The Vijayawada multi-starrer : KCR, Stalin, Jagan press the reset button

On the face of it, it will just be a photo-op in Vijayawada. Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and DMK chief MK Stalin, the two political heavyweights from south India, will be present when YS Jaganmohan Reddy is sworn in as chief minister of Andhra Pradesh. 

But politically, it will be the three leaders pressing the reset button. In the period between the voting and counting, KCR was networking to garner support for a Federal Front, a bloc of regional parties, anticipating that both the BJP and the Congress would significantly short of the magic figure of 272. That did not happen. 

Stalin on the other hand was not too enthusiastic about the idea of a Federal Front and rooted for Rahul Gandhi to become Prime Minister. He casually dismissed KCR’s visit to his residence in Chennai as a courtesy visit made while he was praying at temples in Tamil Nadu. Stalin was also seen to be on Chandrababu Naidu’s side all this while and even sent senior DMK leader Durai Murugan to brief the TDP supremo, a day after KCR had met the DMK chief. With both the Congress and the TDP vanquished, the sojourn to Vijayawada is part of Stalin’s exploration of a Plan B. 

Jagan hoped the party that comes to power at the Centre does not cross 250 seats. That would have made him the kingmaker in Delhi and helped him do a quid pro quo in return for support of his batch of 22 MPs. Now his demand for Special Category Status, a promise made by former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in Parliament, depends on the “magnanimity” of PM Narendra Modi. 

Which is why this KCR-Stalin-Jagan multistarrer production in Vijayawada, which used to be called both the political and cinema capital of united Andhra Pradesh, is significant. It will mark the coming together of three main regional players in the Peninsula. Between Stalin, Jagan and KCR, they control 54 Lok Sabha MPs and the trio would hope to leverage this unity in numbers. To tell New Delhi that they would stand for each other and won’t be a pushover if the rights of any individual state are compromised. 

While Jagan will need to keep the BJP leadership in good humour because of his dire need for central funds, politically both KCR and Stalin will be wary of the BJP. The saffron party after having won four Lok Sabha seats in Telangana is certain to be resurgent, looking at Hyderabad as another gateway to the south. And in Tamil Nadu, the BJP and its alliance partner, the AIADMK having been humiliated by the electorate would be looking for new permutations and combinations to get a foot in the door. 

KCR’s presence in Vijayawada is also an occasion to rub it in. In the run-up to the elections in Andhra Pradesh, the Telangana CM had spoken of giving his bete noire Chandrababu Naidu “a return gift”. The reference was to Naidu’s involvement in the Telangana assembly elections in December to which KCR took objection. 

Banner put up by YSRCP in Vijayawada

“He (Naidu) has come and worked in Telangana (poll campaign), so I too have to go to AP and do the same. If Naidu gives me a gift, should I not return it? Otherwise I will be called cultureless. So I have to return the gift to my friend Chandrababu Naidu and 100 per cent I will definitely give it and show what impact it is going to have,” said KCR soon after his victory in the assembly elections.

His presence in the front row on Thursday will be KCR’s moment of triumph. That despite Naidu going to town talking about Telangana remote-controlling Andhra if Jagan came to power, the YSR Congress party had punctured the TDP bicycle.

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