The YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), whose role in government formation at the Centre could be crucial in case of a hung Parliament, made it clear on Wednesday that it was not averse to supporting any party or grouping, provided its condition of special status to Andhra Pradesh was met.
The remarks on the eve of counting of votes assume significance as at least 22 Opposition parties are refusing to believe the exit polls which have predicted clear majority to the BJP-led coalition and are making efforts to bring all non-NDA parties together for the possible government formation. YSRCP, led by Jaganmohan Reddy, has so far not aligned with either the ruling coalition or the Opposition, because of which its moves are being watched closely.
There are reports about both the BJP and the Opposition camp trying to woo the party. “If the NDA gets absolute majority as projected by the exit polls, then there is no need for our support. But if somebody falls short and wants our support, we can consider,” Mekapati Rajamohan Reddy, senior leader of the YSRCP and member of the outgoing Lok Sabha said.
He made it clear that his party “can support anybody who gives special status to Andhra Pradesh,” a long-pending demand of Jaganmohan Reddy. Rajamohan Reddy said his party chief has been, from Day-1, pressing for special status to Andhra Pradesh, after the state was split and Telangana was carved out.
“We have tried but not succeeded yet,” he noted. “If BJP falls short, it will have to accept our demand for special status,” the MP from Nellore said. “If Congress gives us the special status, we can support it too,” he said, adding that its President Rahul Gandhi has already made a promise in this direction.
Asked whether it would mean that YSRCP would provide a conditional support to any formation, Rajamohan Reddy replied, “Anybody, be it NDA or UPA or even Third Front. We are interested in welfare and development of our state.”
When pointed out to him that TDP had failed to get the special status for Andhra Pradesh even though it was a party of the ruling NDA at the Centre for four years, the YSRCP leader said TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu was “silent for four years and welcomed the special package given by the Centre. Only after 4 years, when he lost bye-elections, he started crying.”
Naidu, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, parted ways with the BJP last year, saying it took the step as Narendra Modi government had not accorded the special status to his state. The BJP-led government has emphasised time and again that there is no provision for granting special status to any state now and argued that it had given a huge special package to the state, in lieu.
Even as almost all the exit polls have predicted a thumping majority for the NDA, the Opposition camp is convinced that the BJP-led coalition would fall short of the majority mark of 272 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha and are making efforts to cobble up an alternative formation. Chandrababu Naidu and Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leader K. Chandrashekar Rao are in the forefront of this effort and have been reaching out to various non-BJP parties.
Naidu on Monday met Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata. Earlier, he had meet UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury, SP President Akhilesh Yadav, BSP chief Mayawati and CPI’s Sudhakar Reddy and D. Raja over the last few days.
A leader of the Opposition camp earlier said the meetings that Naidu was holding with various Opposition leaders were “informal consultations” to assess the situation. On Sunday night, Naidu rubbished the exit polls, saying such predictions have “time and again” failed to catch the pulse of the nation.
“While undoubtedly TDP government will be formed in AP, we are confident that non-BJP parties will form a non-BJP government at the Center (sic),” Naidu had tweeted. Banerjee also slammed the exit polls, calling them “gossip”. “I don’t trust Exit Poll gossip. The game plan is to manipulate or replace thousands of EVMs through this gossip. I appeal to all Opposition parties to be united, strong and bold. We will fight this battle together,” she had tweeted.
CPI leader D. Raja, while refusing to believe the exit polls, told IANS on Monday that the “exact” poll results will have to be seen. “Exit polls are not exact polls, as Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu has said,” he said. “Despite claims by the BJP that it will get full majority, the party will not have the numbers to form the government,” the Communist leader said.
“There is a situation for all of us to get together and get our act together without loss of time to be in a position to provide an alternative to the NDA,” asserted Raja post his meeting with Raja on Saturday last. “The idea is to get all secular, democratic parties together… Time has come to remove the BJP from power,” he added.
The Communist leader said the parties at regional or state level, despite their differences, are all convinced about the need to oust the BJP and “save the Constitution and save the secular democracy”. Regional parties like the DMK, TDP, RJD and TMC are already committed against the BJP and so are the SP and BSP, he said. Raja said he is in touch with Akhilesh Yadav and he agrees that the BJP should go. On who would be the Prime Ministerial candidate of such an alliance, Raja said: “This question is not under discussion as of now. We are not ruling out anybody. It is to be discussed when the numbers come before us. It will be decided on the basis of consensus.”