The Lede
South Turns Against The Centre
2019 Polls

South Turns Against The Centre

GS Radhakrishna

Ruling parties of all south Indian States are at loggerheads with the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre over a variety of issues

The ruling parties in Karnataka and in Kerala – the Congress and the CPM, respectively – are the inevitable rivals of the BJP.

While Telangana’s ruling party the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) was lukewarm towards the Centre for around four years, they too have now upped the ante against the BJP-led NDA, demanding reservation for Muslims in the state which was turned down by the courts.

The only allies were the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh, which was part of the NDA and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in Tamil Nadu which has been deferential to the Centre since the passing of their party supremo Jayalalithaa in 2016.

Now the BJP finds itself alone in the south, with both the TDP as well as the AIADMK deserting it.

After a week of haggling, the Telugu Desam Party ended its four-year long association with the NDA following, what it called ‘betrayal’ by the BJP in keeping the promises made in Parliament – special status for Andhra Pradesh – during the historic debates on bifurcation of the state. “In the past, Congress divided the state to disrupt TDP’s growth. Today, to unsettle the TDP, the BJP has let loose a vicious conspiracy,” said TDP chief and AP chief minister Chandrababu Naidu.

Within hours, other NDA partners went into huddles to take stock of the situation arising out of the first big break in the alliance. Various regional leaders expressed their solidarity with the TDP, which decided to bring about a vote of no-confidence against the NDA government in Parliament on Monday. While the Centre itself may be safe, having a brute majority in the lower House, the attack is on the credibility of the BJP.

Parliament was paralysed for the tenth day today as allies and opposition clamoured over various issues – special status for AP, Muslim quota for Telangana and the Nirav Modi scam, which the Congress continues to vociferously ask questions about. MPs from Tamil Nadu also joined in demanding the institution of the Cauvery Water Board as per Supreme Court ruling.

TDP MP and floor leader Thota Narasimhan wrote a letter to the Lok Sabha secretary general Snehalata Shrivastava, requesting that the party’s no-confidence motion be included in Friday’s list of business, with the support of 16 MPs. The Congress, TMC, Biju Janata Dal, and CPM also said that they would support TDP’s no-confidence motion in the Parliament. “We will get the support of 54 MPs for our no-confidence motion,” said TDP MP CM Ramesh.

Meanwhile, YSR Congress leader and MP YS Subba Reddy also submitted a no-confidence motion with signatures of five party MPs. “We are not playing any drama for any party and our move is to teach the BJP a lesson for playing around with the aspirations of five crore people of AP,” he said.

A Furious Naidu

Minutes after his decision to walk out from the NDA, Naidu charged the NDA of colluding with rival YSRC and once-ally Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena, to target the TDP. “BJP is deliberately denying special status and other sops to AP, just to damage the TDP politically,” he charged. “YSRC was encouraged to make its MPs resign and table the no-confidence motion. Similarly Jana Sena’s Pawan Kalyan has been encouraged to launch an indefinite hunger strike. It appears the BJP has promised both YSRC and Jana Sena that if they play their role, special status to AP would be granted to them only. YSRC MP Varaprasad from Tirupati has assured Jana Sena of all support in its agitation programs,” said Naidu.

He added that it was the BJP that induced Jana Sena leader Pawan Kalyan to make unsubstantiated charges of corruption against himself and his son Lokesh. “My life is an open book. My son is just 4-5 months into public life. Pawan Kalyan had made very serious charges, perhaps at the instigation of his godfathers in the BJP,” Naidu said.

Surprise Volte Face From Tamil Nadu

The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government in Tamil Nadu gave a hint of what was in the offing on March 15, as Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, who also holds the Finance Portfolio, presented the State Budget. As he placed the Budget before the House, he made a few interesting comments –

“Fifty years ago, on 6th March 1967, our great Tamil leader Perarignar Anna took oath as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu sowing the seed for Dravidian rule. Certain political critics with myopic vision indulge in fallacious propaganda against the Dravidian rule. They are living in an illusion and day dreaming about destroying the Dravidian movement. To them, I want to send a clear message, that Tamil Nadu has progressed much better than many other States and achieved stupendous progress on various socio-economic fronts during the last fifty years,” said Panneerselvam.

He went on to say – “It is very clearly evident that we have grown on our own efforts and on our own strength. Such political critics should understand that Tamil Nadu is the crucible of socio-economic transformation, which others must emulate. I leave it to the people of the State to decide on our contribution to the State’s progress by comparing with other States. I would like to mention here that in the period of Dravidian Parties rule, the AIADMK founded by Puratchi Thalaivar and nurtured by Puratchi Thalaivi Amma alone has governed the State for the maximum period and has contributed to this enormous growth. But, let me reassure that whatever be the criticism, opposition, mischievous propaganda, the Dravidian movement will grow in strength.”

This was followed by action in Delhi in the morning, with AIADMK MPs staging protests outside Parliament demanding the constitution of the Cauvery Water Board, a politically suicidal move for the BJP at present, as Karnataka goes into polls.

Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha and AIADMK MP Thambidurai, said that the Centre was not “listening to the issues of people of other states” and that it is being “indifferent towards the issues of other states.” This he said at a press meet in Delhi, as protests continued behind him.

How the AIADMK will vote in the no-confidence motion in Parliament is under wraps for now. But with growing dissatisfaction in the ranks of the cadre as well as the people in the State, the AIADMK might have little choice but to put up at least a semblance of opposition to the Centre.