Jagan to go it alone in 2024 elections, your turn, Mr Naidu!

There is a perception that anything YS Jaganmohan Reddy utters in public ends up putting Chandrababu Naidu in a tight spot

YS Jaganmohan Reddy - Chandrababu Naidu

HYDERABAD: There is a perception that anything that Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy utters in public ends up putting Chandrababu Naidu and his Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in a tight spot. Be it his emphatic decision on three-capitals or the re-christening of NTR Health and Medical University after YS Rajasekhara Reddy, to name a few.

On Wednesday, the YSRCP chief came up with yet another ace: He asserted that his party would again go it alone in the next elections and that there would be no alliances whatsoever with any political entity. This is hardly surprising for two factors: One, with 151 legislators and riding on the back of Jagan's basket of welfare schemes, the party is supremely confident about the next outing, so much so that it is aiming to pocket all the 175 Assembly seats.

Second, Jagan's political journey is enough proof that there is no space for electoral trucks in his scheme of politics. In 2014, he went to polls alone and was convincingly heading to the finish line before he was pipped at the post by the TDP-Jana Sena-BJP combine. Undeterred, he again chose the solitary path after an epic footmarch across the length and breadth of the state. His YSRCP trounced the three major rivals though the latter did not forge an alliance, at least on paper.

Since 2019, the ruling party in Andhra Pradesh was never in discussion for forging alliances in 2024, considering its numbers in the State Assembly and the perceived strength on the ground or say, among the electorate. In a nutshell, the larger impression is that an alliance with the YSRCP was way too far-fetched for any political entity. Ironically, any alliance talk in the state has only been centered around the TDP, Jana Sena and the BJP: Will they fight the YSRCP government together? Will they go to polls as a troika like they did in 2014? Which two of them will ditch the other? And if so, when will they gather courage to announce their poll deal?

Coming back to the latest, why should Chandrababu Naidu and his TDP rank and file be worried about YS Jagan's Wednesday pronouncement on poll alliances? Well, on the face of it, one can only see this assertion of Jagan as one coming purely from a YSRCP perspective. But Jagan's decision to go it alone could not have come at a more troubling time for Chandrababu Naidu who, in the twilight of his career and perhaps staring at his last electoral battle, is waiting with open arms to take some alliance partners in his embrace.

Jagan, while ruling out poll alliances for YSRCP, tucked into Chandrababu with some incisive comments. He said that his alliance would only be with the people of the State and not with the 'dushta chatushtayam', a phrase he often uses for the 'unholy mix' of Chandrababu, Pawan Kalyan and their two like-minded media barons. Stepping up the attack further, he said that he had been waging a war against demons and wanted the public support in this endeavour.

By disdainfully dismissing the alliance talk, YS Jagan clearly scored some quick brownie points over Chandrababu Naidu. While he will be seen speaking from a position of strength, this could work like added pressure on Naidu to spell out the TDP's approach for the next elections. Though the BJP factor is under tight wraps for now, it is common knowledge that Chandrababu Naidu is strongly advocating an alliance that includes Jana Sena and the saffron party. He is known to have realised that he needs a force bigger and mightier than the TDP in its current shape.

Now that YS Jagan has pronounced his electoral stand, can Naidu really take the gauntlet seriously and declare that his TDP would face off with the YSRCP all alone and field its candidates for all the seats? While this question (mostly from the media) will haunt the veteran politician in the days to come, he is now likely to be under even more pressure to make things work towards his 'dream alliance' which, for now, appears completely in disarray. Until a few weeks ago, the TDP was discreetly confident of banking on Pawan Kalyan's Jana Sena to lure the BJP into their mix with the bait of positioning a potent alternative to the ruling YSRCP.

But these aspirations were heavily dented ever since Pawan Kalyan had a closed-door meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the latter's recent visit to Visakhapatnam. Though in the realm of conjecture, it is widely speculated that the BJP leadership was not in favour of sailing with the TDP in view of its sagging image. There were also rumours then that Pawan Kalyan was abundantly tutored against taking up the TDP's battle in the state on his shoulders.

Whatever is the truth in this, a visible change in Pawan Kalyan's recent rhetoric gave some hints of a possible shift in his future political moves.

On the other hand, not having a poll alliance is almost like taking off the oxygen mask for a desperate Chandrababu Naidu. History too alludes to this fact as he could not win a general election when he strutted to the polls alone. All the victories he credits in his account were achieved when he could smoothly saddle on the back of some alliance partners.

The 2019 general elections is a case in point. An year before the polls, Chandrababu snapped his ties with the NDA after being in their government for three years. Naidu's smart gamble to divert the public backlash against his government's failure on the special category status failed miserably. Pawan Kalyan's Jana Sena too sailed with the Communists to fight the elections independently despite some alleged 'tacit adjustments' in some key constituencies like Mangalagiri.

Even the strategic arrangements could not save the TDP from one of its most humiliating defeats in 2019 at the hands of Jagan.

Now that the Jagan grandstanding on poll alliances for 2019 is out in the open, the onus is on Chandrababu Naidu to give his befitting response. If he comes up with one, by all possible means, it will be on the 'grave need to wage a united fight' against the YSRCP in what is likely to be his last battle at the hustings. Rest assured, the talk will once again gravitate around the threesome unless something dramatic happens to change this course.

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