‘You’re not doing what is expected of you’: What Amit Shah told his cadre in Telangana

During his one-day visit to Hyderabad, Amit Shah held several meetings. It was low-key, business-like, and the BJP president did not have much praise for his party men.
‘You’re not doing what is expected of you’: What Amit Shah told his cadre in Telangana
‘You’re not doing what is expected of you’: What Amit Shah told his cadre in Telangana
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“We can come to power in Telangana in 2019. After all, we have RSS shakhas in 2000 villages in the state,” said Murali Manohar, former ABVP president at the RSS Parivaar baithak, organised in Hyderabad on Friday with Amit Shah in the chair. Forty seven representatives of all the front organisations of the extended Sangh parivar were present to brief the BJP president about the poll preparedness of the party in India's youngest state.

“How many villages are there in Telangana?” asked Shah.

“Close to 11000,” came the reply.

“And you think with presence in 2000 villages, we can come to power?” asked Shah, directing the BJP and its allied units not to thump their chests about a victory in 2019, and instead work harder on the ground.

“As of now, you are not strong enough to form the government so put in more effort,” Shah added.

This was the first meeting that Shah held during his one-day visit in Hyderabad. Compared to his last visit in May 2017, when he took on K Chandrasekhar Rao criticising his governance, this trip was low-key and more business-like.

The second meeting with the BJP vistaraks did not go any better. Of the 119 Assembly constituencies in Telangana, Assembly incharges were appointed in 107 seats to spread the message of the party – and more specifically, what the Union government was doing. One hundred and four of them turned up. This template is a replica of how the party had spread the word in Uttar Pradesh. But unhappy with their work so far in Telangana, Shah was brusque and told them they needed to pull up their socks.

“The good work of Narendra Modi is not being propagated well enough. You are not doing what you are expected to do, for which you get a monthly salary and have been given a vehicle to move around,” said Shah, indulging in some plainspeak.

Post-lunch, Shah met 17 key members to review the preparedness ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The state party leadership with the help of academicians had prepared an hour-long powerpoint presentation on the socio-political scenario in Telangana with specific details on how the BJP can position itself. But 10 minutes into the presentation, Shah reportedly asked them to stop it.

“Go to the villages, do more of people contact programmes at the micro level,” advised Shah, “instead of only focusing on caste permutations and combinations.”

Last month, BJP Telangana unit president K Laxman had undertaken the first phase of his Jana Chaitanya yatra for two weeks and the party central leadership has indicated it wants more of those at the constituency level. Another area that Delhi wants the Telangana unit to work on is better coordination between the BJP and the RSS.

But if the extended parivaar expected clarity on whether the BJP will go in for any pre-poll alliances or woo talent from other political parties, Shah made it clear that it is not for the state unit to worry about. Ruling out a pre-poll alliance with the TRS, Shah pointed to neighbouring Karnataka where the party did well, contesting alone. Shah wanted the party to strengthen its booth committees, even making a reference to how the Andhra Pradesh unit of the BJP had done better than Telangana as far as its booth level work is concerned.

The angst of the BJP's Telangana unit has been that several Union ministers have praised the work of the TRS government while touring the state, effectively neutralising the criticism that the state unit mounts against KCR.

Secondly, after the exit of Bandaru Dattatreya from the NDA cabinet, the state has no representation in Delhi. This deprives the state BJP unit of any heft.

Thirdly, all its five MLAs and one MP are elected from Hyderabad. This means there is hardly any leader with a pan-Telangana appeal in the state unit, making it completely dependent on Modi's charisma and appeal, and Shah's poll management , to put up a good fight.

Fourthly, the perception has gained ground that the BJP has a deal going with the TRS. Though the two parties put up a pretence of being political rivals by taking potshots at each other, KCR's talk of a Federal Front keeping the Congress out was seen as a gambit aimed at helping the BJP. Within the BJP too, KCR is seen as a possible post-poll ally if Modi falls short of the 272 mark in 2019.

Fifthly, the BJP unit is a house divided and Amit Shah seems conscious of it. He spent time on a one-on-one interaction with Raja Singh, the MLA from Goshamahal constituency, known to stir the communal pot with his anti-Muslim and anti-Dalit diatribe. The fact that Singh who is usually kept at arm's length by the state leadership, was lent an ear by Shah is an indication that the BJP plans to make use of his talent as well.

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