Shadow of Karnataka Defeat, Infighting Queers BJPs Pitch In Telugu States

HYDERABAD: The BJP’s best ever performance in Telangana was during the 2019 general elections when it won four Lok Sabha seats. But retaining them will be a huge challenge for the party, which in recent times, has been dogged by infighting. The party’s performance in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls in Telangana will depend on how it fares in the Assembly elections scheduled to be held later this year. And as things stands now, the prospects are not bright.

The BJP’s defeat in the the Karnataka Assembly polls held in May and an apparent upswing in the Congress’s political fortunes, have dealt a blow to the saffron party’s morale in Telangana. The BJP is seen relegated to the third position. Not long ago, the saffron party was in an aggressive mode and was projecting itself as the main challenger to Telangana’s ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS).

However, it now seems to be losing steam. The defeat in Karnataka and internal bickering in Telangana leading to change in the state leadership have dealt twin blows to the party’s morale. The manner in which Bandi Sanjay Kumar was eased out to make Union Minister G. Kishan Reddy the president of the party unit has not gone down well with supporters of the former.

Some leaders within the party have privately admitted that the change of guard was a suicidal step as they believe that it was Sanjay who lifted BJP to what it in the state today. Known for his aggressive Hindutva politics, the MP from Karimnagar had led the party to victories in two Assembly by-elections and the impressive performance in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) polls.

Sanjay had also won praise from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah for strengthening the party through his “praja sangram yatra” and by aggressively taking on ruling BRS. However, the BJP’s debacle in Karnataka seems to have changed the direction of the wind. The dissidents from BRS and other parties, who were looking at the BJP earlier, dropped their plans and instead preferred the Congress.

Khammam MP Ponguleti Srinivasa Reddy, former minister Jupally Krishna Rao and several other leaders joining the Congress has rattled the BJP. Huzurabad MLA Eatala Rajender and some others unhappy with Sanjay’s style of functioning felt emboldened to force a change of guard. Kishan Reddy’s appointment as the new party chief appeared to have dampened the enthusiasm of BJP cadres as a section of party leaders perceive him as a soft leader.

Last week, the BJP received another jolt when its leader and former minister A. Chandra Sekhar quit the party and decided to join the Congress. Some more leaders, including former MPs Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy, Konda Visweswar Reddy, Vijayashanthi, and G. Vivek Venkataswamy, are also believed to be waiting for an appropriate time to cross over.

The recent developments have slowed down the BJP juggernaut. With a focus on internal bickering and the impact of the Karnataka debacle, the central leadership also appeared to have developed cold feet. Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Warangal to launch various projects and address public meeting was overshadowed by infighting and change of leadership.

Shah’s trip to the state was also postponed twice and h is now scheduled to visit on August 29 to address a public meeting in Khammam. Political analysts have said the BJP, which was working aggressively with the target of capturing power in 2023, is facing an uphill task to bounce back.

With the BRS marching ahead and Congress also upbeat, the saffron party appears to be lagging at third place. Some pre-poll surveys have given BJP only 7-10 seats. In 2018, the BJP had bagged only one seat in 119-member Assembly. However, in the Lok Sabha elections held a few months later, the party delivered its best-ever performance by winning four seats.

Telangana BJP leaders hope that Shah’s visit later this month will infuse new enthusiasm in the saffron camp. The party is also planning a yatra from September to reach out to people and give momentum to the campaign. Political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy believes that a poor performance by the BJP in the upcoming Assembly elections will definitely hit its prospects in 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

He pointed out that the party could win four out of 17 Lok Sabha seats in the state last time due to the Modi wave but retaining them will not be easy this time, if the BJP fails to make a mark in Assembly polls. In the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP is likely to go to voters with the achievements of the Modi government during the last two terms and various welfare schemes implemented by it.

However, the party may find it difficult to counter the BRS, which has been targeting BJP for its discrimination towards Telangana and its failure to fulfill the assurances given to the state in 2014 at the time of bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. In Andhra Pradesh, there is hardly any political space for national parties. The political scene is dominated by ruling party YSR Congress and main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) with Jana Sena Party (JSP) of actor-politician Pawan Kalyan trying to emerge as the third force.

The BJP, like Congress, drew a blank in Assembly and Lok Sabha elections held simultaneously in 2019. There has been no change in the fortunes of the saffron party in the state during the last five years. Pawan Kalyan, an ally of the BJP, is trying to forge a grand alliance of TDP-JSP-BJP against the YSR Congress.

The saffron party remained unclear on reviving alliance with Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP. Even if the grand alliance materialises, the BJP will be a small player in the combine. Though the BJP last month appointed former union minister Daggubati Purandeswari as the new state president, analysts say this is not likely to yield any major gains for it on the ground.

Purandeswari is sister-in-law of Naidu and daughter of later TDP founder N.T. Rama Rao. Her appointment is seen as an attempt to woo the Kamma community. Kammas have been traditional supporters of the TDP and they are not likely to sail with the BJP.