The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Twin bandhs in Andhra

Hyderabad, Feb. 10: The Andhra Pradesh government has geared itself up to face tomorrow’s statewide bandh called by its ally, the state BJP, against growing terrorism in the state.

The second state bandh during Chandrababu Naidu’s regime has widened the chasm between his Telugu Desam Party and the state BJP. The chasm has continued to grow despite the Desam’s continued support to the BJP at the national level.

Things have been made worse by tomorrow’s bandh call of the Darasgah Jehad-o-Shahadat, a fundamentalist Islamic organisation, in protest against the BJP’s “Hindutva designs”. The state government has put its machinery on alert to contain any untoward incident tomorrow.

The state BJP first sided with the Opposition against the Desam regime in 1997 when all Opposition parties launched a major agitation against a steep hike in power tariff.

An agitated Desam leadership had shot off letters to the BJP central leadership and threatened non-cooperation in Parliament. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government managed to console the Desam with more Central benefits. The latest challenge to the Desam regime has angered the leadership. Last week, the Desam politburo had discussed tomorrow’s bandh and this evening, the state Cabinet took it up again.

Chief minister Chandrababu Naidu has spoken to deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and expressed his anguish over the state BJP leaders’ move. “What should the state leaders expect me to do if they keep opposing the TDP policies'” he reportedly asked the BJP central leaders.

The state BJP, too, is not without its share of trouble for a big chunk of its Telengana cadres walked out of the party with A. Narendra, MP, to the Telengana Rashtra Samiti.

The BJP central leadership, driven by its compulsion to keep the Desam happy, also eased former party national vice-president V. Rama Rao out of Andhra Pradesh to the party’s disadvantage. He is now the Sikkim Governor.

None of these moves, however, has reigned in some state BJP leaders, including Bandaru Dattatreya, who have become more vocal in their opposition to the Desam over the past few months. They have been openly critical of both Naidu and his party for failures in governance.

BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu has been trying hard to pacify the state unit and help it maintain amicable relations with the Desam so that the NDA is not rocked.

State BJP leaders, however, believe they would be better off without the Desam alliance. “Everyone knows that the Hindutva card will sell better in Andhra. It (the state) contributed over 25,000 volunteers to Ayodhya in 1986. It is now Naidu’s turn to be scared of the BJP,” a state BJP leader said.

The BJP has rubbed salt into Chandrababu’s wounds by writing about his brother Ramamurthy Naidu’s “Vibhishana” role in Jana Sandesh, the party’s Telegu publication.

The publication has dubbed Chandrababu “Ravana” compared with his defiant brother’s “Vibhishana” who, the state BJP says, is trying his best to save the Lanka that is Andhra Pradesh from heavy debts.

State BJP leaders believe the Desam will have come off its high horse and talk to them if it is serious about keeping the alliance alive.

The BJP central leadership, however, may put the party’s national interests above the grouse of the state unit.

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