In a sudden political twist, the Jana Sena chief Pawan Kalyan has joined forces with the BJP. After meeting the BJP national working president, JP Nadda, the actor turned politician today held deliberations with the state BJP leaders. The BJP-Jana Sena combine is expected to compete with the TDP for a share in the pro-Amaravati agitation.

The BJP that lacks a charismatic local leadership and a robust grass root organizational network is desperate to embrace Pawan Kalyan. Besides, the saffron party hopes to maximize its social engineering by reaching out to Kapu community using Pawan Kalyan’s clout.

The Jana Sena chief despite having a solid fan following could only win one seat in the recent assembly elections. He personally lost both the assembly seats he contested. He is looking for the support of a political party like BJP to fill in his deficiencies. With YS Jaganmohan Reddy led government letting loose a reign of political highhandedness on its rivals, Pawan Kalyan hopes to resist it with the support of a party that rules the center, however, weak it may be in the state.

The BJP-Jana Sena hopes this to be a win-win partnership. But, the saffron party is more to gain with Pawan Kalyan likely to lose political credibility given the experience of Praja Rajyam led by popular actor and his brother Chiranjeevi in which he was also actively involved.
The BJP -Jana Sena-TDP combine won the Assembly elections in 2014 immediately after the bifurcation of the state. Pawan Kalyan led Jana Sena opted out of the electoral fray calling his political journey a 25-year-old odyssey. But, the political landscape underwent a significant change. The TDP failed to keep Jana Sena in its fold even as it estranged the BJP. The denial of special status made it difficult for any political party to have any kind of understanding with the BJP in the run-up to the 2019 polls. The TDP left the NDA and launched a virulent anti-Modi campaign. Pawan Kalyan separately conducted several meetings to demand for special status and strongly denounced Modi and the BJP. Thus, the TDP-BJP-Jana Sena coalition fell apart owing to the politics of special status.

Subsequently, Pawan Kalyan took a strident anti-TDP position and even levelled personal charges on Naidu and his son Lokesh. However, the YSR Congress has all along been alleging that Pawan Kalyan is acting at the behest of N Chandrababu Naidu to divide the anti-establishment vote in the run-up to polls in 2019. There were allegations that Naidu was, in fact, choosing the Jana Sena candidates to facilitate a split in anti-incumbency vote.

Notwithstanding all these speculations on him, Pawan Kalyan allied with the Left parties and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) that hardly has any roots in the state. In fact, Pawan Kalyan alleged North Indian supremacy over South India and called for a pan south unity against Northern supremacy. He alleged that Modi dispensation is accentuating the North-South divide. He was perhaps the first to moot the idea of moving a no-confidence motion on Modi regime and demanded both the TDP and the YSRCP to do so as his party had no representation in Lok Sabha.

All these political experiments and nuances of Pawan Kalyan came a cropper. The Jana Sena performance was much inferior to the show put up by his brother Chiranjeevi in 2009. The electorate was primarily polarized between the YSRCP and the TDP with others having not much role to play. In fact, both the national parties, the BJP and the Congress polled votes lesser than NOTA in 2019 Assembly elections. The formidable win of YSR congress caught Pawan Kalyan clueless on what course of political action he should pursue.
In fact, weakening of the TDP would have given him an opportunity. The YSR congress and the BJP were poaching the TDP from either sides as Naidu’s party was unable to wriggle out of the ignominious defeat. Chandrababu Naidu was not even ready to make a honest introspection of his electoral debacle so as to draw up a robust political strategy.

But, much to the consternation of everyone, YS Jaganmohan Reddy’s latest move to have a distributive capital in place of Amaravati gave TDP and especially Chandrababu Naidu a fresh lease of life. Naidu is now on a whirlwind tour of the state in the name of Save Amaravati Save Andhra Pradesh. This campaign is galvanizing the party cadre.

The BJP was even attempting social engineering to woo the caste that has been owning the TDP since its inception under the leadership of NT Rama Rao. Earlier, the saffron party attempted a similar social engineering by trying to lure the Kapus. The party made Kanna Lakshminarayana , who was a former congress minister as its party state president leaving aside party loyalists. But, this failed to create any impact, as the party was facing a massive antipathy among people due to the denial of special status. Now, with the TDP and Chandrababu Naidu getting a new lease of life, thanks to the Amravati movement, the BJP’s chances of wooing this powerful caste away from the TDP seems to be an uphill task. The Kammas who were the loyal supporters of TDP feel that YS Jaganmohan Reddy is shifting the capital to hit at their economic moorings. In fact, the YSR Congress leaders including few ministers have openly accused Chandrababu Naidu of serving the interests of Kammas in the name of a Greenfield capital. Thus, in this pro-Amaravati, anti-YS Jagan crusade, Kammas are now firmly rallying behind Chandrababu Naidu leaving little chance for BJP to effectively conduct its social engineering. The party thus now aims at making yet another fresh attempt for social engineering as it believes Pawan Kalyan’s entry would help it to really the other powerful caste, Kapus.

Besides, the saffron party would compensate for the lack of charismatic leadership by riding on the back of Pawan Kalyan. Thus, the BJP which could not even poll one percent of votes in 2019 assembly elections has everything to gain and nothing to lose with allying with Pawan Kalyan.

The BJP could make impressive gains in Telangana in the Lok Sabha elections despite a poor show in the Assembly polls held few months earlier. On the contrary, the party faired badly in both the Assembly and Lok Sabha poll held simultaneously in 2019 indicating the Andhra Pradesh people’s disenchantment with the Modi and his party by denying special status. Thus, the BJP desperately needs Pawan Kalyan to lift the party from the political quagmire it now is in.

Meanwhile, Pawan Kalyan though talks about starting the party with a 25-year vision, seems to be restless for having not shown any significant impact on the politics of the state, leave alone the poor electoral performance. With the YSR congress hell-bent on suppressing the opposition by hook or crook, Pawan Kalyan perhaps, looks towards the BJP as a saviour. But, by suddenly shifting towards the BJP without any forward movement on either special status, promises of bifurcation or on the shifting of capital from Amaravati, Pawan Kalyan finds it extremely difficult to convince the people on his political somersaults.

Prof K Nageshwar

Prof.K. Nageshwar is noted political analyst and columnist. He is a former member of the Telangana Legislative Council and currently a professor at the Department of Communication & Journalism, Osmania University, Hyderabad. He is the former editor of The Hans India. He was earlier the Editor-in-Chief of Telugu news channel HMTV. He was the founder chairman of 10TV. He is the author of the books Interpreting Contemporary India; How to win at life.

He served on the United Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council as an independent member from 2007 to till the bifurcation of the State in 2014 representing the Graduates' constituency of Hyderabad.

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