The dramatic pre-dawn arrest of former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N. Chandrababu Naidu appears to have crystallised an Opposition alliance in the State. The unequivocal support for Mr. Naidu and the announcement of the alliance by Telugu actor-turned-politician and Jana Sena Party (JSP) chief K. Pawan Kalyan has dented what has widely been viewed as a strategy of the ruling Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy to isolate the TDP. The arrest comes in the backdrop of fresh overtures by the TDP to its estranged National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ally, the BJP. The TDP severed ties with the BJP in 2018 over the failure to deliver on a demand for Andhra Pradesh to be accorded “Special Category” status, which would have meant much larger central assistance to a State viewed as having foregone its crown jewel — capital Hyderabad to the newly formed State of Telangana. The YSRCP rode to power promising to secure for Andhra its ‘rightful due’, but this issue has all but faded away from public memory.
While Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy has been lauded for delivering on many welfare schemes — the nine poll promises, the “Navaratanalu” — he has also faced criticism for failing to attract industrial investments and for the slow progress on the completion of the State’s tri-capital formula. This appears to have alienated large sections of the urban middle class, while the YSRCP still enjoys considerable rural support. This, along with the TDP’s victory in the MLC elections and its better-than-expected performance in local body polls, is also being viewed as a sign of disenchantment with his performance. With the minorities, Dalits and Backward Classes being the YSRCP’s main vote base, a possible alliance with the BJP to fight the 2024 Assembly and Lok Sabha elections is being considered highly unlikely, although Mr. Reddy has supported the BJP including during the recent Opposition-led no confidence vote. The BJP, which was expected to ally with the JSP, is the party that is now isolated after the political churn set off by Mr. Naidu’s arrest. As fighting corruption has been Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda all along, and with the arrest of Mr. Naidu on what appear to be serious corruption allegations, the possibility of the TDP’s return to the NDA seems remote. Mr. Naidu’s legal troubles have likely aided his political fortunes. And Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy, instead of isolating his main rival in the State, the TDP, looks to have reduced the options for minor rival, the BJP.