New Delhi: In the absence of a leader with mass appeal in Telangana, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fallen back on its tried-and-tested strategy to pit Prime Minister Narendra Modi against Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao in the southern state.
Telangana will go to the polls in December next year.
Modi’s interaction with BJP corporators from the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) in Delhi Tuesday was the first of many such initiatives the party has planned as part of this strategy, according to senior BJP functionaries.
A BJP central functionary told ThePrint that the PM taking time out from his hectic schedule for the meeting shows how connected he will be to Telangana and the attention the state will receive from the party and the central government.
He added, “The PM runs the entire country…that he took the initiative to interact with corporators — who are considered to be key ground-level workers in strengthening a party’s base — shows the commitment of the party and the government.”
A BJP state leader said that the idea behind Tuesday’s meeting was to highlight the PM’s “accessibility” in contrast with KCR’s “inaccessibility”. Modi wanted to convey the message that every worker in any position is significant to the party and that there is a need to connect with them, he said.
“That KCR is inaccessible is also highlighted by the fact that the PM is taking out time to meet corporators. This is something that we are going to take up with the voters,” he added.
Perceived as a minor player in the Telangana politics until recently, the BJP has made rapid strides in the past few years. In November 2020, it took political circles by surprise after defeating KCR’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in the Dubbaka Assembly bypoll.
That was followed by the BJP’s stunning performance in the GHMC poll a month later — the party upped its tally by 10 times to win 48 wards. The ruling TRS with 55 wards missed the halfway mark in the 150-ward corporation.
In November last year, the BJP won the Huzurabad Assembly bypoll in what was dubbed as a ‘grudge match’ given that its candidate was former TRS minister Eatala Rajender. The BJP candidate won the TRS fortress by a margin of over 23,000 votes.
KCR ‘wakes up’
The results seem to have rattled the TRS leadership as KCR, who previously wasn’t seen much in public, hit the streets to take on the BJP. He has been holding protests against the central government over the issue of paddy procurement. KCR has also intensified efforts to bring non-Congress opposition parties together to put up a joint front against the BJP at the national level.
Putting the focus sharply on Telangana, the BJP has rolled out various programmes to make its presence felt in the state. Right from scheduling the party’s national executive meeting at Hyderabad on 2-3 July, the central leaders, especially Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, are attending programmes associated with the state.
The BJP central functionary said, “PM Modi told the corporators, ‘If you perform well, it will help you move up the ladder as the BJP does not follow dynasty politics.’ He said the growth of individual workers is linked with the party’s growth. He also asked them to highlight the central government’s policies and programmes. He told the corporators that their performance would help the BJP in the state as well as Parliament, and hence, they should focus on winning their booth first — Mera Booth, Sabse Mazboot (‘My booth is the strongest’, a BJP campaign).”
The optics of the entire episode was hard to miss, another party leader said, adding that it would deliver a message to the people of Telangana that the PM was as connected with them as with any other state.
“In the meeting, the PM told the corporators that they shouldn’t just be the party’s political face but the social face too. He said people should reach out to them first when in need. He pointed out that people may have apprehensions about the BJP due to some reason; so, ‘once they get to know you, they will understand the party better too’,” added the leader.
One of the leaders who attended Tuesday’s meeting told ThePrint that Modi advised the group to focus on doing seva (service). Concurring with this, another leader said that the PM asserted that seva and jan seva (public service) could alone differentiate BJP corporators from others.
“He [Modi] said as the corporators are elected representatives, the focus and spotlight is always on them. They can serve as the party’s image builder through their work and service, and can become the accelerators for the BJP’s growth through their engagements,” he added.
(Edited by Tony Rai)