Newsmaker: Kanna Laxminarayana appointed as Andhra Pradesh BJP chief

The appointment of Kanna Laxminarayana as the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP’s) Andhra Pradesh unit president was announced only a day after the Karnataka Assembly polls were over, amid intense lobbying for the post by senior party leaders in the state. 

Laxminarayana was on his way out after waiting patiently for a bigger role in the BJP ever since he joined the saffron party in October 2014.

The exit of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the resignation of Kambhampati Haribabu as BJP’s state unit president on April 17 had opened a window of opportunity for  Laxminarayana in his adopted party.

Occupied with the Karnataka elections, the BJP leadership chose the new BJP president in Andhra Pradesh at the very last hour, setting off some last minute drama within the party.

Not sure of his chances, Laxminarayana had already been making arrangements to join the YSR Congress after duly sending a resignation letter to BJP president Amit Shah on April 24. However, he was pressured to postpone the move before his cherished moment came at last.

A six-time MLA and minister in the cabinets of five Congress chief ministers of the undivided Andhra Pradesh between 1991 and 2014, Laxminarayana (62) has come a long way in politics.

Started off with student union politics at the Nagarjuna University, where he completed his Masters in commerce, Laxminarayana rapidly rose to senior positions in the Congress’ student and youth wings — NSUI and the Youth Congress — before getting a Congress ticket from the politically violent, faction-ridden Pedakurapadu assembly constituency in Guntur district when he was only 25 years old.

The departure from a set practice, besides lobbying by other aspirants, seemed weighed on the BJP central leadership as it had to choose a leader without a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) background to the post of the state president. That too, when there were leaders like Somu Veerraju, an RSS product, vying for the position.

Ram Madhav, an RSS man who is BJP’s in charge of AP affairs, was instrumental in Kanna’s ascent in the party. To strike a balance, the party leadership appointed Veerraju as the election management committee convener.

A set of attributes worked in Laxminarayana’s favour, according to political observers.

When many senior Congress leaders, including those who were ministers in the UPA-II government, abandoned the sinking Congress ship ahead of the 2014 elections in Guntur and elsewhere in Andhra in the light of state bifurcation, Laxminarayana stood the ground at the cost of his impending electoral defeat.

His ability and commitment in accomplishing a given political task even in adverse circumstances earned the trust of many Congress chief ministers, observers say. Also, he used to be the weapon of choice to counter the offensive of Chandrababu Naidu either in the government or in the opposition during verbal fights in the state legislative assembly. Several times he had accused the latter of hiring people to eliminate him.

Though the TDP used to condemn his accusations, the style and force of his criticism used to effectively silence the rival party.

Some of his leadership attributes could come in handy for the BJP, which is looking to effectively counter Naidu’s political attack on the party.

“Even though the Centre had granted many projects to AP, Naidu is wrongly accusing our party of betraying the people of Andhra. It was he who has not properly implemented those projects. I will tell the facts to people and also strive to secure more projects to the state from the Centre,” Laxminarayana told Business Standard.

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