YS Jaganmohan Reddy’s rather sudden dash to Delhi on Thursday evening after his visit to Kia Motors in Anantapur has raised eyebrows. Officially, the visit is to meet the top two – the Prime Minister and the Home minister – to press yet again for Special Category Status and funds to tide over the fund crunch in Andhra Pradesh. While the PM could not make it to Andhra Pradesh to kickstart the farmers welfare scheme in November, Jagan is likely to invite Narendra Modi to the foundation laying ceremony of Kadapa Steel plant in the last week of December. Even more critical is his meeting with Amit Shah as his previous meeting on the Home minister’s birthday in October lasted hardly a few minutes.
But this is a smokescreen, aver sources in Andhra Pradesh and New Delhi. Speculation is rife over a possible entry of the YSR Congress into the NDA. Jagan had been invited to be part of the power structure in New Delhi soon after he won the elections in May but he turned it down that time. Since then, a lot of water has flown down the Krishna. This time, sources say the negotiations have been conducted through a key man in a neighbouring state and coordinated by a trusted aide of Jagan in Amaravati.
Assuming this is true, what does Jagan gain from this?
1. Andhra Pradesh desperately needs financial help from New Delhi and being a part of the Centre would help the state is the belief. Jagan has already distanced himself to an extent from K Chandrasekhar Rao, a decision seen as an attempt to keep the BJP happy. On the other hand, KCR’s son and Telangana Industry minister KT Rama Rao has slammed the Centre, accusing it of ignoring the state for political reasons.
2. Over the past few days, Pawan Kalyan’s utterances seem to suggest a closeness between him and the BJP. Should this lead to a serious political relationship, the attacks by the Jana Sena leader against Jagan would become sharper and the social media ecosystem would make it very personal. Moving into the NDA tent could result in a political truce. The manner in which the YSRCP always goes after Pawan despite the Jana Sena being a one MLA party, suggests it is wary of the traction he can achieve with the right backing.
3. The local BJP has been active in firing at Jagan, using the Christian card against him. In order to win brownie points with the BJP, even Chandrababu Naidu has been raking up the same issue. It does not make political sense for Jagan to have his two political rivals – Naidu and Pawan Kalyan – joining hands with the BJP. The saffron party punches above its meagre weight in Andhra Pradesh, drawing its political oxygen from its power at the Centre.
4. Despite a tacit YSRCP-BJP understanding before the elections, the CBI put forth a forceful plea to ensure Jagan’s physical presence at the trial against him in the Disproportionate assets cases. The CBI court upheld the CBI position in its order in November. But the CM has been avoiding an appearance citing some official reason or the other. There is concern that if this continues, the CBI may appeal for cancellation of bail. The YSRCP cannot afford such a possibility as it will throw the party into a leadership crisis.
But why would BJP play ball is the question because on the face of it, there is no gain for Modi-Shah from such an exercise. The only cosmetic plus is that it will plug Shiv Sena’s exit and will arrest the BJP’s reputation of a party that does not treat its allies with respect. It will also give the NDA a larger footprint in south India.
But not everyone in the YSRCP is in favour of such a move, if it is indeed happening. Before the general elections result came, Jagan had said he will support any party – the BJP or the Congress – that delivers on SCS. The question is when the BJP has shut the door on SCS firmly, how can Jagan join the NDA.
Two, a presence in the Cabinet on the basis of its strength of 22 MPs, is unlikely to open the tap of funds for Andhra Pradesh, if the TDP’s experience between 2014-18 is anything to go by.
Three, the Centre has frowned upon many big ticket decisions made by Jagan in recent weeks. Whether it was his decision to review the power purchase agreements signed during Naidu’s time or the decision to move government schools from Telugu to English medium, the BJP government has not approved of them.