Chandrababu Naidu, chief minister of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, speaks at the India Economic Summit at the World Economic Forum in New Delhi in Nov. 2014. He is a key leader from the South opposing the BJP. Photo: Reuters/ Anindito Mukherjee

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government received a minor jolt on Friday when a key ally, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), filed a no-confidence motion in Parliament.

The Modi Government is unlikely to be affected, but the incident came a day after it lost two key electoral seats in India’s biggest states. Clearly, the stumbles will all add up next year, when the country faces a national election.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has quit the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in New Delhi.

The move comes a week after TDP pulled its two ministers from the central government over the failure to grant special category status to Andhra Pradesh. 

The relationship between BJP and Telugu Desam had been strained with Naidu upset at the ruling party not granting special category status as promised after Andhra Pradesh was split into two and Telangana carved out of it in 2014.

Special status would have meant a large influx of funds from the center, that would help the state government develop its new capital Amaravati. However, it might also upset neighboring states if it causes businesses to shift there, and that may be why the BJP has been reluctant to fulfill their vow.

TDP MP Thota Narasimham submitted a no-confidence motion on Friday against the BJP-led NDA to Lok Sabha secretary general Snehlata Srivastava. Chandrababu Naidu addressed party MPs in Delhi via a teleconference and reportedly said that Wednesday’s by-election results in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar reflected a rise in anti-Modi and anti-BJP sentiment.

At a public meeting on Wednesday, the TDP supremo said: “It has become a habit for them to weaken the leadership in each state and play according to their wishes. Those facing [criminal] cases may dance to their tunes but not me. I cannot be intimidated by anyone. I have no fear of anything in my life.”

Pawan Kalyan fires a shot at TDP

Actor-turned-politician and Jana Sena chief Pawan Kalyan took a shot a Naidu during a rally on Wednesday when he alleged that the TDP chief’s son had helped turn Andhra Pradesh into “the number one state for corruption.”

That drew a strong rebuttal from Naidu, who said: “You remained silent for four years but now you are talking about corruption in the state. Instead of questioning Narendra Modi for the state’s rights, what does the state gain if you weaken or criticise me? This is atrocious and absurd.” He rubbished the corruption claims and said it was part of a “grand conspiracy” to weaken TDP.

Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee showcased her support for TDP with a tweet that said: “I appeal to all political parties in the Opposition to work closely together against atrocities, economic calamity and political instability.”

TDP was the BJP’s largest ally in the south even if it toyed with flirting with Jagan Reddy’s YSR Congress. So Naidu’s announcement is a blow ahead of the 2019 general election, coming at a time when others like Shiv Sena in Maharashtra are also giving Modi’s men a rough time. 

Nonetheless, BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao tweeted: “TDP’s decision to quit was inevitable after its mischievous propaganda against Center [Delhi]. People of [Andhra Pradesh] have now realized that the TDP is resorting to lies to cover up its inept & inert governance. Far from being a threat, TDP’s exit is a timely opportunity for the BJP to grow in AP.”

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