BJP and Telugu States: Is Telangana a Fertile Ground & Andhra Pradesh a Damper?

In July the BJP plans to hold a big conclave in Hyderabad attended by national leaders including PM Narendra Modi.

BJP and Telugu States: Is Telangana a Fertile Ground & Andhra Pradesh a Damper?

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There’s hope and despair. This is how one can sum up the future of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

The question of the BJP’s growth prospects comes up for debate in the light of its two-day conclave scheduled in Hyderabad for 2 and 3 July. The party’s top guns, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, and BJP President JP Nadda, are expected to attend the event. The party’s current national executive meet, which is third in a series, seemingly holds out a promise for Telangana.


Hyderabad hosted the BJP national executive for the first time on 21 and 22 March 1994, soon after the general elections in 1991 held in the backdrop of the LK Advani’s Rath Yatra that sought to build a temple for Ram at the disputed site at Ayodhya. Later, the party’s second summit was held on 11 January in 2004 that paved the way for the Vajpaye-led NDA government to dissolve the 13th Lok Sabha and go for elections before term. The decision proved disastrous and the party went into a political wilderness for a decade after its rout in that election. The BJP saw a revival fortunes only after it went to the polls in 2014 under the leadership of Narendra Modi.


Does Telangana Offer Hope for BJP?

Telangana, as the country’s youngest southern state, is a part of the BJP’s “Mission-7.” The party in 2014 planned to storm to power in seven states such as Assam, West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Kerala. The mission came cropper in all these states, except for Assam.

Lok Sabha election in 2019 offered the BJP a mixed bag in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. In Telangana, the party sprang a surprise by winning four Lok Sabha seats with 20 percent vote share in that election and the win was attributed to Modi’s “magical wand.”

BJP National President Amit Shah at an election rally in Amangal, Telangana, Sunday, Dec 2, 2018.

The increase in vote share was substantial because in the 2018 Legislative Assembly election in Telangana, the BJP got only seven percent of the total votes and a single seat.

The win did give a jolt to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) with even MP Kavitha Kalvakuntla, daughter of Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, suffering a defeat at the hands of the BJP candidate Aravind Dharmapuri in Nizamabad. In the subsequent by-elections, the saffron party wrested Dubbaka and Huzurabad seats from the TRS and made inroads in the elections in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), warning the TRS of a political tilt in the state.


Communal Politics: Does TRS’ Alliance with AIMIM Help BJP?

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s carefully crafted image could have had an influence on Telangana voters too, the state seems to have become a fertile ground for saffron politics also because of the ruling TRS’ alliance with Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).

AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi is in alliance with the TRS

(Photo: The Quint)
The BJP has been painting the TRS, AIMIM, and Hyderabad’s princely rulers or Nizams with the same brush, to capture Hindu votes.

Owaisi’s proximity to the TRS offers scope for consolidation of the Hindu votes, says Raka Sudhakar, a right-wing ideologue. Raka told The Quint that the Hindus were subjected to atrocities as Hindu religious sentiments were deeply hurt by Razakars (private army of the Nizam of Hyderabad) during the rule of Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan.

It seems, the BJP too has been foregrounding the ‘hurt Hindu sentiment’ of Nizam’s times for religious polarisation and electoral mobilisation. Union Home Minister and BJP leader Amit Shah called KCR the “latest avatar of the Nizam” during his recent public gathering in Mahabubnagar.


Nizam Rule Invoked to Further BJP’s Growth in Telangana?

The BJP has also been asking the TRS government to celebrate ‘Telangana liberation day’ to mark the Indian Army’s siege of the state of Hyderabad from Nizam Osman Ali Khan. In Operation Polo of 1948, the army captured Hyderabad state from the Nizam, who was not willing to merge his land with the Indian Union.

As AIMIM has not been using the word ‘liberation,’ to mark Hyderabad’s merger with the Indian Union, its ally, the TRS, has also been careful not to. In Telangana, the Nizam-rule is largely considered a part of the state’s composite history.

KCR hints at floating national party with alternative agenda

However, Bandi Sanjay Kumar, soon after he became the Telangana BJP president, launched a marathon padyatra through parts of Telangana which were earlier ruled by the Nizam. Incidentally, Sanjay’s march was launched from Bhagyalakshmi temple, located just a stone’s throw from Charminar, an area that has traditionally been Owaisi’s bastion.

Prakash Reddy, the BJP’s Telangana spokesperson, referred to a three-pronged campaign strategy for the upcoming Assembly elections. The BJP will concentrate on the 'failures' of the KCR government in the last seven years, 'success story' of the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre, and the 'exit' of the Congress from the state’s political landscape.

Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) Telangana chief Bandi Sanjay Kumar.

(Photo: Twitter/@bandisanjay_bjp)

For the BJP, anti-incumbency against the TRS government coupled with KCR ‘losing his credibility,’ and the decline of the Congress as a principal challenger to the ruling government, indicate that the ground is very much fertile for the saffron party in Telangana.

However, the BJP has not been able to make its mark in the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. Or is the party’s silence by design?


In Andhra a Damp Show

Both the BJP and the Congress had lost favour in residual Andhra Pradesh after Telangana was formed in 2014. It was widely considered that AP got a raw deal in terms of resources during bifurcation. Both the BJP and the Congress had supported the formation of Telangana.

While the Congress lost all favour in the state, thanks to its decision to accede to Telangana formation, the BJP too failed to make a mark because its Central government did not award Special Category Status (SCS) to the state between 2014 and 2019.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.

(File Photo: The News Minute)

SCS offers tax concessions and also developmental support to states which are covered by it. In 2019, the BJP’s vote share was 0.7 percent, which was less than the votes polled under NOTA (None of the Above)

In Andhra Pradesh, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, whose father YS Rajashekhar Reddy was a Congress strongman, is currently in power. Reddy’s YSR Congress Party, which came to power with a thumping majority in 2019 Assembly elections, had poached Congress leaders and has been maintaining a soft stand on the BJP-led Union government’s policies. However, going by its poor performance in 2019 elections, the BJP is still groping in the dark in the state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Andhra Pradesh CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy


BJP spokesperson Kota Saikrishna put it lightly, “In Andhra, we are not in a hurry to come to power. We want the TDP (N Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party) to be finished first. Its exit will enable our party to get into the opposition space to challenge Jagan Mohan Reddy’s party over a period of time, ranging up to 2029.”

According to Saikrishna, the BJP has devised a long-term plan for consolidation of the Hindu votes in AP. To come to power, the party, in coordination with Viswa Hindu Parishad and other Sangh Parivar affiliates, has planned Shivaji Rajya Pattabhisheka Yatra. The yatra is expected to be an ambitious programme to take the story of Shivaji’s heroic battle against Mogul emperor Aurangzeb, to every nook and corner of the state.

“When Jagan Mohan Reddy, a Christian, came to power in 2019, our party expected his regime to trigger polarisation and we, in turn, expected to consolidate the Hindu vote out of it. But nothing of the sort happened”, another BJP leader from Andhra said, on the condition of anonymity.

YS Jagan Mohan Reddy during his election campaign rally in 2019.

(Photo: The Quint)

However, the fact remains that the growth of the BJP got stunted in Andhra Pradesh because the party remained under the shadow of former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party. The BJP was in alliance with the TDP which was a National Democratic Alliance partner till 2019.

While the BJP does have a plan for both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, it remains to be seen whether the party will succeed in its mission.

(Gali Nagaraja is a senior journalist who covers Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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