Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu met several Islamic groups on Monday in a move viewed as an attempt to woo the minorities after his Telugu Desam Party (TDP) severed its ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The Muslim leaders, who came to meet the TDP chief at the Praja Darbar Hall adjacent to his official home in Amaravati, hailed him for breaking the alliance with the BJP.
Naidu said he joined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre despite ideological differences because he wanted to secure maximum benefits for the state, which was reeling from losses after Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh in 2014.
“I had to take the decision in the larger interests of the state. However, I had never compromised on the secular principles,” he said.
The TDP severed its four-year alliance with the BJP over the NDA government’s refusal to grant special category status to Andhra Pradesh.
The TDP chief alleged that the BJP has now declared a war on him and his government.
“What mistake did I commit? Is it a crime to ask for keeping promises made in the AP reorganisation act? Did I ask for the moon? With whom does the BJP want to fight with? With me? Or with the people of Andhra Pradesh?” he asked.
He said his party had come out of the NDA because it failed to do justice to the state.
“Now, the real colours of the BJP are exposed. It is trying to destabilise my government by instigating the YSR Congress and the Jana Sena Party,” he alleged.
Reacting to Naidu’s meeting, state BJP president K Hari Babu said the chief minister’s move to woo Muslims didn’t surprise him.
“He has come out of the NDA only with an eye on the elections, as he has to blame the Centre to cover up his failures. And he needs to tap the Muslim vote bank to gain some ground in the state,” he said.
The chief minister reminded the Islamic groups that the TDP had opposed attempts of the Narendra Modi government to push through the “triple talaq” bill in Parliament.
“Ours was the only party in the NDA to resist the triple talaq bill that was aimed at interfering in the personal law of Muslims,” he said.
He promised that the TDP would fight for more reservation in jobs and education for Muslims.
“Right from the beginning, our government has been working from the interests of minorities. In the latest budget, we have allocated Rs 1,100 crore for minority welfare, which was unprecedented in the history of the state,” Naidu said.
The Muslim representatives, who came to meet him under the leadership of Vijayawada (West) legislator Mohammad Jaleel Khan, appreciated the chief minister’s move.
“We shall join hands with the TDP to fight against the BJP,” Khan said.