Andhra Pradesh has always been a politically vibrant State. The people are known to express their liking or hatred for any political party openly. If they like a particular party, they would ensure its victory even if the wind is blowing in a different direction in other parts of the country.
There was a time when the Congress-led by Indira Gandhi was wiped out from entire country, but in Andhra Pradesh, the people voted for Indiramma. They showed the power of Telugus when Nadendla Bhaskar Rao supported by Congress backstabbed N T Rama Rao. Indira Gandhi had to bring him back to power within a month.
The Congress paid a heavy price when it incurred the collective wrath of the Telugu people when Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated in 2014, and the party was grounded and dusted, notwithstanding a ten-year rule that preceded the creation of Telangana State. Till date, the party is searching for light at the end of the tunnel.
Now, that the country looks poised for an early election, and parties are chalking out their strategies, political parties in Andhra Pradesh are vying with each other to take the edge.
Thursday was one of those rare occasions when all the political parties in Andhra Pradesh came together to support a bandh call.
The Telugu Desam, in a politically smart move, seems to have occupied the opposition space. It was not surprising to see that the ruling TDP had succeeded in creating an impression among the people that the BJP had cheated the State just as the Congress did at the time of bifurcation. They were clear in their mind that the BJP had dashed their hopes. Even the TRS party, which spits venom at TDP, has shown rare statesmanship by supporting the demand of the people of Andhra Pradesh both in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
Telugu Desam is succeeding in giving an impression that it is the real protector of the interests of Telugus. The TDP succeeded in stalling the proceedings in Parliament and also attracted the attention of other parties, including the Congress Parliamentary party leader Sonia Gandhi, causing embarrassment to the BJP.
The attempts made by them to assuage the feelings of the people of Andhra that they are committed to fulfilling the promises made in the AP State’s Re-organisation Act have not cut any ice with the people. The way the people came out on the streets and participated in the bandh is a clear indication that they are not ready to accept empty promises.
If the BJP now comes up with clear announcements, the stock of the ruling TDP goes up among the people. Even if the BJP would shout from the roof tops that it is they who have come to the rescue of Andhra Pradesh, people still will not be supporting it and would say the BJP were forced to do so. Even if the BJP-TDP ties are severed, it is the BJP that would cut a sorry figure.
The YSRCP, which is in great hurry to occupy the seat of power, is convinced that a break-up between the TDP and the BJP would happen on the eve of the elections. It feels that Naidu would like to tell the people that he had given a very long rope to the BJP in the larger interests of the people.
This, they feel, will leave the saffron party with no option but to join hands with them. That is the main reason why the YSRCP leaders are only targeting the TDP and are demanding that the TDP ministers in the Union Cabinet should resign and only then the TDP should take up agitation inside and outside Parliament.
It is surprising to see that the YSRCP is making such statements at a time when even AICC president Rahul Gandhi tweeted that the AICC supports the fight of the people of Andhra against NDA government. The YSRCP, because of a lack of political experience, is creating an impression that they are fighting against the TDP rather than the BJP at the Centre.
The YSR Congress wants to tell the people of the state that Chandrababu Naidu has compromised on the Special Category Status. That was the promise made both by Manmohan Singh in the Parliament and also by the BJP leaders during the 2014 campaign. Their line of attack is that since the BJP found Naidu amenable, it went a step ahead and did not deliver on the other promises made in the Act.
The intention is to show that Naidu cannot be trusted when it comes to safeguarding the interests of the State. The YSRCP president Y S Jaganmohan Reddy reacting to the budget proposals criticised the TDP but refrained from attacking the BJP.
This along with his statement that if BJP were to grant Special Category Status to Andhra, he would support the national party has been taken as proof that he is angling for a deal with New Delhi.
This has created a trust deficit for the YSRCP in the minds of the common man. The claims of YSRCP leaders that the stock of BJP is going down in the State and that they are not interested in catching a falling knife have also failed to cut any ice.
The recent developments have put the TDP in an enviable win-win position. If the Modi regime accedes to some demands, Naidu can claim victory. If it does not, Naidu gets the perfect excuse to exit and target the Centre as a betrayer. That leaves Jagan with no option at this stage. It is all about who plays the smarter game on the political chessboard now. One should not miss the fact that Naidu is a master tactician.
So, what will Jaganmohan Reddy's strategy be in the run-up to the elections in 2019? At a time when they should have filled the political vacuum as the ‘real champions’ of the Telugus, they are seemingly obsessed with scoring self-goals.