TDP sinking under own weight?

TDP sinking under own weight?

Even as the Chandrababu Naidu government is yet to encounter any serious anti-incumbency barring sporadic discontent, the internal bickerings within the party seem to be causing greater concern for the otherwise invincible leadership. The theatres of conflict have opened up at many frontiers, sometimes even simultaneously, causing enough irritants to the party leadership. 

Even as the Chandrababu Naidu government is yet to encounter any serious anti-incumbency barring sporadic discontent, the internal bickerings within the party seem to be causing greater concern for the otherwise invincible leadership. The theatres of conflict have opened up at many frontiers, sometimes even simultaneously, causing enough irritants to the party leadership.

Attempts by the party leadership for rapprochement are yielding transient results only with such internecine battles in the party refusing to die down. The decisive impact of such infighting was seen in Nandyal segment which goes to by-elections owing to the death of Bhuma Nagi Reddy.

This infighting that ultimately led to the exit of influential leader, Silpa Mohan Reddy, has the potential to upset even the party's apple cart here. Such a consequence would not only trigger more political speculation but energises the opposition YSR Congress.

The ruling party and the opposition would move heaven and earth to win Nandyal by-poll which could perhaps be seen as a litmus test for the Telugu Desam regime and would serve as a barometer to the adverse impact of infighting on the party's fortunes.

In the neighbouring Kadapa district, the induction of Aadinarayana Reddy into the state cabinet has obviously made the rival Rama Subba Reddy camp restless.

The Kurnool and the Kadapa developments have an inherent pattern. In the Rayalaseema politics, personal and factional loyalties are stronger than political affinities. It's therefore, almost impossible for warring factions to adjust in the same party, especially so when their rival enjoys power in the party. This is the reason for Silpa and Rama Subba Reddy finding it difficult to reconcile to.

Not just in Kadapa, across the state, the defection of YSR Congress legislators into TDP is the cause of heartburn for the party loyalists. Naidu seems to have encouraged defections with a hope that he could adjust both the defectors and the loyalists as the number of Assembly seats would increase post-bifurcation.

But, with the proposal to increase the number of seats still pending with the Centre and facing several constitutional and legal hurdles, the opposing groups within the TDP are increasingly restless.

Chandrababu Naidu speaks of the larger interests of the party while accepting the defectors from YSR Congress. But, the larger party interest is an abstract idea. It has to be defined in terms of the interests of the politicians concerned. The lower rank leaders feel that their interests are sacrificed to bolster the interests of the leadership in the name of party interests.

Unlike the Congress, the TDP has a loyal cadre who have built the party brick by brick. The party leadership also acknowledges in every meeting the sacrifices of the party cadre and leaders at all levels.

But, many of the disgruntled leaders who feel let down due to the entry of their rivals from YSR Congress now question whether this is the manner in which the sacrificing loyal leaders should be treated.

The situation is no different even in areas where power is shared by the loyalists and the defectors alike. There were defections to TDP before and after the elections especially in the recent past. Even the party loyalists are not ready to accept the pre-election defectors too despite three years of seniority for them in the party.

The serious differences between the loyalists and the defectors is manifesting in myriad forms causing embarrassment for the party and the leadership.

The classic illustration of this phenomenon is in North Coastal Andhra where the infighting between two cabinet ministers has not only taken an ugly turn but came out in the open.

Minister Ayyanna Patrudu made an open allegation against another minister Ganta Srinivasa Rao. Ayyanna Patrudu himself asked the people to understand the gravity of corruption and land-grabbing from the fact that he being a minister has to make allegations against his own cabinet colleague.

Despite intervention by the party supremo, the bitter hostilities between Ayyanna Patrudu and Ganta groups refuse to calm down. The leadership is in a piquant situation as it cannot disown any of these two important leaders of the region.

The belligerent confrontation between party loyalists and defectors was witnessed in the presence of ministers at the party meetings, for instance in Prakasam, much to the chagrin of the leadership.

Meanwhile as three years have gone, the ministerial aspirants are increasingly getting ambitious and anxious. Several leaders are openly expressing their dissatisfaction which is uncharacteristic of the party like the TDP.
Gouthu Syam Sundar Shivaji of north Coastal Andhra, Dhulipalla Narendra of South coastal Andhra are some of them whose resentment was publicly ventilated.

Some of them are even using the social card to buttress their aspiration or resentment. The lack of or inadequate representation to SCs and minorities is the point in this context.

The long-time associate of Chandrababu Naidu, Shiva Prasad, MP, made this known in his own style and questioned the leadership for inadequate representation to the dalits in the cabinet, especially those coming from the Rayalaseema region. Caste, community dimensions are exploited to ventilate their personal grievances much to the discomfort of the party and its leadership.

The infighting in the party has even taken a violent turn in West Godavari and Krishna districts, especially in Vijayawada city. The alleged attempt to kill Chintamaneni Prabhakar, and the Kesineni episode have put the TDP in bad light. Meanwhile, the local satraps like Chintamaneni Prabhakar are also in the list of people aspiring for a ministerial Berth.

The differences between Kesineni and Devineni Uma Maheswara Rao have taken a heavy toll on the party functioning in Krishna district. On the other hand, the lack of coordination between two ministers in Anantapur district adversely affected party's winning chances in the elections to the Legislative Council from the Graduates' Constituency of the region.

In some areas, the party leaders are finding it hard to accommodate BJP. As the Chief Minister sent strong signals that the party has no intention to revisit the relationship with BJP, these inter-party differences at the grassroots level remain subsumed.

On the other hand, the behaviour of some of the leaders has put the party in the dock. The JC Diwakar Reddy episode has become a national embarrassment for TDP as the national media took it as a campaign. The Diwakar Reddy affair has even become an embarrassment for the NDA also. The serious charges of corruption and illicit deals led to the suspension of TDP MLCs Deepak Reddy and Vakati Narayana Reddy.

As the elections approach, the leaders would be more ambitious, more anxious and more restless. The competitive politics within the party would further intensify. Some more defections to TDP may also follow resulting in more theatres of conflict erupting between the loyalists and the defectors. Those who feel they are inadequately offered the share of benefits from the party being in power after a gap of a decade would certainly be more assertive.

There is also a widespread feeling in the party rank and file that Chandrababu Naidu is not as strong as he used to be in dealing with the indiscipline of party cadres and leaders. Such a feeling or assessment is also accentuating the problem.

So far, the party is just confined to giving warnings of possible action with no action to follow. Such procrastination is also taking its toll on party discipline. With both Naidu and the heir apparent Lokesh busy with governance, the party has to find new ways to deal with the simmering problem to keep its house in order.

More than the response to its governance, the TDP has to deal with the malaises of party in power to stay afoot in the run-up to 2019.

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