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Will TDP Make BJP Sweat Or Get Strangled In Father-Son Dichotomy?

The question that arises is whether TDP's bugle will make some sound or end up being a murmur.

The three-day grand gathering of the Telugu Desham Party (TDP), which culminated on May 30 is the last such congregation before the next general elections. This meeting took place at an important juncture, in terms of both state and national politics.

Nationally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity has reached its ebb for the first time since he took reigns at the Center. When looked from the point of view of performance, the central government is facing all-out wrath from the public. While Modi’s charisma is waning, Rahul Gandhi is playing his cards right. The Congress president came out as a winner in Karnataka, and his party’s performance was impressive even in Gujarat.

The TDP congregation took place around the same time when the BJP is tom-toming its achievements of the four-year rule. The content filled in full-page advertisements released by central governments tells the tale of its no achievements.

At the state level, TDP-BJP joint venture fell from its glorified heights. Both the camps are gearing up for 2019 polls.

What the TDP should have perhaps done is draw a clear distance from BJP both politically and policy-wise. However, the recent deliberations simply around glorifying the father-son duo, Chandra Babu Naidu and Lokesh. In his speeches, though Naidu lashed out against Modi for his so-called U-turn on the promise of special status to Andhra Pradesh, he did not focus on the policy disasters such as GST and demonetisation.

Neither did the party focus on the issues that affect the livelihood of people, including the TDP vote bank such as backward communities nor did Naidu throw light on the implications of Justice Rohini commission’s impending report, which is going to be a ground-shaking move by the BJP for the backward classes which provide bedrock for regional parties.

The backward communities’ political loyalty towards the TDP for four decades has not been steady. As it is known, the Congress banked upon upper caste (predominantly Reddy caste), Dalit and Muslim support for sustaining its long stint in power. Until the emergence of TDP with NT Ramarao at the helm of affairs, the backward communities were left to remain as a mute majority. If we look at the initial inflows into TDP in the early eighties, the dominant backward castes mattered the most. Then the remaining most backward castes rallied in support of the Southern party, building an axis of Kamma (dominant upper caste) and dominant BC castes providing a solid alternative social coalition replacing the Congress. Being in power for nearly three decades on and off, the TDP ditched the backward communities to a larger extent, the most backward castes, in particular, and clung to Kamma domination.

Considering this background, the regrouping of nearly 200 BC castes into three categories is going to have a big implication on the political re-alliance. With the BJP’s explicit goal of isolating the dominant BC castes, which are the backbone to regional parties by favouring not backward castes, all national and regional parties must recalculate their strategy. It is important to note here that some of the Union ministers termed this upcoming Rohini Commission Report as “Brahmastra” for BJP in the forthcoming general elections. The TDP failed to take a clear stand on this key development, which is going to affect its electoral prospects.

This is not all. The TDP congregation also failed to make any decisive move for strengthening the opposition unity against BJP. Telangana’s K Chandrasekhar Rao, on the other hand, took noteworthy steps in the last two months as the grand show of unity, stitched in Karnataka, turned the tables, and new permutations and combinations were thrown up.

Various aspects of these permutations and combinations are being widely discussed at various levels. The TDP supremo failed to reflect and guide its cadre on this key development except reiterating a call to defeat BJP.

The state-level developments preceding the Mahanadu, again proved the fact that TDP lost its ground as a leading party and is left with just one job: react to the agenda set out by others. Both the state government’s response to aquafarmers of east and west Godavari districts and kidney patients of Utthanam, Srikakulam reinforces this fact. In both these occasions, the TDP was forced to react in a defensive manner, only after the opposition parties mags the public take notice.

The TDP Mahanadu even kept mum about the BJP’s communal politics and policies, which undermine the institutions of constitutional importance. Neither the attacks on Dalits found a place nor the atrocities of minorities was discussed in the three-day event.

The deliberations at Mahanadu clearly reinforces the political bankruptcy of TDP and its inability to move beyond the father-son dichotomy, which is going to cast a shadow on the party’s prospect in the long run. Now, the question that arises is whether TDP’s bugle will make some sound or end up being a murmur.