Go with BJP or not: BRS’ Lok Sabha election conundrum in Telangana

Following the debacle in Assembly polls, BRS seems to be split into two groups - one pushing to ally with BJP and another opposing it.

BySouth First Desk

Published Feb 13, 2024 | 9:57 AMUpdated Feb 13, 2024 | 10:14 AM

Go with BJP or not: BRS’ Lok Sabha election conundrum in Telangana

Should he take a cue from HD Deve Gowda and Nitish Kumar, or follow in the footsteps of Mamata Banerjee and MK Stalin?

This is the question on Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) chief K Chandrashekhar Rao’s mind as a section of his party leaders push for an alliance with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Telangana.

Following the Telangana Assembly election debacle, the BRS seems to be split into two groups.

One group believes aligning with the BJP ahead of Lok Sabha elections is the way forward for the party’s survival. Another group is vehemently opposing the proposal, insisting that BRS would eventually lose its footing as BJP cannibalises it.

Also Read: Telangana govt sacks 7 advisors appointed by BRS

To BJP or not is the question

Caught between the two lobbies within his party, KCR is said to be in a fix over his next move. With several leaders of the BRS already quitting the party and looking to join Congress, KCR anticipates that the desertions will only increase if BRS underperforms in the Lok Sabha elections too.

Sources from the party suggest that both the factions within BRS are led by KCR’s family members. With KCR’s plans for a ‘third front’ permanently closing after Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar’s return to NDA, the BRS has only two options: Either join an alliance or go to Lok Sabha elections alone.

Joining the Opposition bloc – INDIA – is not an option for KCR considering that BRS is in direct conflict with the Congress in Telangana. Chief Minister A Revanth Reddy’s daily onslaught against KCR and BRS does little to shake off the differences and join forces — like the bitter rivals Left and Congress in Kerala.

Also Read: Revanth Reddy goes all out to delink Telangana movement from BRS

Why the push to join BJP?

A section of BRS leaders believe that the party will become collateral damage in the contest between Congress and BJP in the Lok Sabha elections.

Still revelling in its Assembly election win, Congress is hopeful of winning a dozen out of 17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana. The Congress had won only three Lok Sabha seats in 2019 and all three MPs, including Revanth Reddy, resigned to assume their positions in the current Telangana Cabinet.

The BJP did remarkably well in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Telangana. The party won four seats. The saffron party’s vote share int he Assembly election increased two-fold from the 2018 polls, triggering panic in the BRS camp.

The BRS, meanwhile, won nine Lok Sabha seats in 2019 and the AIMIM won one. The BRS now worries that it may won only three or four seats since its sitting MP had joined Congress.

A section within the BRS believes joining hands with the BJP ahead of Lok Sabha polls will help it consolidate its vote share and limit the Congress’s chances. Another reason for this section to push for an alliance is the promise of “immunity”.

Revanth Reddy has been continuously going after the BRS and KCR – politically as well as administratively. Keen on painting the BRS regime as the “most corrupt” , Reddy has unleashed action against officials accused in scams.

The  section pushing for alliance with BJP believes that backing the party now will help KCR get “immunity” from the Centre if BJP returns to power. In short, this section believes that the BJP can provide cushioning from Reddy’s onslaught in BRS’ home state.

KCR’s daughter and BRS MLC Kavitha is already on the radar of central agencies in the Delhi liquor policy case.

Also Read: KCR predicts a coalition government after 2024 Lok Sabha polls

Why the opposition to aligning with BJP

On the other hand, the section within BRS that is opposed to joining the BJP has warned KCR of irreparable consequences. For one, this section believes Muslims who voted for BRS, despite Congress’s attempts to woo them in the Assembly elections, will be desert the party forever.

KCR has enjoyed the support of various caste and community groups, including Muslims. This section in the BRS has warned against losing secular credentials of KCR and the party.

KCR has also been warned of the BJP’s cannibalising nature that eventually takes over vote share and uproots a regional party aligning with it. The opposition to the alliance also stems from the fact that the BRS is in direct contest with BJP in North Telangana regions.

In districts of North Telangana, where the Congress is weaker, the BRS’ primary electoral rival is BJP. Aligning with the BJP, this section fears, will cede space for the Congress to emerge as a strong alternative.

Also Read: Shaking off the winter chills, BRS is warming up to Lok Sabha polls 

What the BJP wants

Although its vote share rose substantially in the assembly elections, the BJP is still a marginal player in Telangana’s regional politics. Lok Sabha elections, however, are a different ballgame.

Union Minister Amit Shah during his recent visit to Telangana said the party was open to new allies and partners. The internal thinking in the BJP however seems to be to allow BRS to disintegrate further. A weakening BRS means a direct contest between the BJP and the Congress in the next election.

Going by electoral trend, the BJP is far more successful in taking on Congress than defeating regional parties. The fall of BRS means increased possibility of victory for BJP in Telangana. However, given that the BJP is looking to cross the 400-seat mark, the party is looking to bring on board as many parties as possible.

In a game of psychological battle ahead of Lok Sabha elections, the BJP wants to show that the NDA is growing stronger by the day while Opposition’s INDIA is becoming weaker.

Also Read: Fight will be with Congress, BRS now irrelevant, says Telangana BJP chief Kishan Reddy

KCR’s conundrum

Most regional parties in the country have picked their sides in the battle for Lok Sabha polls 2023 between NDA and INDIA. It is the three regional parties in two Telugu States of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh – BRS, TDP and YSRCP – that haven’t picked a side. Apart from the BJD in Odisha.

While the TDP and the YSRCP are lobbying to stay on the good books of the BJP – alliance or not – KCR has done little to sway either way. Unlike the TDP – that is keen on joining hands with the BJP, the BRS does not have a dedicated caste vote bank.

KCR hails from the Velama community, whose population is under two percent, and isn’t identified as a caste leader. Electoral fortunes of KCR and the BRS came from the Telangana statehood movement. It is the momentum and popularity gained during the agitation that entrusted BRS with power for a decade. During this period, KCR put in little effort to convert the agitation based supposed into a cadre based support.

The TDP on the other hand, whether in power or in opposition, focused on developing cadre, building the party and garnering support of caste groups. Despite being out of power, a dedicated vote base has remained loyal to N Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP. Same is the case with YSRCP and Jana Sena. Caste has been a common binding factor for the vote base.

The BRS, however, is now worried that the lack of a common binding factor among its voter base will lead to loss of support. It has no voter base of its own but is the beneficiary of KCR’s personal vote bank.

Sources from the BRS suggest that for now KCR has decided to wait and watch. The patriarch is likely to take a call post election on aligning the BRS with either blocs.