BJP plans a campaign blitz in Telangana. Not to win, but to keep the Congress at bay

BJP is worried a Congress win in Telangana, apart from MP and Chhattisgarh, may change perceptions ahead of 2024.

ByVasu Gandikota

Published Nov 04, 2023 | 2:36 PMUpdatedNov 04, 2023 | 2:36 PM

Telangana assembly polls

The BJP, which is as keen as the BRS to ensure that the latter remains in power for a third term, is expected to unleash a campaign blitzkrieg as the 30 November Telangana Assembly election draws close.

Apart from a host of senior leaders, its top campaigner, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is expected to address multiple rallies and step up the attack against the ruling BRS and its leader, Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, popularly referred to as KCR.

Also in the works is a plan under which Modi would announce the inclusion of two dozen more castes in the list of Backward Classes (BCs), and likely support the categorisation of Scheduled Castes (SCs) — a demand pending since decades.

The BJP’s worry is that if the Congress wins in Telangana — apart from Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, which the party is expected to wrest and retain, respectively — it may lead to a change of perception about the grand old party ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

For the BJP, the ideal outcome in Telangana would be a BRS win — especially if it is narrow enough that it requires the backing of the saffron party.

Also Read: PM Modi to take part in election campaign in Telangana

How will a campaign blitz help BRS?

If readers are wondering how a campaign blitz by the BJP would help the BRS, it comes from the belief that a better performance by the BJP would help split the anti-BRS vote sufficiently to prevent the Congress from having a real shot at power.

From a peak of 20-plus percentage vote share that it was expected to notch up six months ago, the BJP has seen a sudden slide in fortunes, so much so that its vote share has dropped to 10-12 percent, according to multiple surveys.

This has caused concern not only in the BJP, but also the BRS, which was sitting pretty in the hope that a split in Opposition votes would see it sail through comfortably.

The loss of momentum for the BJP began with the change of leadership at the state level a few months ago, when Karimnagar MP Bandi Sanjay Kumar, a combative critic of the BRS, was replaced by the more soft-spoken Union Minister G Kishan Reddy.

Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s daughter and BRS MLC K Kavita not being arrested in the Delhi liquor scam, as well as a perceived softness by BRS leaders in attacking the BJP also contributed to the party losing its edge as the one taking on the ruling dispension.

The KCR factor

“Being critical of each other was always in the interests of the BJP and the BRS. The Congress has succeeded in creating the impression in the minds of people that the BJP and BRS on the same page,” a senior BJP leader confided in a conversation with South First.

According to him, there exists clear anti-incumbency and a sense of fatigue with BRS rule, but it’s also a fact that there is shared prosperity in villages because of uninterrupted availability of water and power. Land values have gone up and there is less misery in villages, with KCR being seen as the benefactor for this.

Both the Congress and BJP camps believe that the former stands a greater chance of upsetting the BRS if the BJP’s vote share drops to 10 percent or below. On the other hand, if an aggressive, last-minute campaign by the BJP helps it gain a better vote share (around 15), it will be easy going for KCR.

If the desertion by BJP leaders to the Congress in recent weeks, and the reluctance of its own leaders to contest the Assembly elections is any indication, the chances of BJP’s graph rising from the current level are remote.

Also Read: BJP says KCR must take responsibility for Medigadda Barrage

Can the strategy backfire?

What if the BJP’s strident attack on BRS turns out to be counter-productive?

Take, for instance, the sinking of Medigadda barrage piers. Soon after the National Dam Safety Authority came out with its finding on Friday, 3 November, that the barrage, on which thousands of crores have been spent, is “useless”, the BJP sharpened its attack.

From Union Minister for Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat to state BJP leaders, there was a concerted attack on how the report “exposed” the corruption indulged in by KCR in building projects.

What if the people believe in what the BJP leaders are saying and decide to go against KCR, but vote for the Congress instead of the saffron party because, realistically, the grand old party alone has the chance to dislodge BRS?

The BJP leader that South First spoke to pointed out that while there is visible anti-incumbency and a mood for change, there is still no evidence of a tsunami of anger against KCR.

“As long as the election is between Congress and KCR, the latter will have the edge. But if turns out to be people vs KCR, he will be in trouble. The next 10 days will indicate which way the mood is swinging,” he said.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi at Medigadda sparks a Cong-BRS slugfest