Keen on national status, TDP to try expanding to other states

Having a Lok Sabha presence now from two states, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) is planning to contest elections from a few other states too to be able to get national party status by the year 2019. "The idea that TDP should struggle to achieve national status figured in the discussions, but no decision has been taken," Jayadev Galla, TDP leader who represents Guntur constituency in the Lok Sabha, told IANS on Saturday here during the party's 'Mahanadu' (annual convention). He said the party already has Lok Sabha members from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and is required to represent at least one more state in the lower house of parliament in order to be eligible for the national status.  The candidates for expanding the party's base are Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Odisha which have substantial presence of Telugu speaking people, Galla said. "Now we will be open to exploring how we should go about it. No final decision has been taken either to contest in one state or the other," he said. The issue of the TDP making its presence felt in other states and achieving national status figured prominently in the second day's deliberations at the Mahanadu here on Saturday. The party currently has 16 Lok Sabha members: 15 from Andhra Pradesh and one -- Ch. Malla Reddy representing Malkajgiri -- from Telangana. During the deliberations, senior party leader and union Civil Aviation Minister P. Ashok Gajapati Raju recalled the "tough days" of regional parties at the national level and how the TDP was able to secure the opposition party status in the Lok Sabha in 1984. "I still remember the days when our leader and TDP founder N.T. Rama Rao raised the importance of Centre-state relations and later brought in the constitution of Sarkaria Commission. The recommendations of the commission still remain an important feature of India's federal structure," he said. Party leader Ravula Chandrasekhar Reddy said there was a special place for the TDP in the national politics ever since NTR, as Rama Rao was popularly known, took the initiative to form the National Front. TDP president and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu recalled the politics of 1984 in the Lok Sabha when Bharatiya Janata Party's strength was just two and the TDP was the major opposition party. "TDP has experienced all kinds of experiments at the national level. My father-in-law and founder of TDP, N.T. Rama Rao, joined hands with all kinds of political forces to fight a mighty Congress," said Naidu. "He created National Front. This ended with V.P. Singh becoming prime minister. Then we worked for United Front and we had two prime ministers (H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral)," he said. Naidu said he supported the Vajpayee government (1999-2004) and floated in 2008 United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) with the Samajwadi Party's Mulayam Singh Yadav and others. "This third front UNPA did not do well and I am back in BJP-led NDA now. Our MPs are ministers in the Centre and BJP leaders are ministers in my government," he noted.