Telangana Assembly: As BJP gets aggressive, TRS counters with its own political games
KCR as the chief minister and leader of the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) is countering the BJP on its own lines.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao may have fulfilled his poll promise of 12% reservation to the Muslim community in the state, a feat that could not be achieved by the erstwhile Congress government led by YS Rajashekhar Reddy, as the apex court stood in his way.
But what KCR, as the chief minister and leader of the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) is also doing is to counter the BJP on its lines. KCR is being more saffron than the original saffron party.
The TRS government has set up a Brahmin Corporation with a former IAS officer, now media advisor KV Ramanachari as its chairman. Chief Minister KCR had appointed an astrologer as a state advisor to make all government buildings Vaastu-compliant. KCR is perhaps the first CM to donate gold jewellery to gods and goddesses all over the erstwhile undivided Andhra Pradesh, including to temples in Vijayawada and Tirupati. Since the TRS took over, KCR has performed two
Since the TRS took over, KCR has performed two yajnas allegedly at a cost of Rs 7 crores to the state exchequer, although KCR claims he spent for these from his personal funds. When the official residence of the chief minister was remodelled, KCR made his spiritual guru Chinna Jeeyar sit in the CM’s chair at the ‘Gruha-Pravesham’ of his Begumpet camp office.
The TRS government has also declared Bonalu and Bathukamma, prominent Hindu festivals of Telangana as state festivals, granting Rs 1 crore for each district for official celebrations. Going a step ahead of the state BJP governments across the country, the TRS government has initiated special pensions for the Brahmin community as well.
The TRS is not just taking the BJP head-on on its own Hindu turf. Last week, the KCR government booked a case against BJP MLA Raja Singh for his provocative remark that anyone who opposed Ram Mandir would be beheaded.
A video clipping of Raja Singh’s pronouncement on the occasion of Sri Ram Shobha Yatra procession on Ram Navami on 05 April has gone viral on the social media. “If there is anybody who has the guts to say he would stop the construction of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, let him come forward. I challenge that I will behead him,” said the BJP MLA, who represents Goshamahal constituency in Hyderabad, in the clip.
“Just like YSR (YS Rajashekhar Reddy, former Congress CM), KCR is also segregating the weaker section of voters of Muslims and BCs and moving them away from the communal influence of the BJP,” said political analyst KVV Charya.
Countering the BJP
KCR’s policy appears to be that if you cannot join them, then fight them in more than equal measure. His Andhra Pradesh counterpart Chandrababu Naidu, leader of the ruling Telugu Desam Party is in alliance with the BJP. Thanks to this alliance, the BJP could muscle its way in 2016 with the Telugu Desam Party’s Chandrababu Naidu’s support to bag one Rajya Sabha seat for Suresh Prabhu (Union Railway Minister) and another MLC seat for Ram Madhav (erstwhile RSS spokesman ) in the state in exchange for several favours that the Centre bestowed on the TDP government.
But in Telangana, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, which also tried to woo the BJP, is now feeling the brunt of the lack of patronisation of the Centre. Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) had switched over to the NDA after the 2008 general elections, hoping that the UPA would be trounced. When that did not happen, he stood isolated thereafter but revved up the Telangana movement and also won BJP’s support in Parliament for a separate Telangana. After 2014, when the state was bifurcated and Telangana was born, KCR tried to join the NDA but backed off when he saw the clique of the Naidu duo - Chandrababu and Venkaiah – was against him.
KCR had also offered two cabinet berths to five members of the Telangana BJP in exchange for a Union Cabinet berth for his daughter and Nizamabad MP K Kavitha – all to no avail.
The BJP Gets Aggressive
Cashing in on the “Modi wave” in the last five Assembly polls in which the BJP bagged four seats, the saffron party has now focused on expanding its clout and base in the southern states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
The prevailing Hindu sentiment in both the states in addition to the “Modi wave” is considered a “win-win” scenario for the BJP in both the states.
The BJP has a strong footing in Telangana’s 31 districts. Secunderabad has been electing Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya for more than four terms to Parliament. Another doyen of the BJP who switched to the TRS later, the late Ale Narendra of Hyderabad's old city had been a top Kar Sevak who went to Ayodhya for demolishing the Babri mosque.
The BJP in undivided Andhra Pradesh had taken the lead in the provision of material and men for the Babri demolition act. Sources who were key to the 1992 operation said RSS and BJP cadres from AP had organised the supply line of materials - hammers, rods, vegetables and Atta - secretly from Kazipet by train and lorries. Nearly one lakh Ram bricks were also gathered and sent by special trucks to Ayodhya. “Nearly 25,000 Kar Sevaks had gone from AP with Hyderabad alone accounting for 2000 people and all the material supplies were for their needs,” said a source who is now a BJP leader but who was in the RSS at the time.
Hindu fundamentalism had taken strong roots in Telangana and particularly in Hyderabad in the wake of the repression of Razakars in Nizam’s kingdom in early 1942, when the Razakar brigade (a private militia) led by Qasim Rizvi, fought against the Arjya Samaj and RSS in support of then Nizam VII (Osman Ali Pasha). The Arya Samaj, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and also RSS had stood as protectors of the Hindu community against the onslaughts of the Razakar brigade which was promoted by the Nizam’s men.
Visitors to the old housing colony in Jam Bagh area of Koti in Hyderabad will see ‘wallpapers’ which remind residents of the number of Hindus – women and men killed in communal attacks all over the country. These ‘wallpapers’ were put up by Arya Samaj workers. “My grandfather was a fighter in the campaign against Razakars,” said BM Deshpande, a local teacher, whose old house has still retained one such ‘wallpaper’. While the armed movement of the Communist parties waged agrarian revolts in the jungles of rural Telangana in areas like Warangal and Khammam, the streets of Hyderabad still bear remnants of the struggle against Razakars at Sultan Bazar, Badi Chowdi and Karwan. RSS, Arya Samaj, Vishwa Hindu Parishad are still waging a struggle here against the MIM (Majlis e Ittehadul Muslimeen) and other Muslim fronts in the Old City.
In the past decade, the CPM and RSS have made significant inroads into the Old City area, causing concern to the MIM bosses. “Why is the CPM hand in glove with BJP and trying to split Muslim votes? Its battle should be against landlords and industrialists and not Muslims,” asked prominent MIM legislator Mumtaz Ahmed Khan after the Ram Navami incident in the Old City. During Ram Navami on April 05, the VHP and locals of Old City took out a Shoba Yatra of Ram in which the local MLA Raja Singh declared that he would behead anyone who opposed the Ram Mandir.
The Maharashtra Model
The BJP aims to pursue the Maharashtra Model in Telangana where it plans to contest all future polls separately without alliances with the TDP. Despite being in sync with the Shiv Sena for the last 25 years, BJP went on its own in the last municipal elections in Maharashtra.
In the 2014 Assembly elections, TRS won 63 seats, followed by Congress (21), TDP (15), AIMIM (7) and the BJP (5) in a house of 119 seats. BJP leaders blamed the alliance with TDP for losing at least another 15 seats. “We pleaded with national leaders but they pushed us into the lion’s mouth (TDP alliance) which devoured our votes,” said G Kishan Reddy, BJP floor leader in Telangana Assembly. But the Naidu combination of Chandrababu and Venkaiah is anticipated to prevail with regard to continuation of the alliance in 2019 as well.
BJP’s main aim is to break the vice-like grip of the MIM in Old City, which accounts for 13 of the 24 Assembly segments in Hyderabad. Other areas that the BJP is aggressively working on are Ranga Reddy and Medak districts in the vicinity of Hyderabad, which form the HMDA (Hyderabad Metro Development Authority) comprising of 12 municipalities and almost 2,000 sq kms radius. “In the battle against the MIM and TRS, the TDP is a major liability,” said the current Telangana BJP President K Lakshman.
In Andhra Pradesh, the BJP is unhappy over the negative campaign by alliance partners TDP, on the issue of special category status. TDP cadres say that the BJP leadership which assured 10 years of special category status (SCS) for divided AP has now backed down. “To hide its own lapses the TDP is holding us responsible for SCS though BJP has gone out of the way to give a special package which provided more incentives and funds,” said BJP's Andhra president Kambhampati Haribabu.
In Andhra Pradesh, BJP votes riding on the campaign of film star Pawan Kalyan had, in a big way, cut into the the BC and SC votes of rival YSR Congress, helping the TDP to come to power. “The difference between the popular votes of TDP and YSRC is less than four percent and but for the vote split (mostly the Kapu votes), the TDP would have been in great trouble,” reminded BJP spokesperson P Muralidhar Rao.
Analysts say that the party has a strong votebank from Kurnool to Chittoor in Rayalaseema and Nellore to Srikakulam in coastal Andhra. At the recent meeting of the BJP office bearers in March held at Tirupati, the BJP leadership expressed its concern over the AP CM’s move to induct his son Lokesh into the Cabinet and the negative campaign of TDP cadres against the BJP. Party insiders say that Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu silenced moves for a resolution condemning the TDP for blaming the party on SCS. “BJP had only put into action the decisions (though wrong) accepted by AP leadership on the eve of the bifurcation of state. Why are they crying hoarse now?” Venkaiah reportedly asked at the meeting.
The BJP is in an advantageous position as both the TRS and the TDP have continued to be unfriendly to the Congress and the YSRC respectively. Secondly, the Left parties have only been second best from the bottom, coming in lower than the Congress.
In both Telugu speaking states, the BJP has emerged as number three, up by several notches since the 2008 general elections. Electoral outcome has shown that the BJP had flourished in smaller states thanks to its three-pronged campaign by the RSS, VHP and BJP itself. “For example in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand, the BJP had succeeded in polarising Hindu votes (in this fashion),” said RH Vidyaranya, a veteran journalist of Hyderabad.
The BJP has built up a steady votebank among tribals but failed to bag the support of Dalits in view of the stiff competition by the Congress and the TDP. “BJP has succeeded in channelising the tribal but not Dalits in both Telangana and AP. The regional parties with their direct approach of welfare programs had been successful in capturing these votebanks even in the divided states,” said Ravi Kumar, political analyst.
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