Hyderabad: Electoral fortunes are volatile. Any downturn in the political party’s performance cannot be interpreted as the end of the road. In 2014, the DMK drew blank in Lok Sabha elections. But in 2019, the party bounced back with an amazing performance. The Dravidian party won 23 out of 39 Lok Sabha seats. Similarly in J&K (now split into union territories) National Conference also failed miserably in 2014. But, the same party won three out of six Lok Sabha seats in 2019. Turnaround is always possible in the politics unless the party chooses to tread a path of self-destruction like the TDP.
TDP is passing through a terrible existential crisis. The party had always played larger than life role in national politics. At a point in time, TDP was the kingmaker. In 1984, with 30 members in the Lok Sabha, the TDP was the second largest party after Congress, the then ruling party.
In Rajya Sabha too, TDP was a force for many years. Between 1986 and 1988, with 14 members out of 18 from united Andhra Pradesh, TDP was one of the influential parties in the Upper House of the Parliament. The strength of the party was 13 between 1996 and 2004. The TDP had never lost its identity in the House despite losing government in the state.
Though the number had fallen to two for the first time in 2010-12, it could regain the strength in the next elections. By 2014, when the party formed first government after the bifurcation of the state, TDP strength in Rajya Sabha rose to 5.
The party’s strength is now set to fall to one by April when its member Thota Sitarama Lakshmi will retire. The remaining member, Kanakamedala Ravindrakumar’ term will end in 2024. The party is bound to disappear from Rajya Sabha if there is no turnaround in its fortunes in Assembly in 2024. It would be a pathetic chapter indeed in the history of a party that once commanded the national politics.
Four members, K Kesavarao (TRS), T Subbiramireddy, Md Ali Khan (both INC) and Thota Seetharama Lakshmi are retiring from Rajya Sabha in April 2020. The nominee of the TDP needs the support of 44 members to win the elections. So, with its 21 members, the TDP is nowhere near winning a seat.
This predicament was the direct fallout of the defection politics the party pursued between 2014 and 2019. Under the false notion that his 40 year-long experience has made him undefeatable, party boss Chandrababu Naidu brazenly encouraged defections from opposition YSR Congress led by YS Jaganmohan Reddy.
Earlier TDP had the history of sending intellectuals like Mintey Padmanabham, Prof C Lakshmanna, Yarlagadda Laskhmi Prasad, Yerra Narayana Swamy, C Ramachandraiah, MV Mysoora Reddy etc to the Rajya Sabha. After 2014 Naidu started favoring rich industrialists. In 2016 he nominated two rich businessmen to Rajya Sabha. In 2018 he again sent a rich contractor to the Upper House.
Following Naidu’s defeat in 2019 and the return of Modi at the centre all these businessmen thought TDP has no future. Having seen how defections are encouraged at the party, they did not hesitate to defect to BJP, leaving behind only two loyal party members in Thota lakshmi and Kankamedala.
Rajya Sabha is a prestigious house in the parliament. It holds up a mirror to one’s strength in the state. So, disappearing altogether from Rajya Sabha is a sad development.