The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday announced the appointment of Kanna Lakshminarayana as its President in Andhra Pradesh.
BJP President Amit Shah named Lakshminarayana as the new head of the state unit. He succeeds K. Haribabu, MP from Visakhapatnam.
The development came as a surprise as Lakshminarayana announced last month that he will quit the party and join the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP).
The 62-year-old leader, who hails from Kapu community, had aspired for the top post but after the BJP leadership indicated that he will not be given the responsibility, he decided to switch loyalties.
He had even fixed the date to join main opposition party but postponed his move, citing ill health. BJP sources said the party's central leaders persuaded him to wait till the Assembly elections in Karnataka.
Lakshminarayana, a five-time state legislator from Guntur district, severed his nearly four-decade association with the Congress to join the BJP in 2014, a few months after the elections.
He served as minister and held various portfolios in the cabinets of Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, K Rosaiah and Kiran Kumar Reddy.
He was given the responsibility to head the BJP weeks after state's ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) pulled out of BJP-led NDA at the Centre over the issue of special category status to the state. Later, the BJP also pulled out of the coalition government in the state.
It was widely speculated that MLC Somu Veeraraju, the firebrand politician who launched the counter-attack against the TDP, would have been elected as the state president. However, Veeraraju was appointed as the state convenor of the election management committee.
Lakshminarayana will have the big task of leading the party's campaign for the 2019 elections which it may have to contest alone amid criticism from rivals for going back on the promise of according special status to Andhra Pradesh.
Addressing the media in Guntur, Kanna Lakshminarayana said he would work towards strengthening the BJP in Andhra Pradesh, and counter â€˜false propagandaâ€™ by the TDP.
The BJP, which fought the 2014 elections in alliance with the TDP, bagged four Assembly and two Lok Sabha seats. The coalition won 17 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats and 106 of 175 Assembly constituencies.
BJP leaders point out that the party had polled about 7% votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha and over 2% in the Assembly polls. They claim that the party has huge scope for improvement in vote share and seat tally.