The BJP, fresh from a gigantic win in the national elections, got a further boost as four of the six parliamentarians from N Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) joined it on Thursday. The party, though, had sought the disqualification of two of them – YS Chowdary and CM Ramesh – last year, citing corruption allegations; party lawmaker and spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao had, in a tweet, referred to them as “Andhra Mallyas”.
On Thursday, the four Rajya Sabha lawmakers led by Mr Chowdary met Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, who is also the chairman of the upper house, and gave him a letter that said they have “decided to merge” the TDP’s Legislature Party with the BJP with immediate effect.
Mr Chowdary and Mr Ramesh – part of the TDP’s breakaway faction that also includes Garikapati Mohan Rao and TG Venkatesh – were searched last year over allegations of money laundering and tax evasion. The leaders, both businessmen, had denied all allegations. YS Chowdary has been accused of defrauding banks of hundreds of crores; the cases go back a few years. CM Ramesh’s home and companies were raided by income tax officials last year.
In a letter to the Rajya Sabha Ethics Committee in November last year, BJP lawmaker and spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao had sought “suitable action” against both parliamentarians who he alleged were “involved in allegations of massive financial bungling and fraud”. In the letter – which he had tweeted – he alleged that CM Ramesh was “involved in benami operations and evaded income taxes running into hundreds of crores”. YS Chowdary, he wrote, had been “charged by several public sector banks of defrauding them”, saying Enforcement Directorate investigations had revealed that “his companies have borrowed 5,700 crores and diverted them into several shell companies”.
Considered close to Chandrababu Naidu, YS Chowdary was a minister of state in the first Narendra Modi-led NDA government till March last year when TDP pulled out of the coalition. He was named TDP leader in Rajya Sabha a few days ago.
As he switched over to the BJP on Thursday with the other lawmakers while Mr Naidu was away in Europe on vacation, Mr Chowdary said Andhra Pradesh’s development could only be achieved by cooperation and not confrontation, in an apparent dig at the TDP chief who had quit the NDA over the centre’s refusal to provide Special Status to Andhra Pradesh; he later became one of the key interlocutors of the opposition.
YS Chowdary had publicly stated in the last few days that he was opposed to an alliance with the Congress which he said had “no political relevance”. He also said that he had not supported the TDP’s exit from the NDA. “I had conveyed this to my then party leader,” he claimed.
BJP leaders in Telangana claim that the TDP will almost be empty by the time Chandrababu Naidu is back in India.