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Andhra boost for BJP as TDP returns to fold after 10 years

In the works for weeks, negotiations between BJP and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) finally fructified on Sunday with Chandrababu Naidu announcing a pre-election agreement with the saffron party and rejoining the National Democratic Alliance after a gap of 10 years.

Describing the alliance as a “lucky one”, Naidu exuded confidence that the NDA would get over 300 seats in the Lok Sabha this time. “Our aim is to provide a stable and efficient government and honest administration,” he said to loud applause.

Under the deal, the BJP will contest from eight out of 17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana and five out of 25 in Seemandhra. The national party has got 47 assembly seats out of 119 in Telangana and 15 out of 125 in Seemandhra region.

Recent opinion polls had suggested that a deal with TDP would take the saffron alliance closer to the magic number of 272. An NDTV poll gave NDA, including TDP, 259 seats, while CNN-IBN put the figure at 234-246, minus TDP which was separately given 13-19 seats.

But even as the BJP’s bid for power at the Centre gained traction with this move, the immediate upshot of the alliance was mounting disquiet in the ranks of the Telangana units of both parties. TDP’s Medak MLA Mynampalli Hanumantha Rao quit the party, calling the tie-up “unholy” even as some TDP supporters from Telangana staged protests near Chandrababu’s residence. TDP’s politburo member and Muslim face Zahed Ali Khan too quit the party.

Partymen sweated and slaved midnight onwards on Saturday with BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar, treasurer Piyush Goel and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Naresh Gujral holding talks with Naidu to give finishing touches to the arrangement on Sunday. BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu was absent during the final round of talks after realization that Chandrababu was averse to his participation.

Sources said while seat-sharing remains a bone of contention, BJP president Rajnath Singh and senior leader Arun Jaitley spoke to Naidu on video conference and persuaded him to ink the deal.

“Modi is the man for development. Irrespective of religion and communities, he is being supported. Our goal is Congress-free and corruption-free India,” Naidu added.

“I am happy to announce the TDP will be part of the NDA. Naidu will be the co-architect with Narendra Modi to build a corruption-free and Congress-free India,” Gujral added.

MIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi was quick to point out that Naidu had attributed his defeat in 2004 to the alliance with BJP. “So what has happened now?”

A tug-of-war between BJP and TDP for key seats is still on, and the parties are expected to announce their respective lists of candidates by Tuesday.

The TDP had contested the 1999 election in alliance with the BJP and played a key role in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government. It pulled out of the alliance after the 2004 elections which saw it lose to a resurgent Congress under Y S Rajasekhara Reddy in consecutive state and Lok Sabha elections.

Meanwhile, district presidents of Telangana BJP too protested against the deal and complained that the party leaders were deprived of tickets. But as BJP bagged Visakhapatnam in Seemandhra, former union minister Purandeswari, who joined BJP after quitting Congress, may get the ticket. Araku, Narasa Rao Pet, Tirupati and Rajamundhary are the other Lok Sabha seats in Seemandhra given to BJP.

In Telangana, BJP will contest from Secunderabad from where the party is likely to field former Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya or Kishan Reddy. Its other Lok Sabha seats in Telangana are Medak, Karimnagar, Mahbubnagar, Zahirabad, Bhuvanagiri, Nizamabad and Warangal (SC). BJP’s best performance in the state was in 1999 when in alliance with the TDP it had won seven seats in Lok Sabha.

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