With BJP falling short of majority, Nitish and Naidu to play kingmakers

With BJP falling short of majority, Nitish and Naidu to play kingmakers

Patna | With the BJP falling short of a majority in the Lok Sabha and needing the NDA allies to form the government at the Centre, Bihar Chief Minister and JD (U) head Nitish Kumar and TDP's N Chandrababu Naidu have emerged as potential kingmakers.

While Kumar's party was leading or had won 12 seats, the TDP was leading or had won 16 Lok Sabha seats, according to the latest election commission data.

The NDA was stirred into life mostly around elections in the last 10 years as the BJP's big majority and shrinking opposition in Lok Sabha made its allies mostly redundant but with the saffron party expected to win about 240 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha this time around, allies will matter more than ever.

Kumar's relationship with BJP goes back to the mid-1990s when Kumar had collaborated with veteran socialist leader late George Fernandes to float the Samata Party, as a revolt against Lalu Prasad, the then chief minister of Bihar, who had acquired an overbearing presence in the Janata Dal founded by former prime minister V P Singh.

The alliance with BJP, which ruled the country from 1998 to 2004, also provided much-needed exposure to Kumar who held key portfolios like agriculture, railways and surface transport in the cabinet of late Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

However, it was not until 2005 that the moment of glory came for Kumar, whose party was by now known as JD(U), formed after the merger of the Samata Party with yet another rebel Janata faction headed by late Sharad Yadav.

The JD(U)-BJP combine won the assembly polls, and Kumar became the chief minister, a post held by Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi for 15 years.

Naidu's TDP also put up a good show in the Lok Sabha polls, leading or winning in 16 of the total 25 seats in the state, with allies BJP and Janasena Party ahead in three and two constituencies respectively.

In the process, he also has emerged as a possible kingmaker, being the second largest party in the ruling NDA alliance behind the BJP.

This is the latest turn of fortune for the veteran politician who is credited for turning Hyderabad, the capital of undivided Andhra Pradesh, into a technology and computer software hub.

Born on April 20, 1950, at Naravaripalli in the undivided Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, Nara Chandrababu Naidu started his more than four-decade-long political career on the student politics platform at Sri Venkateswara University in Tirupati.

Following that solid foundation, Naidu joined the Congress party and went on to become a cabinet minister.

However, he later jumped ship to the TDP, founded by his late father-in-law and legendary actor N T Rama Rao. Naidu first became the chief minister in 1995 and went on to have another two terms as CM.

His first two terms as chief minister were at the helm of united Andhra Pradesh, beginning in 1995 and ending in 2004, nine years at a stretch while the third term came post-bifurcation of the state. Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh 10 years ago.

During the late 90s, Naidu played a key role in forming the Central Government of that time and the first NDA government formed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee was supported from outside by the TDP.

In 2014, Naidu emerged as the first chief minister of the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh and served it until 2019.

In his third term as CM, he championed Amaravati to be the capital city of the southern state, but losing power left his brainchild as an unfulfilled promise.

In 2019, he suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of a much younger Jagan Mohan Reddy of the YSR Congress Party, who also dealt a debilitating blow to the Amaravati project.

In 2021, protesting some comments made against his family members in the Assembly, Naidu walked out of the assembly and said he would come back only as the state Chief Minister again.

There was more bad news in store for him. In 2023 he was arrested under the Skill Development Corporation Scam case by the YSRCP government, the lowest point in his political career.

After the pre-dawn arrest on September 9, Naidu spent nearly two months in the Rajamahendravaram central jail.

However, an interim bail on October 31, which was made absolute on November 20, set Naidu free to prepare for the 2024 polls, enabling him to join the BJP-led NDA alliance along with Janasena.

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