Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi today has once again triggered speculation that the YSR Congress Party may join the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). This comes just two weeks after Mr Reddy's meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah on September 23 and 24.
The state's opposition party, N Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party, alleges that Mr Reddy wants to strike a deal with the centre for going easy on the CBI cases against him.
There is also speculation that the BJP would want more partners in the NDA after the exit of the Shiv Sena and the Shiromani Akali Dal, and that, in lieu of the numbers he would add to the NDA in the Rajya Sabha, his party would be offered berths for a cabinet minister and a junior minister.
What this would also do is to keep in check actor-politician Pawan Kalyan who joined hands with the BJP earlier this year. It would also put an end to alleged efforts of Mr Naidu to once again be counted among friends by the BJP, and perhaps pave way for a re-entry of his party into the NDA.
Jagan Reddy's YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) has denied any plans of joining the NDA. Senior leaders say that having a friendly centre may be favourable at a time when the state is going through its worst economic challenges amid the coronavirus pandemic. They, however, also warn that joining the NDA without getting a special category status for Andhra Pradesh, which was a pre-condition spelt out by him before the 2019 elections, would be seen as backtracking on a major promise the YSR Congress made to the people of Andhra Pradesh.
There is also a school of thought that it may be politically more prudent for both the BJP and Mr Reddy's party to operate as separate entities that appear to keep each other in check.
With the Congress decimated in Andhra Pradesh and a weakened Telugu Desam Party, the BJP is clear that there is political opportunity and space in the new state. Taking on the government on various issues would eat into the opposition space that the Telugu Desam Party would hope to occupy by itself.
Besides, the core constituencies of both the BJP and the YSR Congress are distinct, with the BJP as the 'mainstream Hindu' party and the YSR Congress as a party supported by the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribes Christians and other minorities, including Muslims, who are in big numbers in several districts like Kurnool, Guntur and Kadapa.