Political Pickle

Inside Track : How the TDP MPs jumped ship

About ten days ago, YS Chowdary, one of the four Telugu Desam Rajya Sabha MPs who crossed over to the BJP on Thursday, had invited BJP Telangana unit president Dr K Laxman for breakfast at his residence in Delhi. Laxman was in a quandary whether to accept the invite or not given that Chowdary is facing a probe by the Enforcement Directorate and meeting him could send out the wrong signals

Laxman contacted a top functionary in the BJP who advised him to go and in fact, convince Chowdary to quit the TDP. 

“What about his ED cases?” asked Laxman to which he was told “we will see about them later”. 

Filter Kaapi has learnt that even on Thursday, opinion was divided within G-4 (Chowdary, CM Ramesh, TG Venkatesh and G Mohan Rao) over shifting tents. While Chowdary and Ramesh were very keen to jump ship, Venkatesh and Rao were reluctant to quit the TDP.

“What do I get by joining the BJP,” Venkatesh reportedly asked. The Kurnool-based industrialist even claimed to have an offer from the YSR Congress that if he joined the ruling party in Andhra Pradesh, he would be renominated to the Rajya Sabha when his term ended in 2022. It needed most of Thursday to persuade Venkatesh and Rao to cross over as well in order to ensure the four MPs did not attract the provisions of the anti-defection law. 

The brief given to the BJP interlocuters was to get the four MPs into the party in order to beef up the NDA numbers in the Rajya Sabha where some important bills, including on Triple Talaq, are to come up. 

But many in the BJP were suspicious of the enthusiasm shown by Chowdary and Ramesh in moving sides. Both MPs are facing the fire from Income Tax and ED and the popular belief is that they are joining the BJP in the hope that the cases will be watered down. 

The irony is that in November 2018, BJP Rajya Sabha MP GVL Narasimha Rao had written to the Rajya Sabha Ethics committee, seeking “suitable action” against Ramesh and Chowdary. While Rao accused the former of benami operations, he charged Chowdary with fraud and compared them with Vijay Mallya. It remains to be seen if Narasimha Rao will now see the duo as kings of good times. 

The other conspiracy theory is that both leaders have quit the TDP with Chandrababu Naidu’s blessings. Chowdary and Ramesh have handled most of the money matters for the TDP all these years and are privy to many party secrets. 

“Even when the TDP was in the opposition during the Congress rule in Andhra Pradesh and in Delhi between 2004 and 2014, Chowdary and Ramesh were with Naidu. What has happened now that they felt the need to quit less than a month after Naidu lost power. There is doubt that they have come to BJP with Naidu’s tacit blessings,” a BJP leader said to Filter Kaapi

Naidu’s rather muted response on Twitter from his holiday destination in Europe, also has strengthened this suspicion. But the flip side is that this assumes Chowdary and Ramesh will gain enough clout in the BJP to influence the top leadership to mend fences with Naidu, given the bad blood in the last one year. 

On Friday, the three Lok Sabha MPs of the TDP put up a show of unity to tell the media that they will continue to stick by Naidu. 

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