Sept. 22: Telugu Desam chief N. Chandrababu Naidu today dropped the first public hint that he wasn’t against doing business with the BJP again and that Narendra Modi’s leadership might not be a deterrent.
Naidu, part of the BJP-led NDA before quitting almost a decade ago, told a channel in Delhi that it was important for the non-Congress spectrum to array against the UPA.
The comments come against the backdrop of calls from sections of the Desam to join hands with the Modi-chaperoned BJP amid concerns the Andhra party could be isolated in an ongoing realignment of forces spurred by the moves on Telangana.
Naidu yesterday met Haryana satrap Om Prakash Chautala, AGP boss Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and a top BJP leader over lunch hosted by Akali Dal MP Naresh Gujral, whose party is part of the NDA. Both Naidu and Mahanta refused comment on the talks, saying “it was too early”.
The Desam chief also met BJP president Rajnath Singh separately yesterday. “There was no conversation on alliances, pre-or-post-polls. He (Naidu) explained his stand on Andhra. I made it clear there would be no compromise on our position to back Telangana,” Rajnath said.
Desam sources say Naidu — on a limb ever since he was voted out in Andhra in 2004 — is looking to play a “role” of “relevance” in the depleted NDA. Naidu, the sources said, is trying to bring “smaller” unattached parties together under a front that could eventually become part of the NDA.
He is reportedly eyeing a one-on-one with Modi. But an aide of the Gujarat chief minister said the BJP is yet to firm up its view on Andhra and added Jaganmohan Reddy was also a “factor” that couldn’t be ignored as in a hunt for allies. The Congress, too, is wooing Jagan for a merger.
Naidu came under pressure from colleagues to look at a BJP tie-up after Modi’s August 11 Hyderabad rally that drew big crowds. He had been cautious initially over fears about minority votes, though setbacks in successive bypolls have suggested little headway in the Desam’s attempts to win back the group.
Naidu also appears “disillusioned” with the Left, his on-off ally, for not being sufficiently “pro-active” in sewing up an alternative non-Congress front. He isn’t enamoured of Mulayam Singh Yadav either as he feels he is “naturally” inclined towards the Congress.
At home, Naidu has seen odds stack up. The Desam is isolated in Telangana, pitted against the TRS and the Congress. In Seemandhra, the Desam is up against Jagan’s YSR Congress and the Congress. Sections within the Desam expect a leg-up in 2014 if they can ride on the BJP’s votes.
Naidu’s MLA count has fallen from 92 in the 2009 polls, which he had fought with the Left, to 78. Pro-Telangana MLAs defected to the TRS and anti-statehood ones to Jagan.