Hyderabad, May 16 : The series of electoral reverses in Telangana over last two months have dealt a huge blow to Bhrataiya Janata Party’s ambitious ‘Mission 2023’ which it had set out for itself after the victory in Dubbak Assembly by-election and impressive performance in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) polls late last year.
Despite wresting Dubbak seat from ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in November and subsequent huge gains in GHMC, the saffron party failed to keep the momentum going.
with the TRS bouncing back after poor performance in the two elections, BJP suffered back-to-back defeats in the elections to two graduates’ constituencies of Legislative Council, by-polls to Nagarjuna Sagar Assembly seat and more recently in the polls held for seven Urban Local Bodies (ULBs).
The BJP, which was projecting itself as the real alternative to TRS, is suddenly finding itself on a sticky ground with questions being raised on its capability to provide a viable alternative to the TRS.
In Legislative Council elections in March, it lost the only seat it was holding in the upper house of the state legislature to TRS. The saffron party’s Ramchander Rao failed to retain Mahbubnagar-Rangareddy-Hyderabad, losing to TRS candidate Vani Devi, daughter of former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao.
BJP’s performance was more disastrous in the other constituency. Its candidate Permender Reddy finished poor fourth in Nalgonda-Warangal-Khammam.
The stakes were high for both the TRS and the BJP as the two MLC constituencies were spread over 70 Assembly segments or more than half of the total Assembly seats.
The setback hit the BJP’s morale ahead of by-election to Nagarjuna Sagar Assembly seat. The ruling party comfortably retained the seat with its candidate Nomula Bhagat trouncing his nearest rival and senior Congress leader K. Jana Reddy.
Bhagat polled 89,804 votes while Congress secured 70,932 votes. BJP’s P. Ravi Kumar got only 7,676 votes and lost its deposit.
The humiliating defeat in the bypoll slammed brakes on BJP’s forward march.
The saffron party’s worries did not end with Nagarjuna Sagar verdict. A day after Assembly by-election results, State Election Commission declared the verdict of the polls held to seven Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) on April 30.
The TRS swept the polls to bag both Greater Warangal Municipal Corporation and Khammam Municipal Corporation and all five municipalities. TRS won 181 out of 248 wards in all seven ULBs. While Congress secured 29 wards, BJP finished third with 15 wards.
According to political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy, after the victory in Dubbak by-polls, BJP presumed people of Telangana were fast switching over to the saffron party. “They imagined that KCR will now find it difficult to win back the trust of people in the State. This hope of their further strengthened when BJP performed better than expected in the GHMC elections, where the voter was divided on religious grounds. However, the subsequent results in MLC elections, Nagarjuna Sagar by-polls, and elections to the seven Urban Local Bodies, suggest that BJP underestimated KCR/TRS. The Pink brigade not just bounced back in these recent elections, but also consolidated its position as the numero uno party in Telangana,” he said.
He believes that like in any other State or in any other times, there is discontentment among the people of Telangana over the mismatch between expectations and governance but this gap is probably not wide enough to assume KCR-era would end sometime soon.
“Additionally, BJP does not have a credible counter-argument to take on KCR. Depending on religious propaganda alone might not help the saffron party win in a State like Telangana,” he said.
The analyst is also of the view emerging political scenario in India’s youngest State is not in favour of BJP. “While, Modi is being questioned for poor performance to arrest Covid-19 pandemic; deep-rooted Congress is not a pushover in Telangana. And now, the possibility of Etela Rajendra starting a new political outfit will only divide anti-KCR vote further, helping TRS prospects in 2023 elections to the State Assembly.”
BJP has had mixed fortunes in Telangana since it became a separate state in 2014. The party had bagged five seats in Telangana in 2014 polls held before bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.
Despite all the efforts by BJP leadership to strengthen the party in Telangana, it bagged just one seat in 119-member Assembly in 2018 polls.
However, 2019 Lok Sabha polls came as a dramatic turn in the party’s fortunes in the state. The party put up its best ever performance to win four out of 17 Lok Sabha seats. It not only retained one seat but wrested three seats from TRS. In Nizamabad, BJP’s D. Arvind defeated K. Kavitha, daughter of Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao.
This performance raised new hopes among BJP of consolidating itself in the state. The party leadership started looking at Telangana as its second gateway in the south after Karnataka.
The saffron party started working for ‘Mission 2023’ to come to power in the state in the next elections.
Though TRS swept rural and urban local body polls held after Lok Sabha elections, the victory in Dubbak by-election gave a boost to the BJP. The party leadership suddenly started focusing on the state.
In a move to consolidate itself and build on the success in Dubak, BJP roped in its top leaders including union home minister Amit Shah and party national president J.P. Nadda for its campaign in GHMC polls.
The high-pitched campaign paid rich dividends as the party bagged 48 seats in 150-member GHMC. It was a huge jump in its strength from just four seats it won in 2016.
Though TRS retained power in GHMC, BJP succeeded in bringing down the ruling party’s tally from 99 to 56.
However, the saffron party could not keep the momentum going.