With BJP surging in Telangana, expect party to intensify anti-KCR campaign, make use of lessons from Bengal

The BJP which lost four of its sitting MLAs and won only one seat in the recent Telangana Assembly election managed to win four out of seventeen Lok Sabha seats in the southern state. Countering the Muslim appeasement of KCR, Modi wave and the Congress giving up the campaign in these seats largely contributed to the saffron party's surge.

Not just the seats, the BJP has also significantly improved its votes tally from over 7 percent in the 2018 Assembly election to about 20 percent in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Though it is still far away from the Congress' around 30 percent vote share, the BJP won one seat more than the Congress, the principal opposition in the state. This gives a psychological advantage to the saffron brigade.

 With BJP surging in Telangana, expect party to intensify anti-KCR campaign, make use of lessons from Bengal

File image of K Chandrashekhar Rao and Narendra Modi. Twitter@TelanganaCMO

Telangana is one among the Mission-7 states listed out by BJP chief Amit Shah for expansion in states that have traditionally remained a difficult terrain for the party. Karnataka is the only state the Saffron brigade could penetrate south of the Vindhyas. Despite moving heaven and earth, the BJP failed to open its account in Kerala. Now, Telangana is considered as the Gate-2 of BJP into south India after Karnataka.

Telangana forms an ideal terrain for the BJP brand of politics. The state has over 12 percent Muslim population who are largely politically organised. The AIMIM led by Asaduddin Owaisi won seven MLA seats and the lone Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat capitalising on Muslim political consolidation. Successive governments had an undeclared understanding with the AIMIM for furthering their political interests. The Congress did so during its ten years of rule and the TRS does it now. The ruling party does not try to penetrate into AIMIM's impregnable stronghold in the state capital while the AIMIM helps in transferring Muslim votes to the ruling party. Such tacit understanding is a classic case of Muslim appeasement. KCR nominated a Muslim as the deputy chief minister in an apparent move to appease this minority vote. Besides, KCR has promised 12 percent reservation for Muslims. This forms the perfect political narrative for the saffron surge.

During the recent election campaign, both Narendra Modi and Amit Shah owed to 'liberate' the state from the clutches of AIMIM. The anti-AIMIM tirade was its poll narrative.

While calling BJP as a bunch of political Hindus, KCR described himself as true spiritual Hindu. He maintained this in most of his election rallies. But, in Karimnagar, he made derogatory reference to Hindus in a bid to counter BJP's Hindutva politics. It maybe a slip of the tongue or a calculated move to attract Muslim votes by presenting himself as strident anti-BJP force.

The TRS was facing the criticism that it has a tacit understanding with both the AIMIM and the BJP.

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The BJP cleverly exploited KCR's controversial remarks. The saffron party won the Karimnagar seat defeating veteran TRS leader B Vinod Kumar. The BJP won in Nizamabad, Adilabad, Karimnagar and Secunderabad, successfully countering the sizable Muslim votes by consolidation of Hindu. Thus, KCR has underestimated the Hindu backlash over his open embrace of AIMIM.

Reacting to the results, the BJP leadership called KCR anti-Hindu. The Muslim appeasement politics of KCR is to be the main political plank of BJP even in the coming days. The BJP successfully attempted a similar strategy in West Bengal and reaped spectacular successes.

Sources in state BJP told this author that the party would pick every such issue that helps it to effect a counter Hindu consolidation in the state. The lone BJP representative in Telangana state Assembly is known for making rabid communal pronouncements.

The BJP has also benefitted from demoralisation in the Congress camp. The Congress-led alliance was hoping to win the Assembly election in Telangana. But, the Congress led People's Front suffered an ignominious defeat under KCR-led TRS. The Congress leaders were in no mood to contest the Lok Sabha election. Thus, the BJP won in constituencies where the Congress nominees had almost fled the campaign trail. The absence of strong Congress nominees and the failure of the Congress party to run a determined campaign in Telangana helped the BJP consolidate the anti-TRS votes in its favour.

KCR's daughter K Kavitha also suffered defeat at the hands of BJP nominee D Aravind in the Nizamabad constituency, while TRS leader Vinod Kumar lost to BJP candidate Bandi Sanjay Kumar in Karimnagar, a seat once represented by KCR in the Lok Sahba. Kumar lost despite KCR declaring the TRS nominee as a possible Union minister if his proposed Federal front comes to power.

The Assembly elections of 2018 was a sort of referendum on KCR. The TRS benefitted handsomely in this situation as no opposition leader could come anyway nearer to KCR's popularity. But as feared by KCR, the poll narrative for Lok Sabha elections was not around him.

KCR tried to weave the electoral discourse around him and his party by mooting a non-Congress, non-BJP Federal Front. But, the electorate seem to have not bothered about such an idea as it was quite clear that TRS cannot play a decisive role in national politics. This has certainly helped the BJP at a time when Narendra Modi enjoyed popular support especially after the saffron leader embraced a muscular nationalism and Hindu consolidation as his poll narrative.

In fact, fearing such a polarisation around Narendra Modi, KCR had resorted to the controversial decision of premature dissolution of the state Assembly few months ahead of the Lok Sabha poll schedule. Proving the fears of KCR right, both the national parties, the BJP and the Congress together won seven out of the 17 seats while TRS bagged nine. The Congress narrowly lost one seat. Thus, with the TRS narrative for national elections remaining grossly inadequate, the party has to suffer electoral reverses close on the heels of Assembly elections.

Now with the NDA not in the need of any fresh allies, the BJP, enthused by significant wins would launch an aggressive anti-KCR campaign. Any complacency on the part of the Congress would give further ammunition to the BJP. The BJP has lured leaders from Congress even before the Lok Sabha elections. Now that the Congress revival project in the country remains a distant possibility, the saffron party may attempt many more defections from both TRS and the Congress with the latter group more vulnerable than before. The only solace is that the Congress too registered impressive wins when compared to the last Assembly elections.

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Updated Date: May 24, 2019 22:25:10 IST