Telangana seems to be the next focus point in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s ‘Mission South’ agenda, with the party trying hard to make inroads into the state. Top BJP sources tell TNM that the BJP leadership is in touch with several leaders from both the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi and the Congress, and if talks succeed, they will jump ship sooner or later. Though it is unlikely that any of them would dump their present party to embrace the BJP till there is clarity on when elections would happen. All eyes are on Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, popularly known as KCR, to see if he will dissolve the Assembly in advance, like he has done in the past, paving for early elections in the state. According to the BJP, the state will witness a wave of defections as soon as the next Assembly election is announced.
Telangana BJP spokesperson NV Subhash told TNM that the BJP was in talks with 14 sitting MLAs in the state. “Out of the 14, 10 are from the ruling TRS, while four are from Congress. As our party is gaining ground in the state, many leaders are approaching the BJP. We as a party are very clear that we will not give any assurance to any of the leaders. Whoever joins, they will have to do so at their own behest and work for the party. The high command will take a decision on what the party can offer them eventually," he claimed.
Apart from these 14 MLAs, many other leaders including MLCs, MPs and former MLAs are also in touch with the BJP, said Subhash. “Many sarpanches and lower-level cadres are also waiting for the election to be announced to make the jump. They may not join immediately due to their commitments, business interests and other factors. But they will, eventually. All of them are aware that the anti-incumbency factor in the state is very high this time,” he added.
Former Telangana IPS officer T Krishna Prasad, who has previously served as the Chairperson of the Telangana Road Safety Authority and the Additional Director General of Railways and Road Safety, is the latest to make it to the news for being in talks with the BJP. The former IPS officer told the media that he has no interest in electoral politics and hopes to work on the implementation of deliverables. The BJP is also hoping to welcome doctors and bureaucrats into their fold, as they believe it will help send across a loud message among educated voters.
Munugode Congress MLA Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy’s recent meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi has once again sparked rumours that Reddy might be joining the BJP. While we have been hearing reports of him defecting to the BJP for several years now, it remains to be seen when he would announce his final decision in this regard. While there are allegations from TRS quarters that the Congress MLA is in touch with the BJP due to his own business interests, Reddy recently told TNM that only Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have the capability to dethrone KCR and defeat the TRS in Telangana.
A TRS MLA who is a close friend of Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy is also claimed to be in touch with the BJP. According to the BJP, if Komatireddy joins the party, the TRS MLA will also soon jump ship.
Another TRS MLA who is reportedly in touch with the BJP has been fighting to resolve land issues of tribals in Telangana’s Komaram Bheem Asifabad district. He has been up in arms against the Telangana forest department officials for harassing tribals and for trying to snatch away their lands which they have been cultivating for generations.
If BJP sources are to be believed, another TRS MLA from the capital city of the erstwhile Kakatiya dynasty is also said to be in touch with the BJP. “He was expecting more for himself from the TRS. BJP understands that he has been overshadowed by other big names in the TRS,” shared a senior source in the know of things.
An MLA from an SC reserved constituency is also said to be in touch with the saffron party. There are a total of 119 Assembly constituencies in the state, out of which 18 are SC-reserved and nine are ST-reserved. The BJP has an acute shortage of SC candidates in the party in Telangana, which makes it an interesting reason for many SC and ST leaders to consider the BJP as an option — especially if there are multiple contenders from the party they currently represent.
Another TRS MLA from Mahbubnagar district who won the elections by a margin of more than one lakh votes is also on the BJ's radar. BJP is believed to be trying hard to poach this no-controversy legislator, who is known for his good image. The BJP believes if they are able to woo this MLA, they will be able to get several local leaders from two to three surrounding constituencies to also jump ship with him.
The next on the list is another MLA from an SC-reserved constituency in the state. According to people from the constituency, though this MLA may not have contributed greatly to the region as an MLA, TRS is likely to give him the ticket again considering the lack of a worthy opponent. But then why would this MLA probably consider turning to the BJP? Rumours are that, this MLA who is known to be a close associate of Eatala Rajender, has been in touch with the BJP ever since Eatala defected to the party from TRS.
The next MLA on the list is a senior leader from northern Telangana. There are rumours that this MLA is not very happy with the TRS, as he was expecting a ministerial position. At the moment, BJP is counting him as a cat on the wall, because he has not yet made any commitment to the party. However, as per BJP sources, the leader remains in touch.
Another senior TRS leader who is also a chairperson of a government body is on the list of leaders reportedly in touch with the BJP. According to sources, this leader was expecting the TRS to give him an MLC or MP ticket, and he was disappointed with what he was offered. Sources indicate that though he is in touch with the BJP, he is taking his time to weigh his options.
The next on the list is an MLC from the ruling-TRS who has also formerly served as an MLA. This leader from the area known for limestone, cement and red gram was given an MLC ticket after he lost as an MLA. Insiders say the MLC ticket was a way of the ruling-TRS to pacify the leader, however it did not put an end to the long-standing feud within the TRS in this region.
The next name on the list is a former minister in YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s and also in Kiran Kumar Reddy’s Cabinets. According to people from the constituency, this leader has been laying the ground to part ways with the TRS. After being inactive for a while, TRS flags and photos of CM KCR were interestingly missing from recent meetings convened by the former minister. For a while now, there have been speculations that this senior leader will either join the BJP or the Congress.
The last name on the list is a Congress leader who is in charge of an Assembly constituency. This leader was recently issued a showcause notice by the Congress, asking him to explain some of his remarks that were allegedly demoralising to the party cadre. This leader’s comments about surveys conducted in the state and the prospects of Congress in the next polls had ruffled feathers of the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee’s Disciplinary Committee. This Congress leader, who has been in news several times, has denied reports of joining the BJP in the past. Meanwhile, BJP sources told TNM that he has been in touch with the BJP for a very long time now. “We aren’t sure why he has been delaying his joining, but he will surely do so,” sources said.
Speaking to TNM, G Vivekanand, BJP leader and former MP from Peddapalli said the BJP doesn’t really need too many people to join them as they already have big names in the party. “We don’t need more than 15-20 good leaders to join us. We already have enough big names in the party. The rest that will join us will be strategic big names,” he said. The former MP was in his constituency as part of a bike rally when he spoke to TNM.
Many in the BJP feel that the party shouldn’t welcome sitting MLAs and ministers as they are already facing the ire of the people. Former journalist-turned-politician in the BJP, J Sangappa has also been working hard in the Narayankhed Assembly constituency in Telangana’s Sangareddy district. According to Sangappa, the disapproval of the people against the TRS is palpable. “There is a high anti-incumbency factor among the people. The BJP is working hard and has been progressing under the able leadership of Bandi Sanjay. The person at the helm of affairs can really make a positive difference. Convinced by the BJP’s efforts, several sarpanches and local leaders will soon join the BJP.” The former journalist also revealed that he is personally in talks with three leaders — a former minister from south Telangana, an ex-MLA from North Telangana and another ex-MLA from Nalgonda.
Despite the fact that there are still one and a half years to go for the election, several BJP leaders have already hit the ground and are reaching out to the masses. Speaking to TNM, BJP Leader Gudur Narayana Reddy who was formerly in Congress and was the Treasurer of TPCC said, “We are constantly on the ground and interacting with people of the constituency and working for their upliftment. While we are at it, if the BJP can let the probable candidates know who is likely to get the ticket, it will help candidates go all-out and put in maximum effort.” Gudur Narayana has been working in the Bhongir Assembly constituency.
TNM has also learnt that the Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC), which has been hired by the TRS ahead of the Assembly elections, is continuously monitoring nearly 15 TRS MLAs for being in touch with either the BJP or the Congress. It will be interesting to see if the state will witness a sudden wave of leaders embracing the BJP, just like the wave towards TRS a few years ago.
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