As photo with Bhagwat starts a buzz, YSRCP says BJP ‘no friend’

WHILE the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) and BJP might be a picture of bonhomie in Parliament, back home in Andhra Pradesh, the two parties continue to be at each other’s throats. At the Centre, the YSRCP has supported the NDA on various issues such as the farm laws, Article 370 and CAA, but just on Tuesday, the BJP held a massive meeting at Vijayawada to “highlight the failures” of the Y S Jagan Reddy government.

What set off fresh speculation regarding the nature of the relationship between the two parties was a photo tweeted by YSRCP Rajya Sabha MP V Vijaysai Reddy with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, as the latter passed through the state on a train. YSRCP leaders insisted it was a courtesy call and there was nothing to read between the lines.

Leaders on both sides say they believe in maintaining cordial relations and it didn’t in any way mean they were not opponents in the state. Speaker and YSRCP MLA Tammineni Sitaram said that if the BJP was such a “friend”, why was it not speaking out against the disinvestment of the Vizag Steel Plant. “If they care so much about the people of Andhra Pradesh, the BJP’s Andhra leaders should protest against it and stop it.

BJP Andhra chief Somu Veeraju said the party believed the YSRCP government had driven the state into a mess due to its mismanagement of finances. “There are daily attacks on opposition workers, desecration of temples is not being investigated, and police are filing false cases on political workers.”

BJP leaders also attacked Vijaysai Reddy over tweeting the photo with Bhagwat, coinciding with the party’s meeting at Rajahmundry. “I doubt if Bhagwat was even aware that someone was taking photos,’’ a BJP leader said.

BJP leader Sunil Deodhar said the YSRCP support to the Union government in Parliament was a different issue. “Several parties support us on issues that are important to the nation. Why only the YSRCP, even the TDP and Telangana Rashtra Samithi have supported us on the farm laws, Article 370 and CAA. This support is issue-based… Vijaysai Reddy was playing mind games by posing for a photo with Bhagwat.”

Deodhar said Vijaysai Reddy would earlier sit outside the PM’s office in a similar tactic. “TDP leaders thought there was something going on.”

Claiming that the BJP would “replace” the YSRCP in the coming elections, Deodhar said: “There is no question of any alliance or tie-up, especially with a party that encourages conversions, and turns a blind eye to attacks on temples.”

Deodhar’s claim is far-fetched though, given that the BJP has a negligible presence in Andhra, despite being once in a ruling alliance with the TDP. In the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections held in 2019, the BJP and Congress got less votes than even NOTA. The BJP’s vote share in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections was 0.96% and 0.84% respectively. The TDP of Chandrababu Naidu, which got 39.19% of the votes, remains the only real competitor of the YSRCP, which won with nearly 49.95% votes.

The advisor to the Government of Andhra Pradesh Public Affairs, Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy, said the BJP only does the TDP’s bidding in the state. “The BJP is orphaned here. A few leaders of the party are being played by TDP chief N Chandrabaabu Naidu, they say what he wants them to say. Former TDP MPs who are now in the BJP also do the needful on behalf of Naidu. The only other point that BJP leaders in Andhra talk about other than what Naidu tells them is alleged conversions.”

Sajjala claimed that Tuesday’s BJP Vijayawada meeting was also organised and backed by the TDP.

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