BJP’s “Mission South’:  Target Telugu states!

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(MS Shanker)

Having made deep political inroads into West Bengal in the East and Northeast in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, naturally the BJP will target both the Telugu speaking States of Telangana and  Andhra Pradesh and seize and exploit every opportunity that may unfold to spread and consolidate its sway over the voters by 2023.

The Congress Party and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) have been virtually decimated in both the States of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh what with the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and YSRCP scoring resounding victories. With the leadership of both parties almost virtually in disarray and the charisma of the “Dynasty” no longer holding sway over the Telugu people due to “bifurcation blues”, the political arena is wide open for the BJP to make inroads, promote, consolidate and advance its political base to emerge as the principle challenger to the regional parties.

Naturally, “social engineering’ will constitute the key strategy of the BJP – ways and means – to achieve its political end objective to promote, consolidate and advance its political weightage by 2023.  Admittedly, BJP’s core strategy will revolve and focus around two key fault lines: communal and caste domains.

In fact, K Chandrashekar Rao (popularly known as KCR), the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) Supremo and the Chief Minister, a ‘Velama” Satrap, is known for his minority appeasement politics. One, the TRS-AIMIM led by Owaisi alliance or political bondage is quite strong. Two, his Deputy Chief Minister is a Muslim, that is, Mohammad Mahmood Ali. More importantly, KCR had announced 12 per cent reservation for Muslims, declared “Urdu” as the 2nd official language in the State, spoke in favor illegal Rohingiya and Bangladeshi migrants and prevented the reservation for Tribal besides hosting lavish “Iftar” parties.

KCRs national ambitions – Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister and the Federal Front initiative – have taken a hit. Also, the news coverage making rounds about massive corruption deals in the “Kaleshwaram” project execution is making waves.  And, his ill conceived moves to demolish the existing Secretariat buildings and reconstructing a new complex in the same arena at a cost of Rs.500 crores and a new “Assembly and Council” building in the “historic Erramanjil Palace” area when the state is reeling under “Financial” crunch and drought are attracting public outrage.

In contrast, Y S Jaganmohan Reddy (Jagan), the YSRCP President and the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, focus on demolishing of unauthorized structures mostly belonging the TDP wealthy functionaries besides the former Chief Minister, Nara Chandrababu Naidu, residence and conference halls in Amarvati, is projected as political “Vendetta” politics to gain sympathy from people in the region.

Also, on the corruption front, the corruption charges like the phenomenal “sword of Damocles” hangs over his head if he continues to indulge in minority appeasement politics or seen bonding and moving alongside KCR on the so called “Federal Front” initiative. It is also well known fact that “Jagan” is a devout Christian with a large following of Christians and also has a strong base among the Muslim minority. In sum, any faulty step by “Jagan” offers opportunities to the BJP to occupy the political space lost by the Congress Party and the TDP

Reason behind BJP’s ambition to capture two Telugu states, is evident for everyone to see. A political vacuum exists with the exit of two powerful parties – the regional TDP and the  Congress Party.  Both these parties ruled the undivided Andhra Pradesh state for more than six decades.

Viewed in the above political framework, the BJP is bound to rally and polarize the “Hindus” on communal lines, but more importantly exploit the “caste” fault-lines to marginalize and neutralize the TRS and the YSRCP  in both Telugu states. If the BJP seizes the opportunity provided to them to embark on ‘Mission South Conquering’, the party is traversing on the right track.

Unlike in Andhra Pradesh, where the BJP has to work hard to build the party from the scratch as it has no strongholds, the task in neighboring Telangana state, offers scope. Though, the BJP has fared badly in the assembly polls that held in 2018, however, the Party has bounced back by winning four Lok Sabha seats of the 17, including the Secunderabad, from where Kishen Reddy won with handsome margin against the KCR’s cabinet colleague’s son. The BJP has already entrusted the job to Kishen Reddy, who was inducted into Modi’s cabinet as Minister of State for Home, deputy to all powerful party chief Amit Shah.

What may likely unfold in Telangana is a bitter contest by the BJP and the TRS to polarize the society both on communal and caste lines. After all, KCR, a Velama, which is a minority caste, is attempting to perpetuate his “Dynasty” what with his son, K T Rama Rao, anointed as the “President” of the TRS with a view to sideline K Harish Rao who has endearing leadership traits and key leader for the phenomenal rise of the TRS. Naturally, it has not gone down well within the “Velama” community.

More importantly, the “Reddy” community, which constitutes a sizable portion of the TRS and main strength of the Congress Party, are most likely to sail with the political winds that may blow over in days ahead.  None can rule out their possibility of abandoning the “sinking ship” and jump on onto the bandwagon of BJP in times ahead.

Most importantly, the OBCs constitute a major bloc and they too would keep their options wide open and may join the BJP in times ahead if KCR continues overtly with minority appeasement.

 

In  contrast, in the State of Andhra Pradesh, the three caste oriented communities are spread on sub regional basis: Reddy’s in sizeable numbers in Rayalaseema region besides Prakhasam and Guntur districts, the Khammas in Krishna, East and West Godavari districts and the Kapus in the northern belt.

Already the BJP has Kanna Laxminarayanam of the Kapu community as the state unit chief. He is now making all out efforts to reach out to another community member and yesteryear ‘mega star ’Chiranjeevi’, whose attempt failed to take off in 2004 and later joined the Congress.  As per local media news, ’Chiranjeevi, has been offered the party ‘face of CM’ to fight 2023 polls.

Also, the BJP has Bhuvaneswari, daughter of late NTR, as the BJP face in the Khamma community. Also, the BJP has roped in former chief minister Nadendla Bhaskara Rao of ‘Khamma’ community, though he doesn’t enjoy much credibility due to his infamous ‘co-pilot coup’in 1985, unseating NTR.

The prospects for revival of the TDP appear quite bleak as at present. “Let me be honest to you”, confesses a senior party functionary, who was one among those 22, who managed to withstand the YSR storm in the assembly polls. He says ‘the party’s revival is distant dream under fading as well aging Nara Chandrababu Naidu (he is already 71). Hence, our community members do have no other option but to look for ‘greener pastures’ and ‘safer havens’.

“In the prevailing political environs, there is no scope for the Congress, which is dead and gone. No strong leadership whatsoever, who can give some hope to revive.  And, you know that the YSRCP-led by Jaganmohan Reddy, is dominated by his own community members.  As far as ‘power star’ Pawan Kalyan is concerned, we have seen his party’s dismal performance in the polls.  Neither is he acceptable ‘charismatic’ leader like NTR, nor posse’s oratory skills. In that backdrop, we were left with only option, that’s BJP, which is emerging as most powerful party in the country.” Incidentally, he also belongs to the same Kamma community, which stood like a rock by TDP.

Seasoned journalist and political commentator like Kollu Anka Babu, who was close to the powers that be in the past and held senior positions in several vernacular dailies, too feels that the BJP has a fair chance, if it can do a proper social churning in the state to accomplish its dream to capture power in 2023.  According to him, the BJP leadership should meticulously strike a balance between the two economically powerful and influential communities – Kapus and Kammas – besides taking along with the minorities and other backward communities.

When asked about the TDP future under Naidu’s leadership and also the BJP prospects to occupy the vacant political space in the AP, he said he got reservations against the rightist BJP, which is known for ‘communal divide’.  “That party’s politics is dangerous to the very foundations of the Constitution and national interest.  I cannot digest its recent approach to expand its base in other parts of the country.  Pursuing worse than Congress policies and playing ruthless ‘games’ destroying the Constitutional bodies, he alleges Also dislodging democratically elected coalition partner governments.”  Hence, he wishes to reserve his views on what is going to happen in both Telugu states.

The BJP strategy in Telangana is ‘loud and clear.’  Even KCR and Jagan are well aware of it. They know that the BJP is too ambitious to occupy the space vacated by the  Congress and TDP.

Brig (retd) GB Reddi, who is a known political analyst, however feels it is too early to jump to any conclusions.  He reminds the famous saying ‘in politics even two days is too far and anything may happen in fast-paced political developments.  However, he agrees that the BJP has a fair chance to occupy the space vacated by the Congress and TDP in both Telugu states.  To strengthen his point, he also reminds that unfortunately both the Telugu state CMs are facing graft charges and the ruling BJP at the Centre will not miss that opportunity to embarrass them before 2023 polls and improve its prospects.

Another valid point he highlights is the ‘rejection of dynastic and appeasement’ policies pursued by parties in the recent polls across the country.  “Minorities appeasement is being stoutly rejected by the Indian electorate across the country.  And, it is no secret of how the YSRCP or TRS are known for their ‘pampering of minorities’.  Hence, the ‘graft’ and ‘appeasement’ politics pursued by these parties are bound to benefit the BJP’s poll prospects in 2023, unless something miracle happens!”

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