The BJP has occupied the limelight in the state mostly through communal clamouring by its leaders in the state and by sidelining other opposition parties.

Image features Telangana CM KCR and BJP MPs Bandi Sanjay along with Arvind Dharmapuri
news Politics Thursday, July 21, 2022 - 14:22

An incessant war of words between the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has brought the Telangana Assembly polls - that are over a year away - to the fore. The BJP has clearly indicated that it is eyeing a victory in the state when it chose Hyderabad as the venue for its two-day National Executive Committee meeting which took place on July 2 and 3. 

The BJP, which has three MLAs in the state Assembly, saw a win in the Dubbak bye-election which took place in November 2020. In Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections too, the BJP won 48 seats. Further, KCR’s friend-turned-foe Eatala Rajender victory in the Huzurabad bye-election for the BJP seems to have bolstered the party’s confidence to aim high for the upcoming 2023 elections. The BJP has occupied the limelight in the state mostly through communal clamouring by its leaders and by sidelining other opposition parties including the Congress party, which had a higher vote share in 2018 elections.

The parties have been locking horns since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the state on July 3 to attend the National Executive Committee meeting. A rally, seemingly to counter the BJP, was organised by the TRS in support of presidential candidate Yashwanth Sinha on July 2. Then, on July 10, CM K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) made a scathing attack on the PM where he questioned Modi’s economic policies and challenged the BJP to announce the dates for the state Assembly polls, so that he could dissolve the Assembly and contest. He also accused BJP of becoming “manufacturers of Eknath Shindes” as its leaders said that KCR would meet the same fate as former Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. The BJP then hit back calling KCR’s remarks “irrational and provocative” and referred to his call to announce election dates as “unconstitutional.”

While the BJP can make tall claims about victory in the 2023 state polls, it has to assess if merely being in power at the Union government and attempting to woo the Backward Class (BC) castes by mobilising them for political power would result in a fair deal for the BJP. A TRS spokesperson told TNM that the BJP is overestimating itself, based on its performance in the two bye-elections and GHMC elections, despite having lost its deposit in 107 seats. 

Observers do not deny the fact that growing communal polarisation and shift in the political rhetoric are advantageous to the BJP. However, they also say that these alone are not sufficient to unseat KCR, whom observers call the “stalwart of Telangana.”

Manikanta Pallikonda, an independent research scholar and political analyst, said that BJP has less chance to win against KCR. He observed, “KCR is not immortal, but the strategies to defeat him electorally seems absent in the state, especially from the BJP. Other than aggressive political language attacking KCR and TRS, BJP does not have a concrete agenda in fighting KCR. Appealing to the masses is different from galvanising their support.”

The BJP’s perpetual narrative against KCR calling him “anti-Hindu” may also go in vain as KCR is a “bold and performative Hindu,” who constructed the giant Yadadri temple and held mega yagnas which no other politician in the state has done. The reorganisation of the new districts and his politics of renaming went smoother than neighbouring Andhra, where the same process was met with tension and violence.

KCR built a populist image through welfare schemes and projects. For example, the Rythu Bandhu (farmer’s investment assistance scheme for two crops a year), has hugely benefited the land-holding sections. The Aasara pensions for vulnerable sections, the Kaleshwaram mega irrigation project - though it is allegedly the hotbed of KCR’s corruption - and turning Hyderabad into ‘hub of investments’ may work in KCR’s favour. At the same time, it is not that every scheme that KCR has promised, has successfully materialised. The 2BHK or double-bedroom houses under dignity housing scheme and the Dalit Bandhu scheme (aimed at providing Rs 10 lakh to each Dalit family for encouraging entrepreneurship), have proven expensive and doubts have been cast on its implementation, amid allegations of irregularities. Even with the lacklustre implementation of these schemes, BJP is likely to have a tough time garnering widespread support from the people for their accusations of “dynasty rule and corruption.” 

Though BJP leaders like its state president Bandi Sanjay claim that they will send KCR and family to jail as they have evidence of massive corruption, they fail to explain what is stopping the Union government agencies from proceeding with the suit. Fully aware that it would likely garner more sympathy for him, if BJP were to proceed against him in any manner, KCR recently taunted the Union government asking them if they can imprison him by using agencies like the Enforcement Directorate (ED) or Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). 

Manikanta also noted, “The BJP is thinking that they have huge support in the state, but it is impossible because of multi-dimensional factors in Telangana. KCR is clever enough to shut down the BJP by appearing on prime time news and attacking the BJP. And the BJP, depending on a few BC castes by bolstering the communal anxieties, makes it difficult to draw votes across constituencies, though in the long run, it may pay dividends.”

BJP is not alone fighting with the KCR, but also competing with the other parties like Congress, led by Revanth Reddy and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), led by former cop Dr RS Praveen Kumar, to come to power in the state. RS Praveen and his party’s ground work across the state can’t be underplayed merely because their activities are invisibilised in the regional media.  

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