Andhra Pradesh

Decoding Pawan Kalyan’s BJP talk

The YSR Congress has always dismissed Pawan Kalyan as the B-team of the Telugu Desam. But in light of the Jana Sena leader’s recent utterances, it can be safely assumed that the `B’ alphabet in his political CV is actually the BJP. 

“I never distanced myself from the BJP. I only differed from the party on the issue of Special Category status for Andhra Pradesh because it was the aspiration of the people,” said Pawan during his Rayalaseema region tour. 

Making it appear he had done Jaganmohan Reddy a favour by not repeating the 2014 alliance of the TDP-BJP-Jana Sena, Pawan said the YSRCP would not have come to power in that case. Five years, a 2 per cent vote difference between the YSRCP and the Chandrababu Naidu-Narendra Modi-Pawan Kalyan alliance ensured the TDP chief became CM. 

Pawan did not stop at that. He said while he respected Amit Shah, those in the YSRCP feared him. But will all this lead to an alliance with the BJP and all Pawan had to say was “I do not know”. On its part, a delighted BJP asked Pawan to merge his Jana Sena with the saffron party, pretty much on the lines of what his elder brother Chiranjeevi had done with the Congress. The Megastar had merged his Praja Rajyam with the Congress and became a minister in the UPA 2 government.

Incidentally, many BJP leaders have spoken about how they had wooed Pawan to join the party before the elections but he did not play ball. At that time, he was accused BJP leaders of having cheated the state by going back on their promise of granted SCS.

How does one interpret Pawan-talk?

One, it is strange that Pawan speaks of affinity with the BJP even while he had forged an umbrella alliance with the Left parties and the BSP. While the BSP has done business with the BJP in the past, at least the Left is ideologically opposed to the BJP very firmly. This exposes Pawan as a politician for who ideology is a fairweather friend.

Two, there have been reports that Pawan had a meeting with the top BJP leadership in Delhi sometime in November. And that has reflected in his public statements ever since. He has spoken about the Hindu faith, sounding more like a BJP leader. 

Three, from a BJP point of view, Pawan would be a good catch. Just like the party has been trying to woo Rajinikanth in Tamil Nadu, getting a Pawan would fill the gap of not having a popular pan-Andhra leader in its midst. It will also enable to actively woo the Kapu community that Pawan represents adding to the party’s present Kapu leadership in the form of party president Kanna Lakshmi Narayana. 

Pawan of late, has been aggressive against the Jagan regime, attacking it first over the sand crisis and then over the move to convert Telugu medium schools to English medium. It did not escape attention that the PM in his November `Mann ki Baat’ had also spoken about the importance of learning in the mother tongue.  

Where does this leave Naidu given Pawan’s alleged closeness to the former chief minister? The BJP is looking to poach talent from the TDP in order to weaken Naidu. And the TDP chief himself has been bending backwards to get closer to the BJP once again, even admitting that walking out of the NDA was a mistake. Should any understanding take place, it would be on BJP’s terms. The saffron party would ride on its strength as the ruling party at the centre even though it does not have a single MP or MLA in Andhra Pradesh. 

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