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Modi's Hyderabad show may not thaw Andhra's Muslim votebank

August 12, 2013 11:41 IST

Thousands of people may have gathered at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium in Hyderabad on Sunday to attend a rally by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, but it remains to be seen whether the mammoth turnout will actually translate into votes for the Bharatiya Janata Party in Andhra Pradesh.

The BJP doesn't have much of a presence in the state. The only way it can perform well within a short span of time is if it ties up with its former ally Telugu Desam Party.

Interestingly, during his address, Modi stated that it was high time the people of Andhra Pradesh celebrate the legacy of TDP founder N T Rama Rao.

"The legacy of NTR lies with the TDP and hence it is upon this party to ensure that his legacy is celebrated. NTR always wanted a Congress-free India. What better way to celebrate his legacy than by throwing the Congress out," Modi had said.

Political experts believe that this statement was a direct invitation to the TDP by the BJP.

But the TDP may not be in too much of a hurry to enter into an alliance with the BJP.

The party, led by Chandrababu Naidu, has been out of power for years in the state.

The TDP's decision to team up with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in 1999 hurt the party's electoral prospects in the long run as it distanced Naidu's party from Muslim voters.

The party will be wary of another alliance with the saffron party as it does not want to further alienate the state's Muslim voters.

The TDP will fight the state elections, due to be held next year, on its own. The party will consider entering into alliances only after gauging the post-election scenario.

"Our campaign will focus on developmental issues and the concept of a unified Andhra Pradesh," said a senior TDP leader.

In 1999, the TDP had decided to join hands with the BJP as the party was sure that the saffron party, led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, will sweep the nation.

But the party is not too enthused about the prospective leadership of Narendra Modi.

"It is too early to say anything about a Modi wave in Andhra Pradesh. It is necessary for us to stay away from the BJP and retain the Muslim vote bank," said a TDP leader.

Andhra Pradesh's BJP unit, however, has no apprehensions or doubts about Modi's impact on the voters.

"The manner in which he handled the Telangana issue was excellent. During his address, he said that while Telangana had to be formed, there was an equal need to develop the regions of Rayalseema and Andhra. The manner in which he ended the speech -- yes we can, yes we should. Jai Telangana, Jai Seema-Andhra -- was a masterstroke," said a BJP leader.

It is too early to speculate whether the much-hyped 'Modi magic' managed to reach the remote corners of Andhra Pradesh.

But a wide variety of people -- businessmen, entertainers and former bureaucrats -- lined up to meet Modi during his short visit to Hyderabad on Sunday.

In fact, the Andhra Pradesh unit of the BJP is so overwhelmed by the response to Modi's rally that it plans to hold another one in the state soon. The next time, say BJP insiders, the rally will be held in a rural area in Seema-Andhra and Modi will focus on the issues faced by Andhra Pradesh's agricultural community.

But such a rally will have to wait awhile, say BJP leaders, as the situation in Seema-Andhra is tense in the wake of the Centre's decision on Telangana. The simmering rage in the region will have to cool down before Modi can take the dais in Andhra Pradesh again.

Image: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi at the rally in Hyderabad ' Photograph: Vicky Nanjappa

Vicky Nanjappa