New Delhi, Aug. 14: The Telugu Desam Party is warming to the BJP and looking at it as a possible ally for the 2014 Lok Sabha and Andhra Pradesh elections.
A source, who claimed to be part of the Desam’s decision-making group, said that on August 10, a day before Narendra Modi addressed a public meeting in Hyderabad, party chief N. Chandrababu Naidu was told by confidants and senior colleagues that he must tie up with the BJP for the impending polls.
Naidu’s colleagues, the source said, stressed that the national mood was “anti-Congress” and it was, therefore, important for the anti-Congress forces to not only array against it but have a “strong” party like the BJP at the helm.
Some of those who had purportedly carried out independent surveys in Andhra and some other states informed Naidu that a “groundswell” in Modi’s favour was “rapidly” building in the north.
Naidu, the source said, replied that he had heard them out and would keep their inputs in mind before coming to any decision. He also urged his colleagues not to go public on the BJP or on Modi.
The following day, after seeing the “huge” turnout at Modi’s rally, Naidu was again told that if he teamed up with the Gujarat chief minister, together they would coalesce into a “powerful” symbol of “governance and development” that India was “yearning” for.
When Naidu was asked by the Hyderabad media to respond to Modi’s call, he refused to utter a word.
BJP sources did not reject the idea of reaching out to the Desam, a former ally when the NDA was in power. A leader said he and Modi had done their homework on Andhra and concluded that while the BJP’s vote share in the 2009 elections was a niggardly 2.8 per cent, if it aligned with the Desam and even the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, the vote share, and consequently, the number of seats, could shoot up “dramatically”.
“This was why Modi in his rally made a direct appeal to Naidu to respect his father-in-law (N.T. Rama Rao)’s legacy and join the forces fighting the Congress seriously,” the leader said.
Naidu is now part of an on-off front of regional outfits that include the BJD, the AIADMK, the AGP, the Indian National Lok Dal and the Left.
Sources said if Naidu was losing hope of the CPM and CPI’s ability to emerge as the nucleus of a “third” or a “federal” front because of the Left’s “eroding base” in its strongholds, he was as concerned about Modi’s “divisive” image and the fear of losing Muslim votes.
The source said he expected Naidu to speak to Naveen Patnaik, Jayalalithaa, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Sharad Yadav (not Nitish Kumar) before making up his mind on the BJP.
Of the four leaders, Jayalalithaa, the AIADMK chief, has a good equation with Modi. Patnaik, the Odisha chief minister and BJD president, has never displayed the degree of aversion towards Modi as Nitish has.
The Desam’s assessment was that Mulayam’s “automatic” choice was the Congress in an and/or scenario.