Naidu was visibly upset with the 2018-19 Budget presented last week.
On Sunday, Telugu Desam Party supremo and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu took a step close to the brink and then retracted, although he appears deeply upset with the BJP for not reciprocating his pursuit of “coalition dharma”.
He did not announce the breaking of ties with the saffron party for the next general election like the Shiv Sena, the BJP’s oldest ally, did recently, though this was seriously speculated. But he gave the BJP a fright.
That’s why Union home minister Rajnath Singh and BJP president Amit Shah telephoned to ask him not to take a “hard” decision, and hinting his state’s demands could be favourably considered in the discussion on the Budget in Parliament.
But Mr Naidu was visibly upset with the 2018-19 Budget presented last week. Although this was the NDA’s last full-fledged Budget before the next Lok Sabha polls, the BJP hasn’t agreed to any of Andhra Pradesh’s demands: special status for the state after the creation of Telengana in 2014 and the resultant loss of revenues, financial support for establishing Amravati, the new state capital, and the Polavaram project.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the CM recently, after ducking him for a year and a half. This has rankled. Politically, the TDP seems all too aware that the Centre’s stock is down with many sections of society, especially farmers. The Gujarat election was a pointer, and has been followed by the BJP’s drubbing in the recent Rajasthan byelections.
There are two other considerations — the BJP is not growing in Andhra Pradesh and cannot be a thorn in the TDP’s side in an election. Besides, the TDP is confident of winning the Muslim vote, as was demonstrated in the Nandyal byelection. Thus, it’s the BJP which should be running after the TDP, not the other way around.
After the Centre rebuffed the TDP in the Budget, Mr Naidu called a meeting of all party MPs, state legislators and other leaders on Sunday to discuss ties with the BJP. The TDP decided not to pull the plug, and wait instead to see what the Centre offers as financial support to keep the relationship going.
Nevertheless, in Parliament during the Budget Session, the TDP plans to play a demonstrative role to highlight Andhra Pradesh’s demands, almost like an Opposition party. It should be remembered that well before the Budget on February 1, the TDP, a part of the ruling NDA coalition, had voted with Opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha on the triple talaq issue.
Lately, the Akali Dal has also spoken of “coalition dharma” and supported the TDP’s cause. The BJP’s ties with key allies — Shiv Sena, Akali Dal and TDP — are under strain. This is partly because the allies realise the ruling party is faltering.