Political circles in Andhra Pradesh are abuzz with speculation as actor-politician and Jana Sena Party (JSP) chief Pawan Kalyan met Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Working President JP Nadda in New Delhi on Monday.
Apart from Nadda, BJP General Secretary (Organisation) B L Santosh and BJP MP Tejasvi Surya were also present at the meeting. Pawan was accompanied by JSP leader and former Assembly Speaker Nadendla Manohar.
The two parties are understood to have agreed to work together in Andhra Pradesh, in view of the situation arising out of YSRCP government's proposal to decentralise the state's capital Amaravati.
"The BJP-led Centre should conduct an all-party meeting on the proposal of three capitals and problems faced by Amaravati farmers. BJP played a significant role in bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and they were partners in the first government formed after the bifurcation. They should stand in support of Amaravati farmers and help them in finding a solution," Pawan Kalyan had said on Friday.
Sources say that while this may be the issue that brings both the parties together now, their association may continue even until the next elections in the state.
Following a humiliating defeat in last year's elections, Pawan Kalyan has been dropping indications that he is willing to join hands with the BJP. So what can the Jana Sena offer to the BJP, and what can it gain from the latter?
Question of survival?
The prospect of an alliance itself, isn't coming as a surprise to many as observers say that Pawan has always been close to the BJP.
In 2014 as well, the JSP had backed the TDP, only through the BJP. It was not a direct alliance.." says political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.
"The BJP has no mass leaders in Andhra and is not able to gain a vote share of more than 3% or 4%. They need a face to draw voters, so an alliance with the JSP will help. It is a win-win situation for them. Pawan's recent statements where he said that he only differed with the BJP where special status is concerned, is also indicative that they have been open to working together," says political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.
After a heavy loss last year, Pawan Kalyan also faces the challenge of staying relevant or face the same political fate as his elder brother, Chiranjeevi.
Chiranjeevi had founded the Praja Rajyam Party in 2008. In the 2009 election, his party won 18 seats in the then 294-member Assembly of undivided Andhra Pradesh. However, Chiranjeevi subsequently merged his party with the Congress and has since given up on his political ambitions.
"Even if Pawan had managed to win a handful of seats, he might have decided to stand and fight, but the lone JSP MLA is already looking to defect to the YSRCP and he faces an existential threat in Andhra. He is looking at multiple ways to deal with it, and a strong association with the BJP, where he will be projected as the face, is one of the options," Palwai adds.
For the JSP, the BJP offers a chance to battle TDP and YSRCP -- the two regional parties in the state, and emerge as a third regional player.
"We had backed the BJP unconditionally in 2014, mainly in the state's interests, without asking for a single seat," Venkata Mahesh Pothina, spokesperson for the Jana Sena tells TNM.
However, after coming to victory, the JSP felt sidelined by TDP and former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu. This time they say, they would like to keep the TDP away and stitch their own alliance with the BJP.
The BJP is also not too keen on allying with the TDP again as Union Home Minister Amit Shah has reiterated in the past, and this might work in the JSP's favour.
"We hope that eventually, we will give stiff competition to Jagan and Naidu and their families, and offer to the people of the state, a third democratic alternative with Pawan Kalyan as the face, with the BJP's backing. We don't want to align with the TDP as Chandrababu Naidu has been projecting himself as the main figure and refuses to cede space," Mahesh says.
The Jana Sena also hopes that an alliance with the BJP will allow them to take up issues of the state, with the Centre, and resolve them, thereby building confidence among voters.
BJP leader Lanka Dinakar feels that there is a 'synergy' between the BJP and the JSP. Dinakar say that they are interested in working with Pawan Kalyan in both the Telugu states, but especially in Andhra Pradesh. "Talks are still in a preliminary stage. But we are hopeful that a national outlook and regional aspirations can be worked out in tandem. We hope to emerge as a strong alternative and we are focusing on strengthening our cadre," he adds.