When Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited BJP corporators of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) to New Delhi for an informal meeting this month, he sent out two messages. The first was to show that the BJP is a party which gives importance to grassroots leaders and that these leaders have access to the top leadership, in sharp contrast to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) where Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao's official residence-cum-office is out of bounds for even his own ministers. The second was that the top leadership is serious about the 2023 Assembly elections in Telangana where it expects to mount a serious challenge to the TRS. After Karnataka and Puducherry, the BJP sees Telangana as the next best bet for its expansion in the south.
The party created history two years ago when it won as many as 48 seats (from just four in 2016) in the 150-member GHMC civic body. In the Assembly elections of 2018, Raja Singh from Goshamahal was the only BJP candidate to win a seat, but in the 2019 general elections, the party performed well. In Nizamabad, the BJP's D. Aravind defeated Mr. Rao's daughter Kavitha. In, Secunderabad, which is a BJP stronghold, Union Minister for Tourism, Culture and Northeast Development G. Kishan Reddy won. Bandi Sanjay Kumar, who was then official spokesperson of the party and is now BJP State president, won in Karimnagar. The party also won Adilabad unexpectedly. Later, it won won two Assembly bypolls — Dubbaka and Huzurabad — decisively by fielding M. Raghunandan Rao and Eatala Rajender, who were earlier with the TRS.
Since these victories, Mr. Kumar has been going hammer and tongs against the Rao regime, egged on by the top leadership. Mr. Kumar launched a Praja Sangrama Yatra (walkathon) over two phases to fight what the party terms "corruption and misgovernance of the TRS government". In the two phases of the yatra, BJP leaders have covered different districts. Union Home Minister Amit Shah, national BJP president J.P. Nadda and other senior leaders have participated in the yatra, using the opportunity to launch a no-holds-barred attack against the TRS government. Mr. Kumar has been playing the communal card, hitting out at the TRS-Majlis Party friendship. Prime Minister Narendra Modi too accused the regime for its "dynastic and corrupt" rule when he addressed partypersons at the Begumpet airport during a recent visit. He claimed that the people of Telangana are ready for political change and that the situation was ideal for the BJP to assume power in the next elections. Besides this, the party has also sent a former State BJP president and former MLA K. Laxman to the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh, indicating the importance it was giving to Telangana leaders.
The BJP will get another chance to project its strength in the State when the national executive meets in July in the first week in Hyderabad. Top leaders including Mr. Modi, Mr. Shah, the Chief Ministers of all the BJP-ruled States and senior leaders are expected to attend the meeting. This will be the first physical meeting of BJP's key decision-making body outside the national capital after a gap of five years.
It is clear that the BJP, having had pockets of influence till now in Telangana, expects to do better in the next elections and is taking various initiatives to achieve this. But this is no easy task considering that the Congress has a sizeable support base and the TRS is no pushover even if its popularity may have taken a few knocks in recent times. The challenge for the BJP is to build a grassroots cadre across the State and identify winning candidates to face the stiff challenge from the TRS and the Congress.
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