BJP Moves To Become Formidable Force In AP, Telangana
After its landslide victory in Maharashtra and Haryana assembly polls, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) succeeded to form its own government for the first time, the party is now focusing on spreading its reach in southern states, particularly Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Though elections are far away in these two states, for which assembly elections were held only in last May along with Lok Sabha polls, the BJP president Amit Shah seems to be meticulously getting a political plan executed to make the saffron party a formidable force in these states by 2019. During his maiden visit to Hyderabad recently after becoming party chief, Shah told Telangana BJP leaders and cadre to get prepared for the next polls from now onwards aiming at emerging as a ruling party in the state.
The BJP is presently an ally of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh, sharing power both in the state and at the Centre. Presently, BJP is having only four MLAs, of which two are members of N Chandrababu Cabinet and two MPs. Two union ministers from the state are M Venkaiah Naidu, who represents Rajya Sabha from Karnataka and Nirmala Sitaraman, who was sent to Rajya Sabha, courtesy TDP after her induction into Narenra Modi’s cabinet.
Its strength in local bodies is also negligible. Even it hardly has popular leadership at grassroots. In such a scenario aiming at emerging as the “only alternative” to the ruling party in AP is an ambitious plan that Shah seemingly has chalked out for the party.
BJP is mostly banking upon to take advantage from the present caste calculations and leaders who fit into the grand plan have been identified to make BJP stronger across the state. Besides its close association with Chandrababu Naidu, interestingly, BJP is seeking to rope in known “Babu baiters” into its fold to ‘check’ TDP head and Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu if not frustrate him in the long run.
Many to follow Kanna
Already, former minister and senior Congress leader Kanna Lak-shmi Narayana from Guntur district has joined the saffron ranks and BJP insiders say others like former Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy and former PCC president Botsa Satyanarayana may also jump onto the bandwagon sooner or later. Their dislike for Chandrababu Naidu is well-known.
Kanna Lakshmi Narayana had been in various Congress cabinets in the state for nearly 14 years. Before 2014 polls, Congress president Sonia Gandhi seriously considered him for Chief Minister position, replacing Kiran Kumar Reddy. However, Kiran Kumar Reddy with his revolt against Congress leadership made her moves to foil.
Chandrababu Naidu is said to be not happy with BJP leadership for giving `political cover’ to his bitter political critics. He also seems to be not happy with the ministry allocated to his trusted TDP Rajya Sabha member Srujana Choudhary after latter’s induction into Narendra Modi cabinet in recent expansion.
According to sources, Naidu made intense lobbying to get either finance or commerce ministry for him. Science and Technology is seen as ornamental in the presence of a cabinet rank minister. Unlike in 1999, the BJP is not dependent on Naidu. Rather, he is dependent on the Centre to re-build the truncated state, as he was voted to power precisely for that.
Pawan Kalyan a trump card
And, the biggest trump card for the BJP may come in the form of film star Pawan Kalyan, one of the staunch admirers of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Kalyan floated his own political outfit Jana Sena ahead of the May elections but he threw his lot behind the TDP-BJP combine.
The Prime Minister widely acknowledged Kalyan’s role in turning the tide in favour of the combine and now, Shah is said to be working on the plan to get the star completely into their fold. Being a Kapu, Kalyan can largely influence the political scene in the two Godavari districts where the community is dominant besides spreading his clout to north coastal districts. “Kalyan’s charisma works across AP and not just these districts. But here, he can hold the key,” a senior BJP leader said.
Former Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, whose Jai Samaikya Andhra Party sank without a trace, initially had reservations about joining the BJP as he stood for the united AP cause while the party backed the state bifurcation. Many rounds of negotiations later, Kiran was said to have been “convinced about Modi’s leadership” and shed his reservations, a top BJP leader who was part of the negotiations said. But it may take a few more months before Kiran actually joins the BJP.
Former PCC chief Botsa Satyanarayana hopes to revive his political fortunes by joining the BJP. In wooing Botsa, the BJP wants to expand its footprint in north-coastal districts, where it virtually has no presence now. Another former minister Konathala Ramakrishna, who recently walked out of the YSR Congress, is in line to join the BJP. This will give a boost to the party in Visakhapatnam district and help attract BC voters.
Former Union Ministers Kavuri Sambasiva Rao and Daggubati Purandeswari, who switched over from the Congress on the eve of the May elections, will be used to consolidate the Kamma support base of BJP in West Godavari, Krishna, Guntur and Prakasam districts.
BJP hopes sitting Nellore MP Mekapati Rajamohan Reddy, who is reported to be continuing an uneasy stay in the YSR Congress Party, may consider switching over. If Mekapati and Kiran join the BJP, as widely expected, it will have two big Reddy leaders to woo the community in SPS Nellore and Chittoor districts.
Mekapati apart, three more MPs of the YSRC two of whom initially tilted towards the TDP are now said to be ‘in touch’ with the BJP leadership in New Delhi. “From north coast to south coast in Andhra, we already have tall leaders and the entry of bigwigs from other parties will help consolidate our strength. But we will still be weak in at least three Rayalaseema districts where we don’t have any notable leader now. We will have to work on that,” a senior office-bearer of state BJP said.
But the saffron party sees an opportunity with the YSR Congress Party, which came out strong in Rayalaseema. As the Congress is already out across the state and the main opposition YSR Congress is too eroding, the BJP is clearly positioning itself to “fill the political vacuum” in AP and emerge as an alternative to the TDP.
Dattatreya induction to attract BCs
In Telangana, the BJP has also emerged as a formidable force with five MLAs and one MP. With induction of four-time MP Bandaru Dattatreya into Narendra Modi cabinet in expansion with an independent ministry, the party is hoping to expand its influence over backward classes communities, who are in large number in the new state. Presently the ruling TRS is considered to be a party of Velama community (land lords) and the main opposition Congress is dominated by another major upper caste community Reddys. After partition of the state, TDP is seen as a party of Andhra Pradesh and expected to lose its grip over the state.
In such a scenario, Amit Shah is expecting to win confidence of the people by mobilizing support from weaker sections and backward classes. Realising their future would be futile in other parties, several BC leaders are said to be sending feelers to join BJP. Unlike in Andhra Pradesh, BJP is having grossroots leadership in the new state. The growing proximity of TRS with MIM, a party having roots among Muslims in old city of Hyderabad, is seen as a boon for BJP to attract consider sections of people from weaker sections in the state.
BJP leadership is viewing that both the governments headed by Chandrababu Naidu (AP) and K Chandrasekhar Rao (Telangana) may not succeed in meeting aspirations of the people. Already they are finding it difficult to satisfy farmers with regard to implementation of their major electoral promise waiver of crop loans. Chandrababu Naidu is facing ire of farmers by attempting to squeeze fertile farm lands for construction of new capital city.
The growing charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in these parts too and falling credentials of two chief ministers is seen as a major boost for the BJP to realize its intentions to get grip over political scenario of these two states. However, the party is yet to initiate concert strategies for expanding its organizational reaches to nook and corner besides elevating leadership who are having a say among mosses.
Most of its leaders are seen spending more time before media more than with party cadre or people. A senior party leader wondered that how the party would benefit by inducting faded away leaders with questionable credentials from other parties by ignoring party cadre and interesting youth who are not attacked to any party.
“These two states are about to reach into a great political vacuum very soon. BJP should get ready to fillip that space by strengthening its gross root organization and encouraging fresh and energetic leadership instead of political opportunists”, commented a former state president of the party.
By Ch Narendra from Hyderabad