NEW DELHI: Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief Chandrababu Naidu, a key campaigner for an opposition front against Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Lok Sabha elections, suffered a major jolt on Thursday as four of the six party’s Rajya Sabha MPs split and joined BJP.The development, which came at a time when Naidu is in Europe, saw former Union minister YS Chowdary, CM Ramesh, T Venkatesh and G Mohan Rao announcing their decision to join BJP and appearing at the party office. The four MPs add to BJP’s numbers in the Rajya Sabha, taking the tally to 75. Of these, Chowdary and Ramesh in particular looked after Naidu’s operations in Delhi having been influential members of TDP for several years. They are being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate and income tax authorities. The defection hit an already weakened TDP that had lost the assembly and LS polls in Andhra Pradesh comprehensively. The fallout of the massive defeats did not take long to manifest with the TDP MPs switching over to BJP within days of the new Lok Sabha meeting. BJP has minimal presence in Andhra Pradesh as it had been a very junior partner of TDP before their alliance broke up. Setting up the party organisation in the state and making it a force is a major task for the BJP leadership. The defection of TDP MPs will help BJP argue that it is seen as a viable political option offering prospects for leaders from the state that have chosen it over the YSR Congress. It also sees BJP get back at Naidu, who had attacked Modi for “betraying” Andhra Pradesh and logged hundreds of jet miles meeting opposition leaders in various state capitals. Ironically, it was the CBI’s growing interest in Ramesh – who figured prominently in the fight between former CBI chief Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana, the then number 2 in the agency – which had led Naidu to declare AP off-limits for the central investigating agency. The TDP boss had also decried I-T searches at Chowdary’s premises. Accompanied by newly appointed BJP working president J P Nadda and leader of the Rajya Sabha Thawarchand Gehlot, three TDP MPs – Chowdary, Ramesh and Venkatesh – met RS chairman and Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu. Naidu said, “We fought with BJP only for special category status and the state’s interests. We sacrificed central ministers for special status, condemn attempts of BJP to weaken TDP. Crisis is not new to the party.”
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