The BJP’s win in the Assembly elections in four out of five states is not only likely to hit Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s plans to forge an anti-BJP front at the national level, but may also impact the TRS’ strategy to score a hat-trick in the state, where polls are due next year.
BJP retaining power in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Goa and wresting Manipur from the Congress, has come as a shot in the arm for the saffron party in Telangana as it is likely to go aggressive in taking on KCR, as the Chief Minister and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) president is popularly known.
Political observers believe that the results may force TRS chief to redraw his plans to bring together regional parties on a common platform to evolve a national alternative.
When the elections were on in Uttar Pradesh and other states, KCR was busy visiting different places in the country to meet leaders and discuss his ideas of an alternative in national politics. Determined to play a key role in the efforts to cobble together a new formation, he visited Mumbai and met Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar.
KCR also visited Delhi, where he met BJP MP Subramanian Swamy and farmers’ leader Rakesh Singh Tikait. He also went to Ranchi and held talks with his Jharkhand counterpart Hemant Soren.
Though poll results are being seen as a setback to KCR’s renewed attempt to forge an alternative front, the leaders of TRS do not agree with this view.
They claim that the poll results were not unexpected for them. One of the TRS leaders recalled that KCR himself had predicted BJP win in Uttar Pradesh though with a lesser majority.
Responding to a query at a news conference on February 1, KCR did not agree that the Assembly elections in five states are semifinal before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. He pointed out only two of these states (Uttar Pradesh and Punjab) were large states.
“The kind of shameless tactics they (BJP) use, they may win the polls again in UP but public support will definitely come down. They will grow more arrogant and commit more mistakes which will be good for the country as this will be the beginning of their defeat in 2024,” KCR had said.
At another news conference a few days later, KCR had hinted at a major shift in his stance towards Congress. He had called for all forces to unite to throw out BJP saying its continuation in power will ruin the country.
With Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) storming to power in Punjab and Arvind Kejriwal emerging as a key leader at national level, political analysts say KCR may have to redraw his strategy for a national front.
“Regional leaders from states with more seats in the Parliament would like to have more prominence in a possible coalition. Considering this, KCR, using his age and experience should think of playing the role of a convenor and ensure leaders of all ages and all regions come together. In the process, KCR might have to work with other Chief Ministers like Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal,” said political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.
The analyst believes that results of elections in five states have created an opportunity for regional political parties to drive the national agenda. The Congress has been relegated further and this will give more space for the regional parties to take the lead.
Buoyed by the victory in UP and other states, BJP in Telangana is gearing up to go aggressive against KCR. Party president Bandi Sanjay has already exuded confidence of winning 80 seats in 119-member Telangana Assembly.
BJP, which won four Lok Sabha seats in 2019 elections, is already upbeat over the victory in by-elections to two Assembly seats, the latest being the win in Huzurabad where former minister Eatala Rajender was elected on the saffron party ticket after he was dropped from state cabinet by KCR on allegations of land encroachment.
The BJP’s earlier win was in Dubbak Assembly constituency in 2020. This was followed by the party’s impressive show in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections as it improved its tally in the 150-member body to 48 from just four earlier.
Ever since these victories, BJP has been projecting itself as the only viable alternative to TRS.
The Congress party, which was the main opposition party till the 2018 Assembly elections, has suffered another big setback with the result of elections in five states.
In the 2018 elections held a few months before they were originally scheduled, TRS had retained power by winning 88 seats. Congress came second with 19 seats while AIMIM bagged seven seats. BJP could win just one seat. Congress was runners-up in the majority of the constituencies. BJP finished second in just nine seats and in most of the seats its candidates forfeited the deposit.
However, BJP sprang a surprise in Lok Sabha elections held a few months later. The party not only retained Secunderabad but also wrested three other seats from TRS — Karimnagar, Nizamabad and Adilabad.
The war of words between TRS and BJP leaders for the last couple of months is also likely to intensify now. KCR has been launching bitter attacks on BJP. TRS leaders have been trying to highlight what they call betrayal of Telangana by BJP by going back on its commitments made to the state in Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act.
The TRS leaders are losing no opportunity to target BJP over its failure to help Telangana in the last eight years.
Political analyst Telakapalli Ravi believes that the poll results in four out of five states will certainly enthuse BJP ranks in Telangana and may tilt a small percentage of fence sitters. He, however, is of the view that this can’t be exaggerated.
“Now that KCR is indisposed, TRS may take a few days more to chalk out the next step. But TRS can’t go soft on aggressive BJP leadership, more so after these results. The political battle in the state may sharpen, pending national moves,” he said.