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The four-way crossroads of Andhra policy: which way will it go?

The controversial bifurcation of the former state of Andhra Pradesh into Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in 2014, initiated by the Congress-led UPA II government at the Center, had mixed results for the two states. Telangana had its own set of challenges, but the new residual state of Andhra, faced the brunt of economic and financial uncertainty, as the unified state’s largest city, Hyderabad, its biggest source of income, went to Telangana. Andhra retained the second and third largest cities of Vishakapatnam and Vijayawada.

While Telangana politics mainly centered on the newly victorious Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) party claiming success in the struggle for bifurcation and the establishment of Telangana, Andhra politics unfolded on the shaky foundations of loss and uncertainty. The party that won the first election in the new Andhra state, Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP), has had its work cut out for the first term. He had to draft a new charter for the new Residual State, literally from scratch, as it did not yet have a capital. The people of the state pinned their hopes on Naidu, given his track record as the man behind Hyderabad’s meteoric progress, development and expansion and his reputation for digitization and governance.

Naidu’s job was not easy. With no administrative infrastructure in place – everything from a legislative building to a capital, a high court, administrative offices, police quarters and a long list of other requirements for the functioning of a state, had to be imagined, planned and implemented. Known as a man of progressive vision and mindset, Naidu’s ambitious plans for the new state of Andhra Pradesh took time, effort and patience. While the educated sections of society understood this, most of the lower classes did not. The second election in the new state in 2019 changed his fortunes.

Naidu lost his previous win in 2014 to Jagan Mohan Reddy’s Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP), a spin-off of the Congress Party (INC). Reddy came to power on a wave of welfare programs, lower-class sops, sweeping minority appeasement promises and caste-based policies that resulted in a split Hindu vote, while ‘a majority of Muslims and almost one hundred percent of Christians voted for Reddy, whose family is of Christian ethnicity.

Unlike Telangana, which now has a notable BJP presence in its own right, Andhra does not have a standalone BJP presence in the state. He hopes to improve his tally in the state, in which his presence and influence are still weak despite strategic alliances. Interestingly, the state BJP was in partnership with the former ruling TDP party, with the blessing of senior BJP brass, but made clear its displeasure when the TDP leader and former Andhra chief minister , Chandrababu Naidu, campaigned against him in neighboring states in southern India, after his frustrated attempts to petition the central BJP government to grant special status to the newly created state of Andhra.

As relations deteriorate between the TDP and the BJP following the request for special status for the state and Naidu’s attempt to muster a “third front”, Jagan Reddy’s YSRCP was able to cash in and achieve electoral gains during 2019 elections in Andhra State. Jagan Reddy’s criminal record and imprisonment have not deterred him from electoral victory ambitions. Reddy has 31 cases against him for which he continues to seek legal advice. He spent 16 months in jail, after the CBI arrested him for embezzlement and the Supreme Court denied his bail request.

Apart from the political outfits of the TDP, BJP and YSRCP, the entry of Telugu actor Pawan Kalyan into Andhra politics makes it a four-way crossroads, in the battle for electoral victory in the 2024 elections in Lok Sabha.

Pawan Kalyan is a popular Telugu actor and brother of old Tollywood hero, “mega star” Chiranjeevi. Political party of Pawan Kalyan, the JSP (Jana Sena Party) was launched in 2014 and hopes to reap its fruits in 2024 after ten years of inactivity.

The JSP has been gaining momentum in the state and making headlines lately, due to Pawan Kalyan’s vocal criticism of Jagan Reddy’s policies as well as the BJP leadership’s interest in a possible rapprochement. with his party. It is in this context that the recent meeting between Prime Minister Modi and Pawan Kalyan in Vishakapatnam takes on some significance.

The BJP and the Jana Sena Party (JSP) have been in touch for some time now, but the intention of a formal political relationship between the two parties has not always been clear, as the BJP shows restraint in its comments and reactions to unfolding events. in the state. The BJP appears to be on good terms with the current YSRCP dispensation in Andhra and may not be inclined to openly support the Jana Sena party on the one hand and the YSRCP on the other. Naidu’s TDP and Pawan Kalyan’s JSP are strong critics of what many in Andhra see as authoritarian and fiscally irresponsible rule by Reddy’s YSRCP government. Naidu and Pawan Kalyan have, in recent times, come together and united for what they claim to be the interests of the state against Reddy’s misconduct, corruption and financial irregularities.

The position of the BJP on the current events in Andhra and its possible alliance with the JSP or any of the others, is not yet clear as it chooses to play it safe at the moment, refusing to clearly endorse a formal allegiance with one of the Andhra parties. At a time when the BJP-Jana Sena Party alliance in Andhra Pradesh seems murky and lacks the transparency sought by JSP supporters, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears to have met and spoken to the actor and JSP chairman, Pawan Kalyan, to keep his ambiguous relationship intact, at least for now. During a recent two-day visit to the Andhra coastal town of Vishakapatnam, Prime Minister Modi invited Pawan Kalyan for a meeting and the duo reportedly spent more than half an hour together. What happened between them remains a mystery, but Andhra political watchers have been busy speculating.

Incidentally, at the opening ceremony of the 53rd International Indian Film Festival (IFFI) on Sunday, Pawan Kalyan’s older brother, film star Chiranjeevi, was shortlisted for the “Indian Film Personality of the Year” award. year 2022″, announced by the Union Minister, Anurag Thakur. Both Chiranjeevi and his fans were overwhelmed after the announcement which was followed by Modi’s congratulatory message. While interacting with the media on occasion, Chiranjeevi hinted at his stint in politics and said that unlike him, his brother Pawan Kalyan would succeed in politics and “could reach great heights with the blessing of the people”.

The informal partnership between the BJP and Jana Sena seems to be back on track for now, although this latest move by the BJP has put some distance between Pawan Kalyan and Chandrababu Naidu. Alliances are still up for grabs, as Andhra moves closer to the next state elections scheduled for June 2024 or earlier.

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