By Prarthana Mitra
In an expected yet unnerving move, TDP’s Chandrababu Naidu on Thursday decided to forge an alliance with the Congress ahead of the general elections, citing “democratic compulsion.” This brings months of speculation about Congress’ talks with regional powers to head, but the road to electoral victory over BJP’s stronghold will need more than Naidu’s political dexterity.
A hairpin curve in just four years
For those familiar with contemporary Indian politics, this suggests a political career that has come to a full circle, because it was not long ago that the Telugu Desam Party was birthed with the sole agenda to defeat the Congress. It swept the Andhra Pradesh elections in 1984 and helped propelled BJP to scale new heights.
But now, regional politics and “Andhra pride,” two of Naidu’s favourite campaign slogans lay forgotten, as the TDP chief joins hands with Congress president Rahul Gandhi to defeat the Modi government, the new common enemy.
“All opposition forces are going to work together to defend India and its institutions. We are not going into the past. We are going to talk about the present and the future,” Gandhi said at a press conference.
A history of successful coalitions
However, the memories of name calling and slandering the Congress are still fresh. Only four years ago Naidu called his political rival YSR Congress a “pilla Congress [child Congress]”.
That said, Naidu has had a successful record in stitching the unlikeliest of alliances in the past. After the general polls in 1996 turned up a fractured mandate and the BJP government failed to prove a majority on the House floor, Chandrababu Naidu, who was TDP chief by then, forged United Front with CPI, CPI (M), Janata Dal, SP, DMK, AFP, Tamil Maanila Congress and informal support from the Congress.
When the UF coalition fell two years later, Naidu was farsighted enough to choose BJP this time, after AB Vajpayee came to power with a majority mandate. From 1999 to 2004, the TDP was the second largest constituent of the NDA after the BJP, with Naidu being looked at as the second most important figure in the government. But he soon quit the NDA alliance citing BJP’s communalism as the trigger.
It stayed this way till 2014 when BJP registered another landslide victory with the help of TDP as an important ally. Then in 2018, Naidu’s demand for a special status for Andhra Pradesh was met with stoic silence from the centre, which resulted in TDP’s defection from the party. He was also the parliamentarian responsible for invoking the no-confidence motion against the NDA earlier this year.
Shortly after his severance from NDA, Naidu gave a rousing call for a third alternative front against both Congress and BJP, along with West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, but that did not work out despite talks.
In a press conference in September, Naidu was reported as saying that he would “play a role in national politics”. Having placed two coalitions in power, this could be Naidu’s strike three, but the road to displacing BJP might be more difficult than it was 24 years ago.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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