With less than a month to go for the Presidential election, all eyes are not just on the candidate BJP-led NDA will name but also on the stand to be taken by Andhra Pradesh’s ruling YSR Congress Party.
As the NDA is short of majority in the electoral college, it will expect the YSRCP and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) to bail it out.
Though the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led party is yet to drop hints on the strategy it is going to adopt, going by the stand it took during the last three years it is unlikely to go against Narendra Modi government’s choice.
Political observers say while Jagan Mohan Reddy may not like to strain relations with the BJP-led alliance, this time he will be under intense pressure at home. With just two years to go for Assembly polls, he is likely to face the heat from the opposition parties if he extends support to the NDA candidate without bargaining for Special Category Status (SCS) to the state and other commitments made by the Centre in Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014.
The opposition parties have already started throwing challenges at Jagan Reddy to make the Modi government grant SCS and agree to other long-pending demands of the state in return for YSRCP’s support to the NDA candidate.
If YSRCP extends support without any preconditions, this may make Jagan Reddy more vulnerable to attacks by the opposition for compromising with the Centre to save himself in disproportionate assets cases pending against him. Though these are not the new allegations, the opposition may look to aggressively capitalise on them in the run up to 2023 elections.
Some analysts believe that Jagan Reddy may keep everyone guessing about his party’s stand till the last minute and depending on the candidate to be named by the NDA, he may cite some strong grounds to justify his stand to support BJP’s choice.
Jagan is in no hurry to decide on which side he would tilt. He has the option to wait till the last minute, and look for the candidate both BJP and the opposition will field. Unless opposition comes together and fields a widely acceptable name, there is no compulsion on Jagan to decide whom his party would support.
Since there are speculations that the BJP might field a South Indian or a woman or a tribal as the Presidential candidate, in such a case, the YSRCP can choose to support them citing nativity or moral high ground as the factor.
“Even otherwise, unless opposition unites across the country, Jagan can argue that there should not be any elections for Constitutional positions, and hence he would support BJP’s nominee.
As BJP-led NDA appears to be trailing behind the opposition by about two per cent votes, it will pin its hopes on YSRCP and BJD which always came to the rescue of the Modi government whenever it needed the support from outside the NDA to pass crucial bills in the Parliament.
YSRCP’s value of votes is estimated to be 4 per cent in the electoral college for the presidential election and thus its role is likely to be crucial to ensure victory of the NDA candidate in the event of the opposition parties fielding a joint candidate.
The electoral college comprises members of both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and all state Assemblies.
Considering its strength of MPs in both the houses of Parliament and its tally in Andhra Pradesh Assembly, YSRCP’s vote value is estimated at 43,674. This is the highest among the parties considered as fence sitters.
Ever since YSRCP formed the government in Andhra Pradesh in 2019, the party enjoyed friendly relations with the Modi government.
Even in 2017 elections for the president and vice-president, YSRCP had backed the NDA candidates. It also supported the Modi government in Parliament for passing crucial bills like criminalisation of triple talaq and abrogation of Article 370 which conferred special status on Jammu and Kashmir. Jagan’s party also sailed with the NDA government on three controversial farm laws.
Every time Jagan Reddy extended support to the NDA, he was taunted by the opposition for what it calls compromise with the Centre to save his skin. This is an obvious reference to the disproportionate assets cases probed by the CBI against him.
As the Presidential election nears, YSRCP is coming under intense pressure to take a bold stand and force the Centre to accept the demand for SCS, which was promised to Andhra Pradesh at the time of bifurcation of the state in 2014 to carve out Telangana state.
Opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leaders are reminding Jagan Reddy of his attacks on the previous TDP government over the issue and the promise he made in 2019 elections.
The main opposition party has released old video clips of the YSRCP leader to urge him to walk the talk by bargaining with the Centre for SCS. In 2019, Jagan Reddy had appealed to the people to elect all 25 candidates of YSRCP in the Lok Sabha polls so that it can fight and secure SCS which the TDP government failed to achieve.
In 2019 polls, YSRCP won 22 Lok Sabha seats from the state while storming to power in the state with 151 seats in the 175-member Assembly. However, as the BJP retained power at the Centre with a huge majority, this unsettled all the plans of Jagan Reddy to mount pressure for SCS.
After taking over as the chief minister, Jagan Reddy admitted that he has no option but to request and remind Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He also hoped that someday the situation would change.
Now that NDA needs YSRCP’s support, TDP is asking him to walk the talk. TDP general secretary Nara Lokesh dared Jagan to prove his sincerity over SCS by making the NDA government agree to the demand.
Former Congress MP Harsha Kumar said since the NDA candidate will lose without the support of YSRCP, it is a golden opportunity for Jagan Reddy. He dared the chief minister to clearly tell the NDA that he will boycott the Presidential election and stay neutral. “The Centre will not only come forward to give special category status but will implement whatever promises it had made in the Reorganisation Act.
If Jagan has no fear and he is not afraid of the CBI cases, he should accept my challenge.