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Politics dominated 2018 in Andhra as TDP dumped BJP and embraced Congress

With the state poised for simultaneous Assembly and Lok Sabha polls in early 2019, the year was expectedly dominated by hectic political activities

Chandrababu Naidu

Press Trust of India Amaravati (AP)
The ruling Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh dumped its ally BJP and embraced sworn rival Congress in 2018, exemplifying the adage that there are no permanent friends or foes in politics.  
Scripting a new chapter in the history of the 36-year-old regional party founded by his father-in-law late N T Rama Rao with the sole aim of taking on the Congress, TDP supremo and Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu buried the hatchet and vowed to work with it to dethrone the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. 
"Nammaka droham" (betrayal) and "kutra" (conspiracy) became the buzzwords as Prime Minister Narendra Modi-bashing dominated the TDP's narrative during the year after the party walked out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in March over the elusive special category status for the state.
With the state poised for simultaneous Assembly and Lok Sabha polls in early 2019, the first ever after it was bifurcated to carve out Telangana, the year was expectedly dominated by hectic political activities. 
Opposition YSR Congress led by Y S Jagmohan Reddy set out on a state-wide march while Telugu movie star K Pawan Kalyan bid adieu to his film career and embarked on his political journey seeking to pose a challenge to the TDP.
During the year, the state witnessed resurfacing of Maoist terror when the ultras gunned down two TDP leaders, including an MLA, in Araku valley breaking a long lull in their activities.
Araku MLA Kidari Sarveswara Rao and his predecessor Siveri Soma, both Scheduled Tribes, were killed by a group of Maoists in Lippitiputta village in Visakhapatnam district on September 23 when they were on a village visit.
Cyclone Phethai hit the state's coast with Godavari district bearing the brunt, but fortunately, the casualty was minimal with over 20,000 people being moved to safety and the storm losing strength as it made landfall on December 17, unlike 'Gaja' which weeks earlier caused extensive damage in neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
Four years after the bifurcation, the state got its high court by the fag end of the year with President Ramnath Kovind issuing the notification constituting the High Court of Andhra Pradesh with the Principal Bench to be located here and to start functioning from January 1, 2019.
The TDP's decision to pull out of the BJP-led NDA and the Modi government marked a major political shift in the state in 2018.
Nothing seemed amiss at the beginning of the year as the TDP-BJP bonhomie endured.
But, a couple of months down the line, the TDP started cracking under pressure mounted by the main opposition YSR Congress over the special category status (SCS) issue.
Naidu severed the four-year alliance with the BJP in March, accusing the Centre of reneging on the 'promise' made to grant special category status at the time of bifurcation.
The Centre took the stand that according special category status to states was not constitutionally possible after the implementation of the 14th Finance Commission recommendations.
Upping the ante, the TDP moved a no-confidence motion against the Modi government in the Lok Sabha. But the motion was defeated comprehensively.
Naidu stepped up his attack on the BJP and came up with ready ruses like "democratic compulsion," "save nation" and "save democracy" to justify his newfound love for the Congress.
"Telugu Desam was established for the sake of Telugu people and not as an anti-Congress party," he said.
"Chandrababu Naidu has taken many u-turns in his public life. It is only to stay in power and enjoy the perks as the chief minister while making people suffer," said YSRC MP V Vijaysai Reddy, who mockingly calls the TDP chief "U-turn uncle."

Naidu also dragged the YSR Congress and the fledgling Jana Sena into his narrative, accusing them of working in tacit understanding with BJP against the state's interests.
As the state heads for elections in less than five months, Naidu has been employing every trick in the book to beat perceived anti-incumbency.
At the national level, he has been seeking to unite the non-BJP parties and met a host of leaders, including Congress president Rahul Gandhi, JDS chief H D Deve Gowda and DMK president M K Stalin, as part of his endeavour.
Interestingly, it was not clear whether the TDP and the Congress will tie-up for the elections in the state.
The debacle of the Congress-TDP alliance in neighbouring Telangana that went to polls early this month has come as a dampener, putting a question mark over their tie up for the next year elections.
"National politics is different from the state politics. We have separate policies for the state and the national level," TDP politburo member and state Finance Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu told PTI.
The year saw the principal opposition YSRC upping its ante against the TDP with Jaganmohan Reddy continuing his foot march all through, despite an alleged murder attempt on him at the Visakhapatnam airport lounge in October.
Reddy began his yatra in November 2017 to tour all 13 districts campaigning against the "misrule" of Naidu and is set to conclude it only early next month.
Four years after he launched the Jana Sena in March 2014, Pawan Kalyan finally quit his film career and embarked on his political journey this year.
He too has been touring the state for 10 months now, gearing up his outfit for its first political battle in 2019.
Deserted by the TDP, the BJP is on the defensive though stakes for the party have always been little in the southern state.
On the other hand, the Congress finds itself in a quandary as uncertainty continues over its prospective alliance with the TDP in the state.
Its "five-pronged strategy," formulated by senior leader Oommen Chandy to revive the party in the state, appears to have been dumped.
"Nothing is in our hands. We are bound to follow our high commands orders, whatever. So we are waiting...," a top PCC leader said. 

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First Published: Dec 31 2018 | 11:15 AM IST

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