Kommineni Srinivasa Rao

The involvement of Telugus in Karnataka elections is creating fresh controversies. Telugu Desam appears to be leaning towards the Congress and is pushing for a Congress victory. These are rumours from some quarters. Chandrababu Naidu, however, does not have the courage to go directly into the field and campaign for the Congress. He has, though, called for the defeat of BJP. After snapping his alliance with the BJP, Chandrababu Naidu reckons that a lot hinges on the Karnataka elections. He said as much in the convention of Telangana TDP leaders. Telangana Chief Minister KCR has also asked people to vote for JDS and he said this quite openly. In fact, though he couldn’t yet do so, he volunteered to go to Karnataka for election propaganda. Neither did he send his partymen there.

True to his style, Chandrababu Naidu is indulging in behind-the-scenes politics. BJP leaders say that he has privately sent money to the Congress. Ashok Babu, APNGO leader, close to Chandrababu Naidu, has stepped into the election campaign in Karnataka. This seems to have brought TDP’s plans into the open. The APNGO leader and his team were flown into Bangalore and were even ferried around in a Mercedes Benz car. On the face of it, the TDP claims that it is fighting against the BJP only because Andhra Pradesh had been denied special category status. This is the reason why Ashok Babu and others are in Karnataka, they claim. However, the truth is that Chandrababu Naidu seems to have inside information about some developments which are imminent. He is terrified, it appears, of the likelihood of cases being slapped against him and his son, Lokesh.

It is Chandrababu’s fear of being implicated in cases which made him ask the people of the state to stand by him and protect him. He reckons that if the Congress wins in Karnataka, the BJP to a large extent, would be checked. Chandrababu’s fear also stems from the fact that he thinks that PM Modi would act against him for his utterances against him. Analysts say that this fear is palpable and can be seen in him.

Some BJP leaders however, say that no matter what the circumstances, Chandrababu Naidu cannot avoid corruption cases.  Observers say that around 40-60 seats could be influenced by Telugu voters in Karnataka. It is keeping this fact in mind that the TDP leadership is going all out to try and ensure that the BJP stands defeated. Will Telugu Desam’s efforts benefit or prove to be a negative factor for the Congress? It is difficult to predict either way. This is because there are social groups among Telugus in Karnataka as well. They could well get divided along the lines of political parties.

TDP’s assistance could also prove to be a headache for the Congress party. Already there are objections from some states to AP getting SCS because they fear that industries would then migrate to Andhra Pradesh. In fact, Jayalalithaa back then, had written a letter to Prime Minister Modi on this. If people from Karnataka respond in a similar manner, the Congress would find itself at the receiving end.

Therefore, it is better that people of that place are persuaded in a way which appeals to them. It would’ve been better had the Telugu Desam party openly declared support to either Congress or the JD-S. If Chandrababu Naidu tries behind-the-scenes political activities, then it could boomerang. Trying to divide the Telugu community in Karnataka will not help any political party in the scene there.

If the BJP wins the Karnataka elections, would it mean that the Telugus there are not backing the SCS to AP proposal?  While it is true that the BJP had let the people of AP down on the issue of special category status, while it is correct to say that PM Modi did go back on his word on this issue, Chandrababu Naidu is equally to be blamed. He is now trying to cover it up and downplay his role by enacting a new drama. As a part of this new act, Ashok Babu the APNGO leader made his appearance in Bengaluru and called upon various associations and groups to defeat the BJP. This has rankled the AP BJP leadership.  It must be said that it is not proper on the part of Ashok Babu to campaign for TDP against the BJP.

If the Congress were to retain power in Karnataka, Chandrababu would then term it as Modi‘s defeat and his victory.  He may feel more elated the Congressmen.  If the BJP wins however, he would be in a spot of bother.  As things stand now, the BJP harbours a suspicion that Chandrababu Naidu had funnelled some money into the Congress campaign in Gujarat.  By nominating a BJP leader to the TTD board, Chandrababu Naidu has kept his channels of communication with the ruling party at the Centre open for now, but it must be said that he must be waiting for the results of the Karnataka elections more anxiously than anyone else.