Over the last few months, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Telangana has upped the ante, with the aim of emerging as a key player by 2024, when the state goes to the polls next. Not only has the BJP staged protests against Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao over various issues, they are also seen fiercely trying to position themselves as an alternative to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).
A recent statement by Dr K Laxman, the chief of the Telangana unit of the BJP, has raised eyebrows, as he said that there would soon be a 'political surgical strike' in the state.
The statement by Laxman comes at a time when his stint is set to expire soon, and has set off speculation on his successor. Highly placed sources told TNM that while Laxman is lobbying for an extension, there may be a change of guard in the party's state unit as the top rung of the party leadership in New Delhi is looking around for contenders to the post.
The BJP emerged as a key player in the Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year, as it won four out of the 17 seats that were up for grabs. Laxman, who took charge from current Union Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy in 2016, will see his term end in mid-December.
Unlike earlier, the battle for the seat is also heating up with many senior leaders in the fray, as the person who takes over, will lead the party in the 2024 Legislative Assembly elections.
Who are in the fray?
Sources say that while Laxman himself, is lobbying for an extension, a few other senior leaders, including two newcomers, are eyeing the position.
Speaking to TNM, senior leader Krishna Saagar Rao, who is the Telangana BJP official spokesperson, said, "The term of the current president has ended, so there is a possibility of change, provided that the national leadership feels that there is no need to extend Dr Laxman's term."
The party national leadership is considering appointing Muralidhar Rao, who is currently serving as National General Secretary, but sources say that he is not keen on the same, as he is already having an important post in Delhi. TNM has learnt that Krishna Saagar is also in the fray.
Karimnagar MP and senior BJP member Bandi Sanjay, who is known for his affiliation and inclination to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and Medak Lok Sabha seat contestant Raghunandan Rao Madhavaneni, known for his fierce stance against the TRS government, are also competing for the post.
Sources say that MLCs Chintala Ramchandra Reddy and N Ramchandra Rao's names are also doing the rounds as aspiring candidates.
On the other hand, leaders like ex-state Minister DK Aruna, and former MP Jithender Reddy, who jumped ship from the Congress and TRS respectively, are also trying their best to grab the crown.
BJP leaders have asserted several times that Telangana would be the next state, where they try to capture power.
A source told TNM that most of the cadre in the party are of the opinion that the BJP should accommodate a leader who hails from a rural background, to be the chief of the state unit.
"Even before general elections, we had asked leadership at the national level to make someone from rural areas as the state unit president, since most of the past leaders have hailed from Hyderabad itself. Accommodating a rural candidate would boost the morale of cadre from rural side," the source said.
Though TRS swept the local body polls soon after their poor performance in the parliamentary elections, the BJP's 20% vote share in the Lok Sabha polls has kept the cadres enthusiastic.
The upcoming municipality elections in the state are going to be a testing field for the party. The BJP is currently led by working president JP Nadda while its president is Amit Shah, who is the Union Home Minister.
According to sources in Delhi, JP Nadda will soon take over full charge of the party later this month and will oversee the presidents of all state units, which is when he may take a decision on Telangana as well.