After the Congress dealt a big blow to the BJP in neighbouring Karnataka, the dissidents in the ruling BRS in Telangana now appear to have an option.
Unlike in 2018, when there was no alternative, those feeling suffocated in the BRS are eyeing the Congress, whose prospects are perceived to have improved.
Then there is also the BJP, which has considerably improved its base in Telangana over the last four and a half years.
Much different from 2018
In 2018, the BJP was not a force to reckon with and the Congress could not hit back at the BRS under the continuous shelling by BRS supremo K Chandrashekar Rao for aligning with the integrationist Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
But the political mosaic has changed now. For starters, the BJP has come a long way since the 2018 Assembly elections.
After winning only one seat in the 119-member Assembly that year, it picked up four Lok Sabha seats the next year.
The saffron party followed it up with wins in two by-elections to the Assembly and improving its tally in the GHMC from four in 2016 to 48 in 2020.
After the Congress’ dramatic victory in Karnataka, the leaders in the BRS who may not get party tickets in the upcoming Telangana Assembly elections could now choose either the Congress or the BJP.
For most of them, the first preference is the Congress.
Appeals to rejoin Congress
Telangana’s Congress Legislature Party leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka recently appealed to those who earlier left the party to join the BRS and the BJP to return to it.
“Those who believe in the Congress’ philosophy are welcome to join the party,” he said.
Meanwhile, TPCC president A Revanth Reddy appealed to those who joined the BJP in the hopes of defeating the BRS to now return to the Congress as it was better placed to fight KCR in the wake of the change in people’s perception of the Congress.
Two prominent BRS leaders — former MP Ponguleti Srinivasa Reddy and former minister Jupalli Krishna Rao, who have been suspended from the party for anti-party activities — have more or less decided to join the Congress.
They are apparently determined to win not only their seats but also help their proteges log victories to exact revenge on KCR.
They remained, for some time, impaled on the horns of a dilemma, but have now decided to join the grand old party. It is only a matter of time before their entry is officially confirmed.
They seem to be waiting for the dates of top Congress leaders to take them into the party fold, as optics are very important in public life.
Waiting for the right time
It is not as though there are no rumblings in the BRS. But they have remained muted so far, as there was no other alternative till now.
They seem to have decided to wait for some more time to see how the situation pans out — whether they should stay put in the BRS though the habitat is suffocating, or take the leap of faith and join either the Congress or the BJP.
But the BRS is also equipped with the necessary mechanism to placate them if they are important or capable of inflicting damage to its image if they go out.
In Khammam, when the party was facing heat from Ponguleti Srinivas Reddy and former minister Thummala Nageswara Rao, the party’s trouble-shooter — Finance Minister T Harish Rao — swung into action and soothed the bruised ego of Nageswsara Rao.
But Srinivasa Reddy remained recalcitrant, which led to his suspension from the party.
The air is now thick with rumours that Nageswara Rao has been promised a ticket from the Palair Assembly seat in the district, though there is intense competition for it from within the BRS and and the Left parties, which are its allies.
Trouble with defected MLAs
The BRS is sure to face a lot of trouble in constituencies represented by the MLAs who defected to it from the Congress.
The problem exists in Paliar, as incumbent MLA K Parthasarathy Reddy joined the BRS after winning on a Congress ticket, defeating the BRS’ own nominee Thummala Nageswara Rao by a margin of more than 6,500 votes.
If the BRS does not allot the ticket, he might get upset. If he gets the ticket, Nageswara Rao would be angry.
In fact, as many as 12 Congress MLAs and two TDP legislators joined the BRS after the 2018 Assembly elections. Naturally, they expect the party to allot them tickets.
But the original BRS leaders who lost to them in the elections are finding it difficult to coexist with the defectors.
As days go by, the friction between the two groups of leaders is likely to grow.
The Congress nominees who won the elections in Maheswaram and Tandur but joined the BRS already have a problem with those who lost to them.
In Maheswaram, Education Minister Sabitha Indra Reddy has a running feud with T Krishna Reddy, who lost the election to her on a BRS ticket in 2018 and now sees her as a threat.
Similarly, incumbent Thandur MLA Pilot Rohith Reddy, who joined the BRS from the Congress after the election, is reportedly insisting on a ticket for him as former minister Patnam Mahender Reddy, who lost to him, has his eyes set on the seat.
The BRS leadership dismisses the possibility of electoral reverses in the Assembly elections as unfounded and far-fetched.
BRS working president KT Rama Rao recently said: “We are going to win 100 seats, hands down. There can be no doubt about it.”
It remains to be seen if he is riding a high horse or speaking the truth.