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NEAT DEAL

N Chandrababu Naidu has once again proved that there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics. Despite lambasting Narendra Modi for failing to take responsibility for the 2002 Gujarat riots only last year, Mr Naidu has changed tack and sealed a deal with the Bharatiya Janata Party. On the face of it, there could be nothing more damaging than an alliance between a party that has staunchly defended the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh (the BJP) and another (the Telugu Desam Party) which has used its criticism of the bifurcation to stage its political comeback. Many in both parties still refuse to believe that there is a level playing field between them; they contested the recent panchayat polls as rivals. In Seemandhra, TDP men even see it as a political suicide since an alliance with the BJP dilutes the party’s stand against division and blows its chances with the minority vote. But Mr Naidu has his own good reasons. In Seemandhra, even without the minority votes, the TDP stands way taller than either the Congress, which draws most of the anger against bifurcation, or the YSR Congress, which has been branded as a Congress ally. Thanks to his Kamma affiliations and pro-business image, Mr Naidu retains his support in coastal Andhra. He would further boost this image by his dealings with the BJP, which now, as earlier, complements the TDP’s business-friendly approach. By restricting the BJP to just 5 Lok Sabha and 15 assembly seats in Seemandhra, Mr Naidu has retained his political advantage in the region. In Telangana, where the BJP has an upper hand, and the TDP has always shown decent gains at the grassroots level even when out of power, Mr Naidu will prevent both the Congress and the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti from sweeping the post-bifurcation goodwill.

The BJP-TDP alliance is not all about Andhra Pradesh though. For the BJP, Mr Naidu’s return to the National Democratic Alliance fold marks a significant gain since the Andhra Pradesh numbers will always count in the post-poll scenario. Its support to the TDP parliamentarians in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, during the agitation against bifurcation, was perhaps geared precisely to this objective. If Mr Naidu earns the numbers for the BJP, it could even gift back the NDA’s chairmanship to him.