BJP bets big on Somu Veerraju to resurrect party in Andhra Pradesh
Unlike his predecessor Kanna Lakshminarayana, who defected to the BJP after enjoying several positions in the Congress party till 2014, Somu Veerraju is a hardcore loyalist of the party with strong Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh background.Updated: Jul 30, 2020 20:43 IST
The appointment of senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Somu Veerraju as president of BJP Andhra Pradesh unit is believed to be part of a well-laid out strategy of the saffron party to emerge as a powerful political force in the state.
The BJP, in 2019 failed to win a single Lok Sabha or state assembly seat and got just 0.84 of the total vote share, is aiming at replacing the Telugu Desam Party as a potential alternative to the ruling YSR Congress Party in the next four years.
It is for this reason that the party is learnt to have chosen Veerraju as the state BJP president. Unlike his predecessor Kanna Lakshminarayana, who defected to the BJP after enjoying several positions in the Congress party till 2014, Veerraju is a hardcore loyalist of the party with strong Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh background.
He has been with the party for quite a long time, holding several positions in the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, later in the state BJP and in the national council of the party.
Importantly Veerraju has been the hardest critic of the TDP, with which the BJP had an alliance in the 2014 elections. “Politically, I have been opposing TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu because he had not allowed the BJP to grow independently in Andhra Pradesh, before or after the bifurcation,” he said.
He pointed out that it was Naidu who always benefited from the BJP by forging an alliance to suit his party’s interests. “He had allied with the BJP in 1999 elections to take advantage of the image of Vajpayee in the post-Kargil war scenario. He conveniently dumped the BJP after losing the elections in 2004. He again returned to the BJP fold after realising that there was a Narendra Modi wave in the country,” Veerraju told a local television channel after taking over as the state BJP president on Tuesday.
In the 2019 elections, the TDP faced a humiliating defeat winning only 23 seats in the 175-member state assembly and only three out of 25 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
The TDP party has been facing a series of desertions since then – three of its MLAs and a large number of powerful party leaders defected to the YSRCP, while three of his Rajya Sabha members switched loyalties to the BJP. Many others are also said to be looking towards greener pastures.
“That is precisely why the BJP sees an opportunity to grow independently in Andhra. While the YSRCP is too powerful, the TDP is weakening gradually. Naidu is ageing and one does not know whether he will have the energy to defeat the YSRCP in 2024. And there is no second rung leadership in the TDP. So, the BJP is hoping to fill the vacuum with the support of Jana Sena Party floated by actor Pawan Kalyan,” political analyst S Rama Krishna said.
Second, like Lakshminarayana, Veerraju also represents Kapu community, a powerful and politically strong caste group in the state. Since Pawan Kalyan is also from the same community, the BJP wants to consolidate this Kapu vote bank which accounts for nearly 15.2 per cent of the population in the state.
“As the YSRCP led by chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy is going all out to decimate the TDP, we may see a largescale exodus of the TDP leaders and cadre into the BJP. At the same time, the BJP will aggressively take up the fight on issues concerning the people so that it would be seen as a powerful opposition party,” Rama Krishna said.