Kommineni Srinivasa Rao

Will the BJP retaliate to the comments of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Chandrababu Naidu trying to push it on to the back foot? Will his attempts to portray BJP as the villain of the piece backfire? At a meeting of AP ministers of the BJP, the subject of resignations is reported to have come up. BJP minister in the AP cabinet, Manikyala Rao, is believed to have said that if the party leadership directs him, he would resign within five minutes.

Manikyala Rao has been at loggerheads with the TDP leaders of West Godavari district for quite some time now. Things came to a head with Manikyala Rao stating that the TDP leaders of the district were treating him like an untouchable. To treat him like an untouchable is unforgivable, but for him to continue in the cabinet even when he is being treated in this manner is even worse.

Chandrababu has a distinct quality—he tends to indulge in politicking regardless of how supportive of him the others are. After waging a long struggle, he managed to secure a Congress-I ticket back in 1978. Quite unexpectedly, he managed to win the election and his career took an upward swing. He abandoned all those who helped him get a ticket. Later, Chandrababu managed to get a cabinet berth thanks to the efforts of the late Dr. YS Rajasekhara Reddy and other leaders of the time.

Chandrababu, subsequently, went into his father-in-law, NTR's fold and was the king-maker at that time. He tried controlling all departments by heading the Karshaka Parishad or Farmers' Council of the period. In 1995, he dislodged NTR and became the chief minister. Later, he earned wider recognition as National Front convener. Left parties and others trusted him back then and facilitated this process.

The United Front government of the time was supported by the Congress. In 1998 he got close to BJP leaders, Vajpayee and Advani. True to form, he moved over to the NDA from the United Front government. After being with the Vajpayee government for six years, he was in a way, responsible for the collapse of the NDA government. In 2004, after defeat at the hustings, Chandrababu declared that he would never go in for a pact with the BJP again. His attempts at weaving a grand alliance in 2009 came a cropper and he had to face electoral defeat. Chandrababu, who had described Narendra Modi as the man responsible for genocide in Gujarat, later, moved close to him and the BJP. Now, he is out to paint the BJP into a corner. Groupism in the AP unit of BJP suits Chandrababu. He was backed to the hilt earlier by the current Vice-President, Venkaiah Naidu, who was a union minister at that time.

Chandrababu's brazen horse-trading of MLAs did not ever attract Venkaiah Naidu's admonition or counsel. Nor did he question him on the utilization of funds given by the Centre to AP. In fact, describing Chandrababu Naidu as a competent leader, he lavished praise on him comparing him to PM Modi. All this cost the BJP dear, claim leaders belonging to one group of the party in AP. It is believed that AP BJP's head, Hari Babu toes a soft line when it comes to Chandrababu, which is the reason why he became a target of criticism at a meeting of the party's office-bearers.

Chandrababu Naidu through his propaganda machinery, has successfully painted the BJP as the villain when it comes to its handling of AP. He could do this while being its ally and without ruffling any feathers. Those who are out to widen the rift between the two parties are having a field day and are setting the stage for a major confrontation. A clear example of this is the case of Somu Veeraraju, who has been indulging in unbridled criticism of Chandrababu.

There are two questions here. Did the Centre give AP adequate funds? If it did, how did the Chandrababu Naidu government utilize them? As things stand, Chandrababu seems to raise the first question, while the BJP has been harping on the other. The BJP seems to have put Chandrababu on the defensive by getting leaks planted about imminent resignations of ministers. Will Chandrababu queer the pitch? Will he get scared or intimidated? How Modi who probably feels let down by Chandrababu reacts to this remains to be seen. Will BJP ministers in AP resign without the approval of Amit Shah and PM Modi? How is such a leak possible? BJP has succeeded in putting Chandrababu on the defensive for now.

So far, the AP Chief Minister has refrained from taking the step of pulling his ministers out from the Union cabinet. How the BJP-TDP run-in will play out, is a matter of conjecture. Will Chandrababu 'manage' the BJP leadership? Or will his ministers resign, remains to be seen.