Raja Singh: The controversial leader who has put Telangana BJP in a conundrum

The tension in Hyderabad eased after Raja Singh's arrest, but it has created a conundrum for BJP in Telangana.

BySumit Jha

Published Aug 26, 2022 | 7:08 PMUpdatedAug 26, 2022 | 9:01 PM

Raja Singh

It was business as usual on the streets of the Dhoolpet and Mangalhat areas of Hyderabad on Friday, 26 August, as makers of Ganesha idols continued to ply their trade after peaceful Friday prayers. The idol-makers were sceptical a day before, as there was high tension in the Old City after MLA T Raja Singh was arrested for the second time this week.

“There were barricades at Puranapul and Mangalhat, because of which we were not able to send the idols outside the area. Those barricades have been removed now, and people have started coming to buy idols,” Dhoolpet idol-maker Parmesh Singh told South First.

The tension in Hyderabad eased after Raja Singh’s arrest under the PD Act, but it also created a conundrum for the BJP in Telangana.

Dhoolpet and Mangalhat fall under the Goshamahal constituency, from where Raja Singh is MLA. He was suspended by the BJP on 23 August after he made derogatory remarks. Currently, he is lodged at Charalapalli jail.

Raja puts BJP in a fix

The BJP was quick to disassociate itself from Raja Singh’s comments, which were similar to those by former party spokesperson Nupur Sharma.

BJP spokesperson NV Subhash told South First that the party did not endorse Raja Singh’s comments, and that they were his personal opinion.

However, for people in his constituency, Raja Singh is still their leader irrespective of what he said and even after being suspended from the party.

“Yes, we are facing difficulties after his comment. He has not taken anyone’s god name in the video. It’s the conspiracy of the TRS and the AIMIM,” said Parmesh Singh.

“He comes from the Lodh Kshatriya community, and we as Lodh Kshatriyas are standing with him, even if the BJP doesn’t. Raja Singh sher hai, aur sher apna rasta dhundh leta hai (Raja Singh is a tiger, and tigers forge their own path),” he added.

Raja over BJP?

Meanwhile, Goshamahal residents are also coming down hard on the BJP for not standing with their MLA at a time when he may have to be in jail for a year.

“Eventually, people will have to come to this area to get idols. We will manage. But him (Raja Singh) not celebrating the Ganesh Puja this year in the city is disheartening,” Bahadur Singh, who sells small Ganesha Idols in Dhoolpet, told South First.

“More than that, he was the lone MLA fighting the TRS and the AIMIM in the Legislative Assembly. He saved the BJP’s face, but now the party is distancing itself from Raja Singh. It shows the party’s arrogance. They care more about votes than the dharm yudh Raja Singh stands for,” he added.

In 2018, T Raja Singh was the lone BJP member in the Assembly. BJP heavyweights like K Laxman and G Kishan Reddy lost the elections.

Meanwhile, many of the followers of Hindutva also feel that the BJP has let him down.

Why is Telangana BJP not backing Raja Singh?

First, Raja Singh made a comment against Prophet Muhammad at time when the BJP was trying to leave former party spokesperson Nupur Sharma, who had made similar comments, in the rearview mirror.

The adverse impact of Sharma’s comments were so bad that India had to defend itself in front of 21 countries. The party doesn’t want a similar incident to reoccur.

Second, the party has started to make inroads into Telangana. It has managed to come across the issue of the liquor scam, in which Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s daughter K Kavitha’s name has allegedly popped up.

The BJP was happy to play politics on this issue, but then Raja Singh was arrested for the comments, and that became the hot-button issue.

Third, Amit Shah visited the state on 21 August. Former Telangana Congress MLA Rajagopal Reddy joined the BJP in his presence.

The party was looking forward to that being news for at least a week. However, the very next day Raja Singh made the comment against the Prophet, and the spotlight shone on him instead.

Fourth, BJP state president Bandi Sanjay Kumar, who is on the third phase of his Praja Sangrama Yatra, was also arrested on 23 August, the day Raja Singh was first arrested. The party wanted to highlight this issue, but Raja Singh got more attention.

Fifth is the caste. Raja Singh comes from the Lodh Kshatriya caste, which has a presence only in Hyderabad.

A year before the Assembly election, the state — which has an OBC population of above 50 percent — will see this community’s vote bank targeted by political parties.

Bandi Sanjay is a Munnuru Kapu, which comes under the OBC category and has a huge population in different districts in the state.

Raja Singh getting more attention than Bandi Sanjay doesn’t suit the BJP’s arithmetic election.

Raja Singh and his relationship with BJP

Raja Singh, a staunch Hindutva leader, comes from a Hindu Vahini background but joined BJP after leaving the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), of which former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu is the leader. He won the Assembly election in 2014 on a BJP ticket.

“At the beginning of his career, when he wanted to contest the municipal election, the BJP did not give him a ticket even though he was close to the BJP’s ideology. At that time, he got a ticket from the TDP and won as a corporator from the Goshamahal area,” a childhood friend of Raja Singh who worked with him in the Hindu Vahini told South First on condition of anonymity.

For BJP, he has always been always an outsider. He can speak well in Hindi, which is good for the people in his constituency, but he is not as fluent in Telugu, which does not make him a suitable candidate elsewhere in Telangana.

For example, during the 2020 Huzurabad bypoll, when TRS turncoat Eatala Rajender was contesting against his former ticket on a BJP ticket, he was not listed as a star campaigner though being one of only two BJP MLAs in the state at that time.

Also, Raja Singh doesn’t share a cordial relationship with other party leaders and project have an image of inclusivity.

Union Culture Minister and Secunderabad MP G Kishan Reddy, also an RSS man, was the MLA from Amberpet in the old city before 2018. He used to have a good relationship with Muslim community in his constituency when he was an MLA, while Raja Singh shares no such equation.

“I have not seen the video, so I cannot comment now,” Reddy told reporters on 23 August when asked about his views on Raja Singh and his comments.