On paper, a party with no MLA (BJP) and a party with one MLA (Jana Sena) should not worry a ruling party with a brute majority of 151 out of 175 legislators. But politics does not quite follow the Math we learnt in school.
Which is perhaps why YSRCP leaders are going overboard, falling over each other, to emphasise that the Jana Sena-BJP alliance in Andhra Pradesh will come a cropper. The truth is that their overenthusiasm in reacting to Pawan Kalyan doing a ghar waapsi to the BJP fold betrays their sense of apprehension.
While the assertion of the Andhra Pradesh BJP president Kanna Lakshminarayana that the alliance will form the government in 2024 is a bit over the top given its present political standing, what the YSRCP would worry about is the impact Pawan Kalyan could have on the ground once he is backed by New Delhi and more funds.
Given there is no love lost between Jaganmohan Reddy and Pawan Kalyan, how Narendra Modi and Amit Shah now react to decisions taken by the Andhra Pradesh CM will be watched more closely. Several decisions taken by Jagan – the latest being the decision to reduce Amaravati to just a legislative capital – have divided Andhra Pradesh down the middle and he will bank on the Centre’s support in more areas than one. Can Pawan prove to be a hurdle then?
The BJP after insisting on an outright merger, has agreed to engage with Pawan for the time being. What it does is to give the BJP, which is keen to ramp itself up in Andhra Pradesh, a popular face. But how well will the Jana Sena, whose temperament is more of a film fan club given to hero worship, gel with the BJP ecosystem, remains the question.
The presence of BJP’s new-found ally may also lead to a reshuffle in the state leadership as both Lakshminarayana and Pawan hail from the Kapu community. It is quite possible that the BJP could look at someone like Puranareshwari (NTR’s daughter and former Union minister) to head the BJP unit, with an eye on long-term advantages.
With this decision, Pawan Kalyan has proved he is competition to Chandrababu Naidu, In taking U-turns, that is. In 2014, Pawan was in the NDA camp and campaigned for the TDP-BJP alliance that eventually came to power. By 2019, he had gone to the other side, stitching up an alliance with the BSP and the Left parties, which came a cropper. Within seven months of that result, he is back with the BJP, never mind all the harsh words he spoke against it over denial of special category status.
But detractors of Naidu would see the hand of the TDP chief in this move as well. When four Rajya Sabha MPs of the TDP moved to BJP, most saw this as a calculated move choreographed by Naidu. Given that allegations of a Pawan-Naidu secret deal have never died down, Pawan’s saffron makeover would be interpreted as yet another move by the TDP to mend fences with the BJP leadership. The YSRCP referring to Pawan’s earlier statement that the BJP gave stale laddoos to Andhra Pradesh, now asks what laddoos he got from the party this time.