Amit Shah's Telangana gameplan: BJP eyes a turnaround during 3-day visit

Topics Amit Shah

BJP president Amit Shah is scheduled to spend three days in Telangana 
Later this month, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah is scheduled to spend three days in Telangana in an effort to strengthen his party’s organisational structures in states where the party has traditionally been weak.

The BJP strategy in Telangana would be to “expose Muslim appeasement” by the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), and other major parties in the state, particularly the Communists and Congress. The BJP has opposed the Telangana government’s recent proposal to provide reservation in jobs to Muslims.

But unlike his April-end visit to West Bengal where the BJP chief spent a day with party’s booth level workers in Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s assembly constituency, Shah will not be visiting the constituency of Telangana Chief Minister and TRS founder K Chandrashekar Rao.

Instead, the BJP chief will visit areas that have traditionally been strongholds of the Communists, Congress and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, or AIMIM.

Last week, TRS announced that it will support the BJP candidate in the forthcoming presidential polls. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance is short of 18,000 electoral college votes, and hopes to bridge the gap with support from TRS, Andhra Pradesh’s YSR Congress and Tamil Nadu’s ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). As part of BJP's expansion drive, Shah was slated to visit Tamil Nadu from May 10 to 12, but the visit has now been postponed to after the presidential polls.

Shah will be in Telangana from May 22 to 24. He will spend a day with booth level workers in the Nalgonda district and also with booth level workers of Karwan assembly constituency in Hyderabad.

BJP strategists view Telangana as a state where the party can make inroads in the coming years. The BJP has an alliance with the Telugu Desam Party in the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, with the latter being the dominant party.

But in Telangana, BJP has ambitions to become the senior partner and contest most of the 17 Lok Sabha seats in 2019. But neither Nalgonda nor Hyderabad – the two places Shah will spend time with booth level workers – are TRS strongholds.

Nalgonda Lok Sabha seat has mostly exchanged hands between the Communist Party of India (CPI) and Congress. The CPI has won the seat seven times and the Congress six since the first Lok Sabha polls in 1952. During the Telangana movement of 1948 to 1950, the district was a CPI bastion. In Bengal, apart from Bengal CM's Bhowanipur seat, Shah had also spent a day in Naxalbari, the birthplace of the Naxalite movement. The political subtext of the choice of the two places being self-evident.

Similarly, Karwan assembly constituency is with the AIMIM. It falls in the Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat. AIMIM has won the seat successively since 1984 – from 1984 to 1999 by Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi and since 2004 by his son Asaduddin Owaisi.

In both Hyderabad Lok Sabha and Karwan assembly seats, BJP candidates had bagged over 30 per cent votes and were runners up in 2014. The BJP had also won the neighbouring Secunderabad Lok Sabha seat, represented by union labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya.

While presidential polls might have played a role in scheduling of the BJP chief’s Telangana itinerary, the long term plan of the party, according to a BJP strategist, remains to “expose the Muslims appeasement” by Communists, Congress and TRS.

The BJP has opposed the Telangana government’s proposal to provide reservation in jobs for Muslims. It has taken to liken KCR to Razakars, the ethnic militia of the Nizam of Hyderabad. The Razakars had committed atrocities on Hindus after the Nizam had declared his independence in 1948. After military action, the Nizam had surrendered and Hyderabad merged into the Union of India on 17 September.

The BJP plans to celebrate September 17 as ‘Hyderabad Liberation Day’. Last year, TRS had rejected union minister M Venkaiah Naidu’s suggestion to officially celebrate the day. TRS MP and KCR’s daughter K Kavitha had slammed BJP for playing divisive politics.

But BJP believes its nationalistic discourse will find support in Telanagna, and help it electorally in 2019.

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