Telangana elections: BJP’s prospects take hit as it cedes ground | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Telangana elections: BJP’s prospects take hit as it cedes ground

By, Hyderabad
Nov 27, 2023 01:30 AM IST

Since the state was created in 2014, the BRS has always been the pre-eminent political force, winning both assembly polls and most seats in the 2019 LS polls

Kailash Reddy shakes his head, powerless at the intrusion. His grocery store sits right at the Padmarao Nagar crossing in Hyderabad’s Musheerabad. To his right, towering in the distance, is an affluent residential block, just past a string of bamboo warehouses and welding shops. Right behind him though, the homes are cheek by jowl, a thin lane snaking its way through them.

In 2019, the BJP had won 4 of the 17 seats, winning 23% of the vote, and pushing Congress, the traditional opposition, down into third (ANI)
In 2019, the BJP had won 4 of the 17 seats, winning 23% of the vote, and pushing Congress, the traditional opposition, down into third (ANI)

Also read: Telangana elections: Congress eyes resurgence to challenge KCR in citadel

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“Musheerabad has every kind of resident Hyderabad has. Rich, poor, trader, IT engineer. Everyone,” Reddy says. For the moment though, he is annoyed by a group of men that have inserted a political flag on the scaffolding of his establishment. But even in his momentary anger, the flag brings his mind to three years ago.

“In 2020, all the flags were saffron, and we thought the BJP was rising. All you see now, in this area at least, are pink BRS flags,” Reddy says.

December 2020 was a heady time for the BJP in Telangana. Since the state was created in 2014, the BRS has always been the pre-eminent political force, winning both assembly elections, and the most seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, but it seemed like the BJP was on its way to becoming its strongest opposition; perhaps a second south Indian state after Karnataka where it could conceivably rule in the not-so-near future. The beginnings had come in 2019, where it won 4 of the 17 seats, winning 23% of the vote, and pushing the Congress, the traditional opposition, down into third. Then in 2020, came confirmation that this wasn’t just a flash in the pan. In December 2020, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation results were announced, and the BJP pulled off a huge shock. The BJP won 48 seats in the 150-member house, finishing a close second to the BRS that had 56, and had to rely on the AIMIM for support.

One of those seats was Musheerabad. Reddy says, “Then it was BJP all over the place. Every home, and stall had a BJP flag. They didn’t have enough party workers locally to complete the effort they wanted, so workers from other states came and spread out onto the streets. They got lots of support, including from me as well.” From inside the store, he pulls out a BJP lapel that he once wore for a while. “They gave it to me and I accepted. For a while, I became a party worker,” he laughed.

Cut to 2023, and while the BJP is still campaigning on the ground, it seems that the battle has shifted, the two primary contenders being the BRS and a resurgent Congress.

Krishna Reddy has one explanation for this fall; that the vote for the BJP was not really a vote for the party; but more a manifestation of the anger against K Chandrashekhar Rao’s BRS.

“When the Congress started rising as a credible alternative, the momentum of the anti-BRS vote shifted towards them. I do not want to see communalism, but after a decade of KCR’s rule, wanted to see someone else. Now that the Congress is providing that option, agitating against the government, people like me are choosing them. In that sense, even the Congress vote is just an anti KCR-BRS vote, not really a Revanth Reddy vote,” Reddy says.

One Hyderabad-based BJP leader said that the local unit was aware that the upsurge in support that they saw was based on anger against KCR, and not a buy-in into the BJP’s core politics.

“But it was a starting point that we have wasted away. There was an opposition space that we should have taken,” the leader said. He identified three reasons for the conspicuous loss of momentum. The first is the failure to create a perceptible separation between the BJP and the BRS.

“Though we did take separate positions on bills like CAA, ask anyone on the street, and the perception has been set that the BRS helps the BJP at the Centre,” the leader said. The second was the removal of firebrand leader Bandi Sanjay from the post of state president.

“He was loud and brash, but he took on KCR directly and charged the cadre up,” the leader said. The third, is the perceived lack of action by central agencies against corruption allegations against KCR. “We have to try hard to tell people that the ED did act against Kavitha, but people always talk back and say Congress leaders have gone to jail, even Chandrababu Naidu has gone to jail, but nobody from BRS has. Whether the relationship between the BRS and the BJP exists or not, people think it does,” the leader said.

Senior BJP leader and spokesperson NV Subhash Rao, the grandson of former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, however, said the BJP had been able to make up ground after some “setbacks”.

“If you see, we have been able to work at our grassroot-level organisation. What the TRS and the Congress claim, that the BJP is fading, is all superficial. We have recovered that ground, and will even be in a position to form the government,” Rao said.

He said that the BJP’s promise of administrative stability, and its development model are the party’s primary pitches to the voters. “If the Congress comes to power, they will play kissa kursi ka and fight over who will lead the state. The BRS has done no work over nine years. The choice is clear,” Rao said.

This is not to say that the BJP will not be a factor in the coming elections, the party leader quoted earlier said. He pointed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise of a chief minister from the backward classes, and his outreach to the Madigas who have long been asking for sub-categorisation in scheduled caste reservations.

Also read: Talks of change shroud AIMIM bastion of Hyderabad after Cong finds space

“We are in the fight in at least twenty to thirty seats across the state, and even if we are not in a position to win them ourselves, we will affect who wins the seat. This is because it is true that we now have organisational groundwork apart from our outreach to important communities. The Madigas have always been ignored for the Malas, and they have been looking for a party to support. In fact, one scenario is that the BJP has enough seats in a close election to be an important part of the government making process. The worst case scenario, of course, is a Congress sweep, and if it looks like that in the finals days, the party may take some tactical calls,” the Telangana BJP leader said.

In Musheerabad, Kiran Kumar Reddy has downed shutters for lunch, and takes his daily 600 metre walk to the Sitarama Chandra Swamy temple at the main crossing. The only flags that he can see right through are those in bright pink, the TRS colours. There is only one BJP flag, a few days old, and damaged by the elements. Once, in November 2023, a month before the GHMC elections when he was “informally” working for the BJP, Reddy had attended a local unit meeting. “We had been told that this was the start of the BJP’s rise. Now, they are fighting for space, even in the streets of Hyderabad,” he said.

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