The early polls in Telangana has turned out to be a god-sent opportunity for the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which is in power in Andhra Pradesh. After snapping ties with the BJP a few months back over the Special Category Status issue, the party was looking for new friends in the region.
A tacit alliance with Congress is on the cards ahead of the state and general elections in mid-2019. It maybe recalled that TDP supremo and Andhra Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu recently met Congress president Rahul Gandhi at the swearing-in ceremony of Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy.
However, the TDP was still not ready to be associated with the Congress till Telangana CM K. Chandrashekar Rao decided to dissolve the assembly and go for early elections.
According to local politicians, people have not forgotten the way the united Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated by the Congress party. Voters are still angry with the party though it is close to five years since the state was divided.
Naidu and his party members tried hard to project BJP as a bigger enemy than Congress and were successful to an extent. But they still refrained from rubbing shoulders with the Congress to prevent providing ammunition to the opposition party YSR Congress, which is leveraging the anti-incumbency wave.
As the stage set for an election season in neighbouring Telangana, Naidu decided to play it safe. After holding discussions with Telangana TDP leaders, the impression given to the media was that Naidu had left the final decision on poll alliance to the local leaders. Chandrababu Naidu is the national president of TDP and has a great command over the party so much so that it is even difficult to spot second-in-command of the party. Anyone who is aware of his style of functioning will find it hard to believe that he left such an important decision to local leaders. After giving a silent nod to the TDP-Congress alliance, Naidu made sure that he was nowhere in the picture as Telangana TDP president L. Ramana participated in the talks with Congress and CPI leaders.
The TDP’s strategy is very simple. If the alliance performs well in Telangana and that changes the mood in Andhra Pradesh, the TDP may openly embrace Congress and convince voters that only Congress can get them special category status. If the TDP-Congress combine fails to live upto the expectations or if Andhra Pradesh public resents the alliance, the Congress may be dumped. Whatever is the outcome, Naidu has made sure that he is in the safe zone as far his political image in Andhra Pradesh is concerned.