It’s the biggest battle of 2018. After their electoral victories in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the BJP has set its eyes on the southern state Karnataka. To take on Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, the BJP has brought in a flurry of leaders to share a stage with BS Yeddyurappa in his ‘Parivartana yatra’ across the state.
Though many national leaders have appeared in these rallies, the BJP believes that it is the presence of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath that has galvanized its supporters the most.
As the UP CM emerges a key pan-national figure for the party, BJP leaders in the two Telugu states are contemplating bringing Adityanath to stir up cadres and capture the Hindu vote bank.
Yogi Adityanath’s visit to Karnataka’s powerful Sri Adichunchunagiri Mutt had created a big buzz in Karnataka, and many leaders in Andhra and Telangana feel that his presence in the two states will stimulate voters.
Speaking to TNM, BJP state spokesperson Krishna Saagar Rao said that his party will use the energies of all leaders as far as elections are concerned.
When asked if BJP is planning to bring Yogi Adityanth to Telangana and Andhra, he said, “He is our party's leader and five-time MP. We will use his services whenever it is required. Currently his dates are unavailable owing to Karnataka polls."
In poll mode
Following its victory in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the BJP’s Telangana and Andhra units had claimed that they will switch to poll mode. A few leaders declared that the BJP will go alone for 2019 elections.
In 2014, despite the Modi wave across the country, TRS had won the mandate after the formation of Telangana, while Andhra CM N Chandrababu Naidu was happy to be in an alliance with the BJP.
During the 2014 general elections, Narendra Modi had shared stage with TDP-chief Naidu and actor turned politician Pawan Kalyan.
While development and anti-incumbency will dominate the BJP’s campaign, the party believes that unifying the Hindu vote bank is vital in the Telugu states.
The BJP's eagerness to drive Yogi to the southern states indicates the party’s strategy to showcase him as the new icon of Hindutva politics.
Congress mocks BJP
He may be the BJP’s big crowd puller, but bringing in Yogi Adityanath will display the BJP’s desperation to stir the communal cauldron, say Congress leaders in Telangana.
“Bringing in a leader like Yogi Adityanath itself shows that the so-called Gujarat model is fake. Telangana was once praised by Mahatma Gandhi for its peaceful cohabitation; people here will never accept communal politics. In fact, the recent Gujarat verdict should be a lesson for BJP,” said Congress spokesperson Dr Dasoju Sravan Kumar.
He alleges that the BJP never played an active role of opposition in the Telugu states and sided with the government instead of challenging them.
The Congress that had taken a hit in Telangana during the 2014 elections, believes the party is on a path of revival. The party has been organising meetings across the state following recent switch over of Revanth Reddy and his associates, who jumped ship from the TDP’s Telangana unit.
However, a few political observers believe that despite being a party with only five seats (4.2%) in Telangana’s Assembly, the BJP is firm on making its presence felt. The party has been growing in urban places such as Karimanagar, Nizamabad, Nirmal along with several other places, and is also known to participate in student politics.
When University of Hyderabad (UoH) PhD scholar Rohith Vemula killed himself, letters had surfaced from then Minister of State Bandaru Dattatreya and BJP MLC Ramchander Rao, who had written to then HRD Minister Srimti Irani asking for intervention.
In his letter to the HRD Minister, Dattatreya had accused the university administration of being a “mute spectator” in the case of a clash between an ABVP leader and a group of Dalit students, including Vemula.
Dattatreya and Rao were charged under the SC/ST(Prevention of Atrocities) Act along with UoH Vice-Chancellor Podile Apparao.
Senior journalist and political analyst Gali Nagaraja said, "Following Rohith Vemula's incident, the BJP was very conscious on picking its subjects, whether it was the row between Professor Kancha Ilaiah and the Vysyas, or the vicious trolling of Dalit activist and Professor, Sujatha Surepally. The idea of bringing in Yogi Adityanath may capture some votes, but it will not tilt things greatly in their favour.”
The presence of Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi and his All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) party which presently has seven assembly seats, could also be one of the points of focus, for the BJP. It is growing in numbers in the Old City area of Hyderabad, with MLAs like Raja Singh often polarising voters.
In 2017, in a scathing attack, BJP supremo Amit Shah lashed out at KCR and said that his government was "the most corrupt in the country."
An angry KCR hit back at Shah for trying to spread "misinformation about the newly created state".
The Andhra Conundrum
Unlike Telangana, the TDP and the BJP are allies in Andhra and at the Centre.
While the alliance plan between the two parties for 2019 is still sketchy, the absence of now Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu and his active politics in the state, is considered by some to be a drawback. Others say that it is a move by Modi-Shah to make the party more independent in the state.
Chandrababu Naidu needs the Centre to ratify several issues from the inclusion of the Kapu community into the OBC reservation category, and the implementation of commitments made by the Centre during bifurcation. Despite this, the Andhra CM wants to complete Polavaram, a prized multipurpose irrigation project, by 2019.
His latest meeting with PM Modi this week, has also raised eyebrows. The Andhra CM submitted a memorandum seeking an immediate sanction of due Rs 3451.01 crores for the Polavaram project, along with the demand to increase the number of Assembly seats in the state from 175 to 225, as per the AP Reorganisation Act.
Overall, political analysts say that it’s not about who the BJP brings to the state; but the candidates they decide to go with.