After weeks of bargaining, discussing and protesting, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Telugu Desam Party came to a seat-sharing arrangement for the May 7 polls in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday. But will this combine be able to achieve the same feat it did in 1999, asks Vicky Nanjappa.
In 1999, the Telugu Desam Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party had together won 36 Lok Sabha seats in Andhra Pradesh. The BJP had won seven of these seats. However, post-2004, the going has been tough for the saffron party, which managed to win just four assembly seats that too only in the Telangana region.
There are two major differences between 1999 and 2004: in 1999, there was no Telangana issue. Also, there was no divide between in the leadership of both these parties over an alliance
Hence the question is whether the current alliance was a good choice or not.
Ask any Telangana BJP leader and he would say that is a recipe for disaster. And clearly, they have their reasons for that.
TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu and BJP’s national spokesperson Prakash Javadekar painted a united picture when they announced the alliance on Saturday, but it was made amid protests from the cadres and leaders of both sides. The BJP in Seemandhra is relatively quiet over this alliance and realises that it needs this tie-up in order to better their tally on the national scene. But the Telangana BJP feels that an opportunity has been thrown away in the region, and are surprised that the national leadership actually went ahead with this decision.
The Telangana BJP firmly believes that it could have emerged as an alternative in this region and now with this alliance, that opportunity has been lost. They are worried that the anti-TDP vote in Telangana could affect them in certain areas.
The biggest problem is that the cadres of both the parties do not see eye to eye in Telangana. This is probably the biggest concern for both parties. The first negative effect of this could be that the cadres may not vote for each other in Telangana. The Telangana BJP, which has been very vocal about not having this alliance, could vote against the TDP candidates contesting the elections in this region, and vice versa.
G Kishen Reddy, chief of the Telangana BJP who stayed away from the announcement on Sunday, is sulking. But he has also said that he has to obey the national leadership and that he would make the best of this alliance.
For Reddy, controlling his flock is the biggest challenge. Leaders such as Venkat Reddy of the BJP have warned that there would be desertions if they have to make way for the TDP candidates. He has also warned that there could be rebel candidates in case the BJP cadre is upset. The TDP local units too are speaking the same language.
Chandrababu Naidu, who holds the key in this alliance, has appealed to both sides to work together, and ensure that combination sweeps Andhra Pradesh. To the fears raised by both the TDP and BJP cadre that they may have to lose out their seats in the wake of this seat-sharing arrangement, Chandrababu said they would be taken care of later.
Senior leaders of both parties say the issue would be sorted out and they would do everything to ensure that none of the party workers and leaders is hurt.
On the other hand, in the Seemandhra region, the BJP realises that the TDP is the senior partner. Although there were some leaders in the BJP who felt that they could fight here alone and capitalise on the Modi wave, they have been brought on board and will fight the elections as a united front.
As per the seat-sharing arrangement arrived at by both the parties, the BJP will contest eight Lok Sabha and 47 assembly seats in Telangana and five Lok Sabha and 15 assembly seats in Seemandhra.
Senior leaders in both the parties know they will have to act quickly on the issue since April 9 is the last date to file nominations. Naidu did not want to give away more than 40 seats to the BJP in Telangana, but finally conceded and gave the BJP 47. However, in Seemandhra, he had his way as he always wanted to give just 15 seats to the BJP.
Image: (From left) BJP's national treasurer Piyush Goyal, BJP national spokesperson Prakash Javadekar with TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu and other leaders after they announced their alliance on Sunday in Hyderabad. Photograph: SnapsIndia