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Is the BJP growing as Telangana’s new Opposition?

 With a population of just over 3.5 crore people, Telangana became India’s 29th state in June 2014 following the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. As a progressive state, Telangana has been able to continue the legacy of growth and development albeit a few hiccups. 
 
 The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) which came to power soon after the formation of Telangana has successfully sealed its fate and popularity among voters. Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao not only portrayed himself as the state’s hero but also managed governance well. However, after the state witnessed a second election in 2018, the TRS began wavering when it came to the state’s development. 
 
Let’s take the recent Hyderabad floods as an example. Not only was there no visible help for the residents of the city, but the state administration or ministers were missing in action, except for KTR visiting all flood-hit areas. The kind of perception KTR’s visits created among people was also that of a father-son run-government. 
 
Additionally, at the same time when the TRS government introduced the Land Regularisation Scheme (LRS), the floods hit the state. It seemed more like an indication of how Hyderabad’s green zones are vanishing and served as a reminder of how illegal encroachments and loss of biodiversity put us in a dangerous situation.  
 
In such a situation, the state witnessed the Dubbaka by-election, after TRS MLA Solipeta Ramalingareddy passed away in August this year. So, the TRS chose to field his wife, Sujata as their candidate while the BJP deployed M. Raghunandan Rao, who has lost several times in Dubbaka itself. The Congress has chosen Ch Srinivasa Reddy, who left the TRS after the party denied him a ticket.  
 
What happened during the campaign was allegations of corruption and stacks of cash found in BJP candidate’s relatives house. The political atmosphere in the constituency was charged with allegations and counter-allegations between the BJP and the TRS where a lot of questions on the police raids too came up. 
 
Going by the political environment following trends in Dubbaka byelection, these three reasons could mark the rise of BJP as Telangana’s new Opposition:
 
  1. Congress’ weak strategies are an indication of how the BJP is gradually trying to occupy the position of the Opposition in Telangana. Despite Congress having firebrand leaders like Revanth Reddy, it is unable to provide a platform or utilise them. Meanwhile, others seem to be outdated leaders for the ever-changing political scenario in the state.
 
  1. Increasing bonhomie of KCR with his MIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi: With Hyderabad having a significant muslim population, KCR has always remained diplomatic about his comments on the community, keeping the Muslim voter base in mind. In fact, he has always managed to  appease them in one way or the other. But, going by the current political trends across the country where the BJP is trying to polarise votes based on religion, it could work in the saffron party’s favour in Telangana. 
 
  1. Growing importance of BJP leaders from South: Interestingly, the Modi government and BJP’s top brass not only made Kishan Reddy a Minister of State for Home, but also gave key positions to Southern (especially Telugu leaders) as south in-charges. This was a subtle indication to start with. Additionally, the party did not neglect its batch of new entrants like D.K. Aruna, Jithender Reddy, etc. This fine balance of its seniors, new entrants and cadre puts BJP in an advantageous position. 
 
Here’s why Telangana occupies a crucial place in BJP’s agenda: A growing anti-incumbency along with a pre-dominant Muslim population in the state is a fertile ground for the BJP to create political tussle and enter the state. An example of this is the how the BJP won four Lok Sabha seats in Telangana in Secunderabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar and Adilabad, which have a sizeable Muslim population and were the strongholds of TRS.  
 
In the December 2019 assembly elections, BJP won just one single seat in 119 seats in the state with a vote share of 7%. But, in April 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP won three MP seats with a vote share of nearly 20%. This increase in vote share in just four months was a clear indication of BJP’s growing influence in the state. 
 
What is surprising is that many predicted that Andhra Pradesh would see BJP’s presence before Telangana did. But, it is now clear that BJP is vying to be the opposition Telangana while Congress is falling back. Given that the Reddy community in the state seems to be faceless, leaders like Revanth Reddy could be of great help to the BJP if he joins the party. While he could be the BJP’s strong face in the state, a balanced leader like Kishan Reddy could be Telangana’s face at the central level. 
 
For now, going by the Dubbaka by-election and the growing ambitions of the BJP, it looks like BJP stands at a strong second position to the TRS in Telangana, with a growing vote share. 

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