If you are staying outside of Telangana and your source of news is only the English media, I bet you would not know that the Telangana State BJP President, Shri Bandi Sanjay Kumar, has walked nearly 450 km over the past 36 days as part of his first phase of Praja Sangrama Yatra. And since it involves BJP, I bet you wouldn’t know about the overwhelming response the padayatra has received all along the 450 km route!
If you grew up in Hyderabad, you would have never imagined that a day will come where the BJP can conduct a meeting at Charminar and that the whole area will echo with ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ slogans! We are familiar with the grip that the Owaisi clan has on this area and therefore the symbolism of the party President enthusing his cadre from the unlikeliest of the places shows how serious the BJP is to fight strongly for the 2023 Telangana elections. If you see this video clip from day 1 of the padayatra, you would surely understand why it set the rightest possible tone for the next 35 days of the padayatra, or even perhaps the next 2 years of the BJP’s campaign in the state.
భారత్ మాతాకీ జై.. వందేమాతరం.. జైశ్రీరాం… అని బిజెపి కార్యకర్తలు నినదిస్తే ఆకాశం చిల్లులు పడాల్సిందే.. ఇవాళ యాత్ర ప్రారంభ సమయంలో కార్యకర్తల నినాదాలతో దద్దరిల్లిన భాగ్యలక్ష్మీ అమ్మవారి ఆలయ పరిసర ప్రాంతం.#PrajaSangramaYatra pic.twitter.com/HlyGDAkEjy— Bandi Sanjay Kumar (@bandisanjay_bjp) August 28, 2021
Bandi Sanjay’s preparation for his padayatra was also impressive. All along these 35 days, he has spoken about relevant problems the people of the particular area he is walking in, have faced. The issues touched were wide-ranging: MIM’s communal politics; the delay in joining Ayushman Bharat; the delay in housing for the poor; the procurement of various crops; the question of government jobs; irrigation projects; corruption; and the dynastic politics of the TRS.
Throughout these 35 days, various senior leaders of the party at the national level have joined this padayatra and enthused the party cadre further. Union cabinet minister Kishan Reddy flagged off the yatra. Union cabinet minister Smriti Irani addressed the closing rally on October 2nd. In between these two events, Union Home Minister, Shri Amit Shah addressed a massive rally on 17th September (the day Hyderabad was liberated from the Nizams and became a part of India).
The padayatra has ended on October 2nd, as planned, and the party will now get ready for the all-important Huzurabad assembly bye-election. Again, if you were following media outside of Telangana, I bet you would not know the importance of the Huzurabad assembly constituency bye-election coming up on October 30th.
The lowest electoral point in the political history of the TRS party was in the year 2009 when the party won only 10 seats in the Assembly. Eetala Rajender was appointed as the floor leader of the TRS legislature party, and this signifies the importance of Mr Rajender in the TRS scheme of things. He was the first finance minister of Telangana in the 2014-18 term and then Health minister in the 2nd term. The Chief Minister, KCR had a fallout with Rajender and removed him from the cabinet at the peak of the 2nd COVID wave (citing corruption in some land deal).
The fallout was not sudden and was brewing for quite some time, but the removal was quite sudden and the timing totally unexpected. The political scenario in the state heated up with such a senior leader of the party who held very crucial posts in the party and in the government being unceremoniously sent out. Eetala Rajendar then joined the BJP, which is increasingly being seen as the opposition party that is capable of taking upon the might of the KCR and TRS parties. He’s also quit his MLA seat, necessitating a by-election. It is in this context that Huzurabad has become the next crucial election for the BJP after the Dubbaka and GHMC elections.
Ever since the 2018 election, the electoral results have been fluctuating for and against the TRS, with some key blows proving that BJP is able to grow as a strong opposition. The 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the 2020 Dubbaka by-election and GHMC elections are prime examples of BJP’s growth. The 2021 MLC and 2020 local body election results are the prime examples of TRS’s hold in the state. The BJP won only 1 seat in the 2018 assembly elections. They now have 2 MLAs in the 119 member assembly. Eetala Rajendar’s victory in the Huzurabad election will only take it up to 3 but the significance it will have in strengthening and enthusing the BJP cadre cannot be measured by this small number.
The BJP is well placed to give a very tough fight to the KCR, but it is important to not celebrate too early or become arrogant because of a couple of victories. While examples galore are being given on how Karnataka BJP has grown from 2 MLAs to winning a majority, it must also be kept in mind how Bengal was lost in 2021 despite the all-around perception that BJP is winning. I am not sure of the exact reasons why Bengal was lost, but in Telangana, KCR is as formidable an opponent as Mamta Banerjee was in Bengal. KCR’s political instincts are equally sharp and to underestimate them would be a real big folly. The efforts for this fight have to consistently be as gruelling as the past 1 year.
Extreme care must be taken on the various aspects of messaging. Consistent reports on how the 4 MPs from the state are performing; how the 48 corporators who won recently in GHMC are performing – will help bolster a positive message of the performance. There mustn’t be excessive focus on things like “central government is giving everything” because that will eventually backfire in a state-level assembly election. Instead, the same message can be conveyed by citing examples of how KCR rejected central schemes but eventually joined those very schemes that have benefitted the citizens of Telangana.
Long term activities like this padayatra are the best way forward because after all in politics, there is no alternative to being amongst the people. The Congress party is in a self-destruct mode and that space is totally up for grabs. The dynastic rule of the TRS is a perfect platform for the BJP to build upon and highlight the various governance aspects – as long as the efforts are along these lines for the next 2 years, the BJP will only continue to grow.