TDP as National Party

TDP as National Party

The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in its recently held politburo meeting reportedly decided to appoint a committee to study modalities for making it a...

The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in its recently held politburo meeting reportedly decided to appoint a committee to study modalities for making it a national party. The said committee is expected to look into the possibility and feasibility of turning the TDP into a national party. The committee shall submit its report in few months which would be placed before the 2015 Mahanadu to be held in Vijayawada, the designated capital of residuary Andhra Pradesh state where the TDP is in power. In fact, such a proposal is nothing new. It was echoed even in the past. There was even a proposal to name it Bharata Desam Party. But nothing has materialised since then. The party leadership also did not pay any serious attention to the proposal in the past. There was no political necessity to do so, leave alone the possibility of making this a reality. What has now transpired within the party to revive the proposal? The new development is that the proposal is now initiated by the party leadership, and that too in the highest decision-making body of the party. This is also the first time that the party gave it a concrete shape in the form of appointing a committee. Thus, one can infer some seriousness in the exercise. But, the moot point is whether it is a serious effort to transform the party into a national party or is it only an attempt to tide over the political complexities thrown open by the bifurcation of the state and subsequent developments that saw the party in the seat of power in one of the two Telugu states.

Before delving into the political aspects of the proposal, it is worth noting the technicalities involved in getting a national party status.

The Election Commission of India has decided that henceforth a political party shall be eligible to be recognised as a National party if :-
(i) it secures at least six per cent (6%) of the valid votes polled in any four or more states, at a general election to the House of the People or, to the State Legislative Assembly; and
(ii) in addition, it wins at least four seats in the House of the People from any State or States.
It wins at least two per cent (2%) seats in the House of the People (i.e., 11 seats in the existing House having 543 members), and these members are elected from at least from three different States.

This makes it clear that the TDP cannot expect to fulfil this criterion at least in the immediate future. But, it cannot be ruled out as it can hope to get a seat or more in the neighbouring states where there are significant pockets of Telugu-speaking people. At least, there is a sizable Telugu-speaking population in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Odisha, Maharashtra, apart from the two Telugu states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. But, the technicalities are not of great relevance here. The TDP is not vying for the recognition from the Election commission of India. It only wants a national political presence in the limited sense. The ‘national’ is operationally defined here as having presence in states other than the two Telugu states. In fact, the AIADMK calls itself as an all India party, though it has presence in Tamil Nadu and a tiny state of Pondicherry only. The parties like Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, Nationalist Congress Party etc. made feeble attempts to expand their base beyond their traditional strongholds. But, all these attempts were never successful. Therefore, the Telugu Desam Party is not hoping to convert the party into a national party similar to Congress or BJP. The TDP is fully alive to the political realities. But, what made TDP make this bid afresh? There are political compulsions for the TDP to make this latest effort.

The attempt of TDP to call itself a national party is a strategic move rather than one with political substance.

The TDP leadership certainly has a national image. N T Rama Rao headed the national front. Under his leadership, the TDP played an instrumental role in galvanising anti-Congress political forces in the country. Even Chandrababu Naidu was the convenor of United Front when it was heading a coalition government at the Centre. Even today, Chandrababu Naidu has national political stature and he is one among the few Indian politicians having national political image despite leading regional parties.

But, such an image is not sufficient to transform the TDP into a national party. Personal images do not automatically translate into political foothold for the party, that too in a national political arena crowded with multiplicity of parties. The TDP leadership is not innocent to ignore these basic facts. But, there is a purpose behind this cosmetic change that may take place in the party.

The bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh created a unique and complex political situation for the TDP. Chandrababu Nadu is the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, while the party is in opposition in Telangana. Thus, The TDP in Telangana is also headed by the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. This has become much more embarrassing for the Telangana party leadership at a time when there are many unresolved issues between two Telugu states. The TRS is using every opportunity to push the Telangana TDP into a bashful political situation. The TRS continues its tirade on TDP, calling it an Andhra party even after the bifurcation. On one hand, as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, the president of TDP has to strongly defend the interests of his state, and on the other, he should balance his stand as the leader of the party that has stakes in Telangana also. The TDP leadership is often caught in a catch-22 situation.

The TDP has performed more than anyone expected in Telangana state. This keeps the party hopes in the Telangana state alive unlike the YSR Congress Party which is almost wiped out in Telangana state. This is often causing discomfiture to both the Telangana TDP unit and Chandrababu Naidu. This exercise to give a symbolic character of national party is a response to the political compulsions thrust upon the party by the post-bifurcation political landscape in the two Telugu states.

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