South still elusive, but BJP has impacted TS

KCR, PM Narendra Modi and Bandi Sanjay Kumar

KCR, PM Narendra Modi and Bandi Sanjay Kumar


This election the BJP is not just wishing to march towards the South but appears to be determined to move from North to South and leave no stone unturned to make its mark.

This election the BJP is not just wishing to march towards the South but appears to be determined to move from North to South and leave no stone unturned to make its mark.

The seriousness of the saffron party to make its mark in South was made clear when it decided to hold the party's National Executive in Hyderabad. This move was quickly followed by nominating four prominent faces, athlete P T Usha, the great composer and lyricist Ilaiyaraja, screenwriter of blockbuster movies like Bahubali K V Vijayendra Prasad and Dharmasthala temple chief Veerendra Heggade to Rajya Sabha.

If you look at selection of these four personalities, the intentions of the BJP becomes more clear. Heggade is from Karnataka where BJP is already in power. Vijayendra Prasad is from Telugu states where BJP wants to make inroads. The focus of course is more on Telangana than Andhra Pradesh. The BJP in Telangana aims to repeat what it had done to TDP in Andhra Pradesh.

The only difference is there it helped YSRCP to come to power but here it not only wants to improve its influence but also wants to come to power. That is why the party's top leaders repeatedly spoke about the need to increase its influence and outreach and had started implementing its programme accordingly.

The party knows that it has a long way to go as far as Kerala and Tamil Nadu are concerned before it becomes a key electoral player. Hence, it has started making some quick moves to change social and political equations in these two states. Usha hails from Kerala and Ilaiyaraja belongs to the Dalit community in Tamil Nadu.

The party however is going slow in Andhra Pradesh and has not made any serious efforts to emerge as a decisive player in that state. It perhaps wants to wait for some more time and steer clear of all hurdles like the election of the President of India, Vice President and also get greater clarity on whether or not the alliance with Jana Sena led by Pawan Kalyan will continue or not.

While the miscalculation by TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu resulted in the yellow party divorcing the saffron party, over enthusiasm or high ambition of Pawan Kalyan seems to have caused a breach of trust between the two parties. Pawan and his party wanted BJP to name him as the face of BJP and chief ministerial candidate.

This goes against the culture of the BJP. At the same time, the BJP is not in a position to act decisively at this stage in Andhra Pradesh as it does not have a powerful and effective leader who can catapult the party into a major political force.

In Telangana, we have seen how the party has surged after Bandi Sanjay became the state president. Till then, the TRS felt that there was no one who could challenge them. But ever since Bandi became the state president, the party got a new life and has placed itself in a powerful position challenging the ruling party. Andhra Pradesh also needs a leader who can give such a thrust to the party which has just less than one per cent vote share.

The very fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi repeatedly called the city of Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar and said that this is where the term "Ek Bharat" was coined by Sardar Patel indicates that the BJP wants to adopt region-specific policies. Even BJP top leaders like Ravi Shankar Prasad said that it was a significant move. He also said, "Sardar Patel kept the foundation of a unified India and now it's BJP's responsibility to carry it further." This means the region is being seen as key to the national party's next phase of expansion.

It appears that the renaming of Aurangabad and Osmanabad in Maharashtra to Sambhajinagar and Dharashiv, stoked interest in intensifying the name change campaign of Hyderabad.

The BJP had made its first move towards renaming Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar during last GHMC elections when the UP-Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath during a rally had said that they will rename Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar if voted to power. He said if Faizabad could be renamed as Ayodhya and Allahabad as Prayagraj why not Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar?

The TRS is also going high in criticising the BJP. On the issue of price rise, the party working president K T Rama Rao said the country was led by 'Dharendra Modi not Narendra Modi'. He made this comment following the steep hike in the rates of LPG gas and the cascading affect of hike in petrol diesel prices.

Referring to name change campaign, he questioned the saffron party, "Why don't you change Ahmedabad's name to Adanibad first? Who is this Jhumla Jeevi by the way? "

While this war of words would become shriller as the polls approach, BJP feels that it has several advantages to gain greater foothold in Telangana. Here there is no opposition to Hindi as a marker of national identity. Here people in addition to their mother tongue Telugu, speak Hindi and Urdu as well.

Another advantage it has is disoriented politics of other opposition parties in the state, mainly the Congress party. The Congress party continues to be riddled with internal differences despite having significant vote bank still intact in certain parts of the state. On the contrary, the BJP is increasing its organisational base at the grassroot level.

The new strategy of the BJP appears to be not to focus attention on criticising the government and the "family rule," directly but for the present focus on laying emphasis on the Hindu identity of the city and de-emphasise its Nizam heritage. That is why they have started talking more about the advantages of 'Double Engine Sarkar' and propose to take up 'Sneh Yatra' to bring about goodwill and harmony in society. All this is part of its outreach programme. This the Prime Minister feels is more relevant at a time when there is a lot of hate mongering and polarisation of society based on religion. As far as Telugu states are concerned the BJP need not worry much about divisiveness in society and need not grapple between exclusiveness and majoritarian ideology.

The BJP top leadership feels that the regional parties are facing very serious political and intellectual crisis which to a great extent is true. While Kerala is struggling with its policy of transformation, Congress and other parties are suffering from intellectual crisis and their rank and file are not showing proper enthusiasm to keep the party active in the political arena.

Hence, the saffron party is looking at Telangana as the gateway to make its mark in Tamil Nadu and Kerala and hence is gearing up with all its ammunition to emerge as a major force and if lady luck smiles on them to come to power.

It is certain that the party is determined to use all possible tactics to see that the going would not be so easy for the TRS. Though it may not be a decisive challenger in entire south for the present, it certainly has emerged as a challenger in Telangana.

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