Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu has been very busy since people of the state voted simultaneously for the general and assembly elections on 11 April, flying in and out 15 times to meet opposition leaders in New Delhi, Kolkata, and Bengaluru, as part of his efforts to cobble up an anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition.
The situation is in stark contrast to the days of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee when Naidu’s trips would mostly be limited to visiting the late BJP leader. Today, Naidu, the chief of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) is one of the most vocal critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, having severed ties with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
“He has been making two trips a week to New Delhi ever since polling ended. He has also met (West Bengal chief minister) Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata and Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S) chief Deve Gowda in Bengaluru to try and bring all opposition leaders together," said a senior TDP leader, requesting anonymity.
Exit polls may not have favoured the TDP in Andhra Pradesh and may have predicted an NDA government at the centre after 23 May.
However, Naidu is set to reach New Delhi on Thursday evening even if there is the slightest possibility of forming an alliance to deny the NDA a chance of forming the government, according to a senior TDP leader.
Naidu is even ready to set aside differences with his rival and Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao, or KCR, besides working with other regional and national parties, the TDP leader said, requesting anonymity. “Depending on the results, Naidu might end up playing a crucial role in New Delhi this time," he said.
KCR, the leader of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), himself is trying to forge a federal front and has met several regional party leaders. However, TRS leaders, requesting anonymity, said that KCR might provide outside support to the NDA if required, but was certainly not comfortable about joining hands with the Congress.
For Naidu, life came a full circle when he had to join hands with the Congress to stitch up an anti-BJP coalition for “democratic compulsions" last year as the TDP was founded on an anti-Congress sentiment in 1982 by N.T. Rama Rao, the then chief minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh.
“The situation is always dynamic. Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar who once said that Naidu can be prime minister, is now apparently talking to KCR to see who will prove to be more beneficial in an alliance. Naidu might be a big leader, but if he doesn’t win enough seats in Parliament, nobody will consider him for the post. He needs to fight for relevance, or he will be ignored," said political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.