Hyderabad: After its disastrous performance in the 2018 state elections, the Telugu Desam Party was written off by political pundits. The TDP, led by its national president and ex-Andhra Pradesh (AP) chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, won only two MLA seats. For all practical reasons, even the party’s top leadership in AP had given up here. However, in a complete reversal now, the TDP plans to contest all the seats in the next polls.
The TDP’s performance in 2018 was in fact surprising given that it had a grand alliance with the Congress and other political parties. In the 2018 Telangana polls, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) won 88 seats, the Congress 19, TDP 2, and AIMIM 7. Soon after, the 12 Congress MLAs and both the TDP MLAs defected to the TRS, signalling the end of Naidu’s operations in the state. Most of the TDP’s cadres have also quit and joined other parties.
Cut to 2022, TDP leaders said that the party will mostly contest all 119 seats in the 2023 Telangana polls. More recently, it also appointed ex-MLA Kasani Gnaneswar as the state president. The event was marked with a rather large crowd gathering at the party’s Jubilee Hills office about a month ago. “If you would have asked me over six months ago, we were almost on the verge of ending in Telangana. Every day there are about 200 leaders coming for meetings now,” said a TDP leader.
The TDP functionary, who did not want to be named, added that a formal decision on how many seats to contest will be taken later. “Our internal assessments show that we have a vote share of about 5% or so in Telangana. There is a large belt of Andhra people living in the Kukatpally, LB Nagar and Malkajgiri areas. If our plans succeed then it will have a negative impact on the TRS for sure,” the TDP leader told Siasat.com.
The TDP’s alliance with the Congress in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections also did not yield any fruitful results. While the Congress won three seats, the TDP could not make a mark. Soon after, many of its cadres began leaving, and it was until now thought to be finished in Telangana.
Alliance with BJP off the table?
The TDP in 2018 ditched its longterm partner BJP and went with the Congress. Unlike in 2018, the party in the 2014 Telangana elections managed to win 15 seats, while the BJP won 5. It had together a 22% vote share then, and only 3% in 2018.
Will the TDP now once again go back to the BJP for an alliance? While the party is open to it, insiders told Siasat.com that there was a negative response from the saffron party. “We reached out to them 3 or 4 months ago, but we did not get a positive response. Finally, it was decided that with or without them we will still do our best and revive the party,” the TDP leader informed.
While Gnaneswar is not a very powerful leader, the TDP is still counting on the ground-level leaders who still stuck by it in spite of its recent debacle. In fact, going with the Congress in 2018 and 2019 was also considered political suicide as the TDP was founded by NT Rama Rao in 1982 on an anti-Congress plank. Party leaders said that any alliance with YSR Telangana Party (YSRTP) chief YS Sharmila has been ruled out.
Sharmila is the sister of AP chief minister and YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) supremo YS Jagan Mohan Reddy. She started her new political journey in Telangana after not managing to find space back in her home state. Both the siblings of the late Congress chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy, who died in 2009 in a helicopter crash. Given that Jagan is Naidu’s nemesis, any alliance with Sharmila has been ruled out, said TDP leaders.
Unlike the TDP, which is still keeping its Telangana unit alive, the YSRCP folded its unit in the state after the 2018 state polls. Jagan’s party had managed to win three MLA and one MP seat in the 2014 state and Lok Sabha polls. The 2018 state elections were necessitated after TRS supremo and chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao dissolved his government six months in advance.