Here is the latest edition of the Political Line newsletter curated by Varghese K. George
(The Political Line newsletter is India’s political landscape explained every week by Varghese K. George, senior editor at The Hindu. You can subscribe here to get the newsletter in your inbox every Friday.)
Halfway through the life of the current Lok Sabha, parties and leaders are exploring options before them.
The Telugu Desam Party is eager to build bridges with the Bharatiya Janata Party, as part of its efforts to reclaim ground in Andhra Pradesh. The party has had alliances with the BJP in the past, during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s premiership and later under Narendra Modi. TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu fell out with Mr. Modi ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and went on a strident campaign against him. He lost power in Andhra Pradesh to the YSRCP (Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party) led by Jagan Mohan Reddy, who is now Chief Minister. Mr. Reddy has a take-no-prisoners approach to other parties and leaders within the State, but maintains a cordial relation with the BJP and Mr. Modi. The CM faces CBI and ED cases related to allegedly disproportionate assets. The YSRCP has supported the BJP in Parliament on crucial bills such as the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370. This alliance of convenience between the YSRCP and the BJP has further cornered Mr. Naidu. Only months after the TDP’s poor performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, Mr. Naidu had said his anti-Modi campaign led to his defeat. He is now trying to make amends and move closer to the BJP.
Regional parties have a complicated relationship with national parties — the BJP and the Congress. Regional parties tend to lean towards the national party that is on the ascendant, generally speaking. Contradictions at the State level also act as determinants in this equation. The BJP has over the years used regional parties as crutches for its own growth. The blatant misuse of central agencies against political opponents has added a new dimension to the dynamics between the BJP and regional parties. One leader who seems unfazed is West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. While keeping the offensive against the BJP, she also trained her guns on the Congress recently. It’s the Congress’s lack of direction that is contributing to the continuing sway of Mr. Modi, she said. She has a point, but she has her politics too in saying this.
Ms. Banerjee did exceedingly well in the bypolls in West Bengal, reducing the BJP to total irrelevance. Overall, the bypolls to 29 Assembly seats and three Lok Sabha seats across 13 seats showed that the Opposition is alive and kicking but still devoid of a national leader, narrative or programme, as we said in our editorial. The BJP faced setbacks in many places, particularly in Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh where it is in power. But it will be premature to read any national trends in these by-elections.
The by-elections in two Assembly segments in Bihar saw the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal in an ugly spat during campaigning, and both ended up as losers. Even their combined votes are lower than what the winning Janata Dal (United) candidates polled. The humiliating defeats may force the Congress to rethink its relations with the RJD, writes Sobhana K. Nair.
Not only parties, individual leaders are also looking at options. After Amarinder Singh’s formal exit from the Congress in Punjab this week, party MPs from the State may be calibrating their positions, Sandeep Phukan reports. “Capt. Amarinder’s wife and Lok Sabha member from Patiala is one such MP and so are Mohammad Sadique and Manish Tewari, both close to the former Punjab Chief Minister. With Punjab’s Hindu population between 38% and 40%, the BJP would be keen to have on board a Hindu face like Mr. Tewari to reach out to an urban Hindu electorate including forward castes such as Brahmins.”
While the BJP might want to project an image of calm within the party, murmurs of protest and resentment are brewing. The setback in Himachal Pradesh where the party lost three Assembly seats and one Lok Sabha Seat is personal to party president J.P. Nadda who hails from the State. In Karnataka, B.S. Yediyurappa, who was eased out from the helm by the Modi-Shah duo, has already announced his plans to get active after the by-election setback to the party. The Congress is finding a fresh bout of energy in the State, meanwhile. While the victories in Madhya Pradesh and Assam largely belong to State Chief Ministers, the BJP’s crisis in Rajasthan is one of the making of the central leadership. The BJP may attribute its humiliating defeat in two seats, where it was relegated to third and fourth positions, to the alleged misuse of government machinery, but at play is former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s refusal to play second fiddle.
A curious governor and talks of federalism
Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi’s curiosity in the functioning of the State government is leading to some questions about the role of the Governor and other associated issues. Tamil Nadu has a history of CMs clashing with Governors — or the other way around.
Tamil Nadu Governor-designate R.N. Ravi being received by CM M.K. Stalin at the airport in Chennai on September 16, 2021. Photo: Special Arrangement
November 1 was the day on which Tamil Nadu and several other States came into existence. The President and the Prime Minister wished people of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Lakshadweep and Puducherry. Many of these States were formed in 1956 following the linguistic reorganisation of States. It was the death of Potti Sriramulu in 1952, on the 56th day of his fast demanding a separate State of Telugu speaking areas that set in motion the reorganisation of States. He is considered a martyr by Telugu people, though the Telugu areas were later divided again when Telangana was formed. He was remembered on November 1.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin said the State would observe July 18 as Tamil Nadu Day from now onwards. It was the day on which a resolution moved by then Chief Minister C.N. Annadurai was adopted in the State Legislative Assembly to rename the then Madras Presidency as Tamil Nadu in 1967. The AIADMK thinks that does not make sense. Its argument – Parliament adopted a law in 1968 and the State got its present name on January 14, 1969. If there must be a TN Day, it should be on January 14, according to the party.
In Karnataka, BJP Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai used the occasion of the State founding day to pledge more attention to the promotion of Kannada language. Not only that, there will be measures to secure more jobs for Kannadigas.
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