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BJP begins backchannel talks to gain Jagan's nod

Gearing up for the post-poll scenario, where it may need support from non-NDA parties, BJP has begun backchannel talks with YSR Congress Party, which may emerge as a kingmaker in the event of a hung Parliament.

Hyderabad: Gearing up for the post-poll scenario, where it may need support from non-NDA parties, BJP has begun backchannel talks with YSR Congress Party, which may emerge as a kingmaker in the event of a hung Parliament.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah is said to have begun backchannel talks with Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, whose YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) is likely to bag majority of 25 Lok Sabha seats in Andhra Pradesh.

According to sources, the talks are on over Jagan's charter of demands with Special Category Status (SCS) to the state topping the list. Other demands could include number of ministries for YSRCP and the financial and other assistance the state would get from Delhi.

However, there was no confirmation from YSRCP leadership about the backchannel talks. Party leaders said they were not aware of any talks between Jagan and Shah.

The final four phases of the poll, started on April 29, is described as the real election for BJP. Out of 240 seats that are at stake in these phases, BJP had bagged more than 160 in 2014 polls.

If things do not move its way in these crucial phases, the BJP may have to look for support from others, especially someone like Jagan, given the number of seats his party is predicted to win.

The BJP leaders, however, feel that some of the demands put forth by Jagan as a precondition for support were outlandish. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raids on YSRCP leader and industrialist K. Raghu Rama Krishna Raju in an alleged Rs 947 crore bank loan default case on Tuesday assumed significance in this backdrop. The BJP apparently wanted to send a message to Jagan.

It is an open secret that BJP and YSRCP have had good relations, especially after Telugu Desam Party (TDP) walked out of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) over its refusal to accord SCS to Andhra Pradesh.

In fact, one of the reasons Chief Minister and TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu cited for severing ties with BJP was the latter cosying up to his rival Jagan Mohan Reddy. Frequent appointments given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Jagan and his other party leaders had angered Naidu.

In the run-up to the elections and during the campaign, Naidu repeatedly targeted Jagan for what he called his secret understanding with the BJP and Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao. The TDP chief claimed that the YSRCP leader bartered the state's interests to save himself in the corruption cases he was facing.

Jagan defended the friendship with KCR's Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). "What is wrong if I am with TRS as they are supporting our demand for special category status," the young leader said at one of the election rallies.

There was no such defence for friendship with BJP for fear of losing the votes of minorities. The YSRCP chief, however, praised Modi even while complaining that NDA has not done justice to the state by denying SCS.

Realising that their party is already on a weak turf in Andhra, both Modi and Shah during the couple of rallies they addressed trained guns on Naidu but avoided criticizing Jagan.

The YSRCP leader also kept everyone guessing with often repeated stand that he wants to see a hung Parliament so that the state can get a better deal from the Centre. He stated on many occasions that his party will extend support to whoever agrees to accord special status to the state.

In 2014, YSRCP had bagged eight Lok Sabha seats in Andhra Pradesh while TDP had won 15 and its then ally BJP two.

This time, Jagan's party is confident of winning 20-22 seats and this could be a big number in the event of polls throwing up a hung House.