Politics in Telangana is heating up, ever since the BJP welcomed into its fold Swami Paripoornananda, with many comparing his entry to that of Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. The state which has a Muslim population of over 12% with a strong presence of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is considered an ideal political laboratory by the BJP for its Hindutva political narrative.
The articulate Swami Paripoornananda was given the task to take this narrative to the people. BJP President Amit Shah has repeatedly expressed unhappiness over the functioning of the party leadership in the state, which is known for its groupism and intense internal bickering. The paradropping of Paripoornananda by the central BJP leadership is an attempt to fill this gap.
However, the state, known for a secular political culture, may not be so malleable for such kind of politics. The backdrop of the all-inclusive movement for Telangana’s separate statehood further makes it difficult to run a strong divisive political campaign as Yogi Adityanath could do in Uttar Pradesh.
Meanwhile, given the apparent political line of the BJP to strike but not wound caretaker Chief Minister and TRS leader K Chandrasekhar Rao, Paripoornananda may not be able to trigger a Yogi-style campaign in Telangana.
Addressing a gathering recently, Paripoornananda appealed to the people to vote for the BJP for the welfare of Hindus. “While the Congress party is promising to bring Jesus rule in the state, the TRS party is praising the rule of Nizams,” he said, adding that the two parties were causing inconvenience to Hindus in the state.
This, however, is not the voice of any other leader of the BJP in the state. Thus, the hardcore Hindutva campaign is taken care by the swami while the BJP leadership in general runs a more or less secular campaign with limited communal appeals.
On the contrary, Yogi Adityanath was the face of the communal campaign run by the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. Why this difference in the strategy of BJP in Telangana and Uttar Pradesh? Why has Paripoornananda been given the task of running a virulent politico-religious campaign while the other leaders are running a normal campaign? Many in politics expected that the swami's induction represented the hardcore Hindutva face of BJP’s politics in Telangana. But this seems to not be happening, except for the occasional outburst.
The BJP had earlier campaigned for the observation of September 17, the day Hyderabad state got integrated into the Indian Union as ‘Liberation Day’ (from the rule of the Nizam). The party was critical of KCR for not officially observing this. Even Amit Shah called for the ‘liberation’ of Telangana from the AIMIM rule. Notwithstanding such politico religious overtones, the overall tone and tenor of the BJP campaign in the state is not on virulently communal lines as witnessed under Yogi led Uttar Pradesh.
Thus, the Swami Paripoornananda mission to emulate Yogi Adityanath seems to be held hostage to the BJP's own political strategies.
Why a TRS loss is not BJP’s gain
The BJP is not willing to antagonise the non-Congress regional party. Its central leadership strongly believes that any loss for TRS would be gain for the Congress, its principal rival in the country. The revival of Congress in the Telugu states could mean the revival of the party in the country as the strong performance of Congress in united Andhra Pradesh in 2004 was a crucial factor in the UPA coming to power at the Centre.
Thus, the BJP does not wish to cause any anxiety for KCR despite his open alliance with AIMIM. Therefore, in all likelihood, the state BJP is expected to make limited use of Paripoornananda. His campaign objective is expected to be confined to polarising Hindu votes in the BJP strongholds to enable the saffron party to win as many as seats as possible without harming the TRS.
However, the BJP is sure that the campaign would sow the seeds for their brand of politics in Telangana in the future.
The BJP has adopted different strategies in different states with Hindutva at its core. The party also expects the impact of the Sabarimala temple judgement to work in its favour, as the two Telugu states have a sizable number of Ayyappa devotees. But the BJP's plans are scuttled by the TRS and TDP governments in Telangana and Andhra observing a conspicuous silence on the ongoing controversy over the apex court verdict on Sabarimala.
Unlike in Kerala where the Left government is in power, the party may not find the Sabarimala issue to be a polarising instrument despite the presence of Paripoornananda to carry the campaign.
At least in Andhra Pradesh, it could afford to antagonise the TDP, the strong anti-Congress regional force till recently simply because the party had a choice in the form of YS Jaganmohan Reddy, who is challenging Chandrababu Naidu.
In Telangana, the fight is mainly between TRS and Congress making the state BJP a victim of national political compulsions. In fact, the BJP had many opportunities to run a polarised campaign in Telangana under KCR’s rule. The promise of 12% reservations for Muslims by the KCR regime was one such perfect opportunity. But the party has simply squandered away this opportunity by failing to conduct any largescale campaign against KCR's controversial quota policy. Similarly, the party has not taken up the issue of KCR government's inaction on Akbaruddin Owaisi, the AIMIM leader, and his objectionable remarks on Hindu gods.
Many often interpret this shortcoming in BJP's politics of polarisation as the inability of the state party leadership, which is rocked by internal dissensions. Given the kind of political manoeuvring that the BJP in Telangana has to do, Swami Paripoornananda playing the role of Yogi Adityanath is a difficult proposition, at least for now.
The BJP's electoral plank in Uttar Pradesh was unlimited communalism. Yogi Adityanath was perfectly suited for this job. But, the BJP in Telangana wants to confine itself to limited communalism due to its obligation for KCR, who can be an ally post-2019. Thus, Swami Paripoornananda's role also seems to be limited.