Desam duo exit, BJP plays it cool

Narendra Modi, Chandrababu Naidu

New Delhi: The two Telugu Desam Party ministers at the Centre met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday evening and handed their resignations, but the BJP refrained from a counter-attack and showed no signs of concern, indicating the crisis was temporary.

The BJP sought to project TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu's move to pull out the ministers - Ashok Gajapati Raju and Y.S. Chowdary - as an effort to use the "betrayal-of-Andhra Pradesh" plank as an emotive issue to win the state elections early next year and hoped things would be fine after the polls.

The Andhra Pradesh Assembly elections will be held along with the Lok Sabha polls in 2019.

After putting in their papers, the TDP ministers told reporters their move was like a "divorce" because of "unavoidable circumstances".

"Time and again, we have said one national party has deceived, the other national party has cheated.... I don't think it's fair on our part to expect the Prime Minister to deal with these issues," Chowdary said.

Raju said: "He (Modi) is well aware of the issue. It was a cordial atmosphere.... The division (of Andhra) was done unscientifically... and it needs corrective action."

The ministers said the TDP would remain part of the NDA.

A BJP leader indicated that the post-poll option of realigning with the TDP remained open.

"The TDP's move to quit the government is a political compulsion because it feels it can use the emotive issue to win the elections. We, on our part, will tell the people of Andhra Pradesh that the BJP has provided all financial help and is being falsely accused," he said.

Before the TDP ministers at the Centre quit, two BJP ministers in the Naidu government tendered their resignations.

The BJP leaders also pointed at a "cordial" 10-minute phone conversation between Prime Minister Modi and Andhra chief minister Naidu on Thursday and the fact that the TDP was still part of the NDA as reasons for not being concerned.

The BJP leadership, sources said, restrained party leaders from launching a counter-attack on the TDP.

A BJP leader from Andhra Pradesh said that though the party might suffer in the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls in the state in 2019, there was no reason to worry. The leader said the option of a post-poll alignment with either the TDP or its rival, the YSR Congress, would remain open.


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