political moves. The CPI(M) intends to fight 2019 elections in coordination with various social organisations. The Congress-led Mahagathbandhan, if it materialises, would therefore exclude the CPI(M) and include the CPI. The TDP enrolling itself in such a Congress-led grand alliance is still a matter of speculation.
Yet another unsettled aspect in Telangana political landscape is the relationship between TRS and BJP. The BJP considers TRS as an ally due to the latter’s inevitable hostility with Congress. Similarly, as the Congress is the principal opposition in the State, the TRS has no incentive in joining any possible alliance led by it.
However, the BJP wants to expand in every state. It wants to win as many MPs as possible on its own, knowing well the unpredictable nature of politics in general and TRS leadership in particular. Thus, the BJP and the TRS, though remain uncharitable allies, may not openly embrace each other at least not before elections.
Meanwhile, the BJP is seriously planning to woo influential leaders from other parties. This has the potential to redraw the political contours.
The role of TJAC is still undefined. Will Kodandaram form a new party? If so, what will be its relationship with Congress? Will the TRS fears that he would join Congress instead of forming a party come true? There is no clarity on these aspects. But, one thing is clear. The TJAC will be in anti-TRS camp. But, the striking capability of TJAC is only in the realm of speculation. The YSR Congress and Jana Sena are non-entities in Telangana politics.
The political configuration of Andhra Pradesh does not indicate any signs of significant alteration. But, the consolidation of anti-TRS camp has begun, though alliances are yet to crystallise. The political arithmetic certainly has an impact on electoral outcomes. But, it is too premature to presume or preempt anything now. It is also wrong to assume that electoral alliances will alone define the nature of people’s mandate. And that is another political game, altogether!