Will the Lotus bloom in Telangana?

Will the Lotus bloom in Telangana?

The rank and file of BJP in Telangana is obviously exuberant over the visit of its national president. The party state leadership and the cadre alike are pinning their hopes on this master strategist to win fortunes for the party in Telangana. Amit Shah certainly scripted a marvelous victory for BJP in India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, both in 2014 and 2017. 

The rank and file of BJP in Telangana is obviously exuberant over the visit of its national president. The party state leadership and the cadre alike are pinning their hopes on this master strategist to win fortunes for the party in Telangana. Amit Shah certainly scripted a marvelous victory for BJP in India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, both in 2014 and 2017.

But, the BJP under the Modi-Shah duo failed miserably in Punjab, conceding the state to politically beleaguered Congress. Similar was the fate of the party under the same ‘invincible’ leadership earlier in Bihar and Delhi.

The study in contrast only reveals the unpleasant truth for the Telangana BJP that political fortunes in a state do not necessarily swing with the national mood. Leadership is critical for any party to succeed. But, it is erroneous to believe that a leader can repeat a phenomenal success on any political ground. The state BJP is desperate to invent a Yogi in Telangana.

But, the fact remains that even Yogi was not presented as the chief ministerial candidate of the party in Uttar Pradesh. Ignoring the state-specific political realities, imagining a political success just because a leader did something somewhere is simply a politically immature calculation.

The BJP is yet to define whether TRS is its political foe or friend. Notwithstanding Amit Shah’s latest attack on TRS, the Central BJP is clearly with the TRS-led state government.

The duplicity of BJP is clear from the fact that while the state BJP is very critical of the KCR government flagship scheme Mission Bhagiratha, the Prime Minister of India and BJP's brand Narendra Modi inaugurated the same scheme. One may claim it as government to government relationship. But, in an electoral democracy, the party and the government cannot demarcate beyond a point.

The contrast in central and state BJP understanding of TRS is not confusion but, a deliberate strategy. The BJP in an era of coalition politics cannot afford to antagonise a strong regional political force.

Precisely, this is the reason why the central BJP wants to sail with TDP in Andhra Pradesh and TRS in Telangana. Therefore, the state BJP’s attack on TRS lacks credibility. In fact, even the TRS finds comfort in BJP growth as it only divides the anti-incumbency vote. Any split in opposition vote will only benefit TRS. The TRS does not perceive BJP as its principal contender. Even the BJP believes TRS to be its post-poll ally.

It’s true, the new resurgent BJP under Modi-Shah leadership wants to hoist saffron flag in every state. Given an opportunity, the party would not even hesitate to dump its allies to realise this objective. But, the party cannot be oblivious to the ground realities. Therefore, the BJP and the TRS maintain a love and hate relationship which perhaps works out to their mutual advantage.

The BJP leadership wants to strike TRS but not to wound it at any cost as any injury inflicted on TRS will benefit Congress, its principal rival in national politics.

The orchestration of this strategy is much more visible in Andhra Pradesh. While keeping TDP in the NDA fold and sharing power with it both in the State and at the Centre, the BJP continues to send friendly signals to YSR Congress. The CBI which is suddenly very active on opposition politicians seems to be not showing a similar sense of urgency in regard to cases pending against YSR Congress leader. No central or state BJP leader makes any scathing attack on YSR Congress or its leader.

The unwritten and undeclared bonhomie between BJP and the YSR Congress is out in the open when the latter extended unconditional support to the NDA nominee in the Presidential elections. It is also again part of a grand political strategy not to antagonise any strong regional political force which could be a probable ally of the party in Delhi. Thus, the immediate political necessities of central BJP impede the long-term political fortunes of state BJP both in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Thus, the battle ground in Telangana is not similar to that of Uttar Pradesh or Bihar where the BJP has direct political stakes. The party especially its all India leadership does not suffer from any political illusion or strategy deficit to imagine a remarkable turnaround in its political fortunes in Telangana.

Yet, it continues o make noises to make its presence felt to strike a better bargain with TRS post-2019. No wonder if there is any such move even in the run-up to 2019 as both the BJP and the TRS find a common enemy in Congress and, therefore, a common cause.

The party has immensely benefited from the communal polarisation in Uttar Pradesh. The politics of minority baiting of the BJP yielded better electoral dividend than the politics of minority appeasement of so-called secular parties. The party may try the same formula to expand its footprint in Telangana.

How far the party would implement this strategy given the not-so-hostile regime at the helm of affairs in the state is something to keenly watch. The lacklustre campaign of BJP on the Muslim reservation policy of TRS government is a case in point. In fact, the BJP could have certainly benefited from campaign on this issue. But, the party response is lukewarm.

The state BJP suffers from many local specific political malaises. Unlike its Northern counter parts, the state BJP leadership is not habituated to virulent communal politics. You will not find UP type BJP leaders in Telangana state BJP.

There is an intense and open fight among the top leaders of BJP state unit. In the absence of a charismatic leader who can take the party along, the Telangana BJP finds it difficult to present itself as an alternative before Telangana electorate, that too when the ruling party is led by an iconic leader who led the movement for a separate statehood.

Not just at the State-level, the party lacks even the grassroots leadership. It could not even identify a single promising leader who can challenge the ruling political establishment in the 119 constituencies.

The party is, therefore, talking about Lok Sabha seats rather than fighting state Assembly elections. Forget about forging an alternative to TRS, the state BJP at best aims at handpicking a few Parliamentary constituencies and concentrate on them to make up for its possible loss of numbers in the North in 2019.

The weakness of BJP organisation is quite glaring when it is desperately hunting for turncoats to turn its fortunes. The party may perhaps attract few disgruntled leaders from other parties. But, such a strategy of overly depending on borrowed leaders will not infuse the confidence into a party that aspires to be the ruling party in the state.

Speculation is rife in the political circles that many of the BJP leaders are on good terms with the TRS leadership. Notwithstanding the veracity of such rumours, the fact remains that the party state leaders never seriously took on state government. Even Amit Shah is reportedly annoyed over this intransigence.

The BJP has already estranged TDP in Telangana. It has no other party to align with. The absence of favourable political arithmetic proved to be costlier for the BJP in Bihar. It is much truer in Telangana where it has no strength to come to power on its own. The political space is crowded with the Congress still remaining to be a force to reckon with, though it lost power in the new state despite authoring its formation.

Though, there is sporadic discontent, there are no signs of perceptible anti-incumbency in the state. The ruling TRS, especially its supremo and the Chief Minister, still enjoys considerable popularity. The ground is not fertile. There are no political clouds. The tiller is not ready.

Seeds have not yet been procured. Implements are not ready. Yet, the political farming. Unless the party undergoes a metamorphosis, the BJP’s lofty claims of emerging as an alternative to TRS do not inspire confidence.

After the Assam win, it talked about repeating Assam in Telangana. After UP victory, the party spoke of inventing Yogi. It should, instead, think of a home ground experiment rather than dreaming of implanting a successful political project.

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