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Days ahead of the Lok Sabha polls and birth of Telangana, the BJP managed to stitch up a fairly tangled alliance in Andhra Pradesh with Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu, who’s known for driving a hard bargain. And yet it paid off.
Now, with sizeable presence in the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh assemblies, the BJP is aiming to get a permanent foothold in the two southern states.
The BJP, which has five MLAs in Telangana, has a two-pronged strategy for the initial stages: strengthen the party in the newly-carved state, and highlight the failures of chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao to meet people’s aspirations.
The party was the first to endorse the Telangana demand way back in 1998, even before the birth of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi. Despite opposition from Seemandhra, where its past electoral tally was on par with that in Telangana, BJP supported the bifurcation bill this year in Parliament.
After Narendra Modi launched his Lok Sabha election rally marathon from Hyderabad in August last year, the expectations, on the whole, were so huge that state unit chief G Kishan Reddy wanted to go it alone in the polls.
But the BJP got just the Secunderabad seat and ally TDP another, Malkajgiri, both lying within the Hyderabad area with Seemandhra voters. The TRS captured the rural areas showing strong statehood sentiment, bagging 11 of the 17 Lok Sabha constituencies and also grabbing power in the state.
Disenchanted Telangana BJP workers had maintained a low profile since the parliamentary polls. But, a two-day visit by new party chief Amit Shah has, seemingly, invigorated the cadre and leaders. “Give your best effort and we will be the power in Telangana by 2019,” was the mantra he gave the party workers. Shah is understood to have asked state leaders to play to the Telangana sentiments without appearing to be antagonistic towards the Seemandhra population living in the state.
“Congress will weaken further and TDP’s focus will be on Seemandhra. So, this is the opportunity for us to emerge as an alternative to TRS here,” BJP’s Telangana unit chief Kishan Reddy told HT. Additionally, two BJP general secretaries with strong roots in the RSS — P Muralidhar Rao and Ram Madhav — will take special interest in Telangana and Andhra to refurbish the organisation, a party source said.
Muslims constitute about 13% of the Telangana population, a relatively higher number than in Andhra. In Hyderabad district, the figure is a considerable 40%, making for obvious polarisation of votes. This had contributed to BJP’s popularity in the region and was a reason for the party backing the bifurcation.
Apart from kicking off a massive membership drive on November 1, the party will also celebrate September 17, which happens to be Modi’ birthday, as Telangana Liberation Day — marking the annexation of the Hyderabad state by India. Shah reminded people that it was Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who freed Telanganites from the Nizam rule. Lately, chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has been all praise of the Nizam regime, an era despised in rural Telangana.
However, the immediate focus of the saffron party is the Greater Hyderabad municipal corporation polls later this year, where it will face a key rival in the AIMIM which has a strong grip over the Muslim votes.
With KCR also appeasing Muslims through promises of quota and other sops, the BJP is targeting a consolidation of the Hindu votes with a dash of its Hindutva approach.