Southern Lights | Telangana BJP running on Narendra Modi’s image and RSS’s low-key campaign on ground - Hindustan Times

Southern Lights | Telangana BJP running on Narendra Modi’s image and RSS’s low-key campaign on ground

May 10, 2024 08:00 AM IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Telangana 22 times in the last five years, announcing many schemes, including the much-anticipated National Turmeric Board

With just under a week for the two Telugu states to go to the polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has urged its cadre to ratchet up its campaign reinforcing the welfare schemes implemented by the government, and bolstering Prime Minister Modi’s image as a harbinger of development, two senior party leaders in Telangana confirmed to HT.

PM Narendra Modi being felicitated by BJP members during an election rally in Karimnagar district of Telangana on Wednesday. (ANI)(HT_PRINT) PREMIUM
PM Narendra Modi being felicitated by BJP members during an election rally in Karimnagar district of Telangana on Wednesday. (ANI)(HT_PRINT)

Towards this, the party cadre and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) volunteers have been given a standard pitch deck to step up the door-to-door campaign in the leg of campaigns ahead of the election on May 13.

With the Ayodhya Ram Mandir issue expected to polarise votes in northern Telangana, the party is counting on an affirmative narrative that could lend it the positive scaffolding it requires in the central and southern parts of the state.

“We are looking to win on a positive note and not rake up a negative sentiment as the Congress did in the 2023 assembly election. They won because of a negative sentiment the people of Telangana harboured against the ruling party, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS). We would like to cash in on the Modi wave seen only in Karnataka and Telangana,” a senior party spokesperson who asked not to be named, said.

Modi visited the state 22 times in the last five years, announcing many schemes, including the much-anticipated National Turmeric Board in TS’ Nizamabad district, which helps the state retain the record of being the country’s largest turmeric producer.

Help from TDP

With the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) now a member of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the BJP rank and file has reached out to the TDP leaders to run campaigns across Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. This is to intensify its outreach in southern Telangana which borders Andhra where the Congress is stronger, BJP leaders said.

During the 2023 election, much of the TDP manpower was utilised by the current chief minister and former TDP leader Revanth Reddy. With the TDP deciding to pull out of elections a few weeks before the polls the cadre felt abandoned without a cause. This situation was capitalised by Reddy who was responsible for building the party in Telangana after united Andhra Pradesh’s bifurcation in 2014. But with TDP returning to the NDA in 2024, the BJP quickly drafted in the TDP cadre.

“The campaign narrative in Telangana revolves around Modi’s clean image, stable leadership, and good governance, with the cultural narrative over the Ayodhya Ram Mandir construction. We’re actively telling the people about delivering on all promises from Article 370 to Triple Talaq and the Ram Janmabhoomi temple movement,” former BJP Telangana MLC N Ramchander Rao said.

“In Andhra Pradesh, it is about the Praja Manifesto and the shared vision of former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu and PM Narendra Modi for the state. We are leaving the brother and sister (YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and YS Sharmila) to fight it out between themselves,” Rao added.

Similarly, in Telangana, the BJP decided to let the Congress and the Bharat Rashtra Samithi fight between themselves, the party leaders said, not wanting to be drawn into defending any allegations made by either party.

NVSS Prabhakar, a former MLA, and party spokesperson, who rose from the RSS ranks said: “We have a better narrative than both the Congress and BRS. The BRS’ organisation setup has weakened and the Congress after forming the government is already a spent force facing many administrative challenges. So, we have alerted our cadre to make the most of this opportunity and canvas for a stable government with the PM as our leader.”

In the northern Telangana districts of Adilabad, Nizamabad, and Karimnagar, Pedapalli, where there is a greater concentration of minorities, particularly, Muslims, the BJP has told its cadres to engage in a low-profile campaign.

“Without contesting points from the Congress’ manifesto, we are speaking more about inclusive development and keeping the nation together instead of religious division and reservation,” a BJP Karyakarta who asked not to be named said.

According to the 2011 census, 12.7% of Telangana’s population is Muslim with the community mostly concentrated in Hyderabad and northern parts of the state.

Reinforcement through the RSS

While the BJP has teamed with the TDP to augment its campaign in Telangana, much of the support has also come from the RSS.

RSS, the idealogue of the BJP from where it draws its nationalist agenda, has been advancing its political prospects in the southern state since 2019 when the BJP broke ground winning four parliamentary seats in the general election. “After tasting success in the 2019 election, we set out to build and expand a loyal cadre base in Telangana because the formation of the state caused several workers to drift into the then Telangana Rashtra Samithi. We devised a four-pronged objective, the realisation of which we are seeing a benefit today,” Prabhakar said.

When Modi ascended to power with a higher majority in 2019 winning 303 out of 543 parliamentary seats, Bandi Sanjay, then MP and also BJP Telangana state president ensured the BJP was runner-up in the 2020 Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections.

The BJP won 48 seats, only seven behind the K Chandrashekar Rao-led TRS (now BRS) party which won 55 seats, and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) which won 44 seats. With this victory, the first of the four boxes was ticked. Next on the agenda was increasing the number of BJP workers at the panchayat and district levels by conducting membership drives.

In northern parts of Telangana, where there is a greater concentration of Muslims, the RSS workers were dispatched with a mission to enrol as many women into welfare schemes as possible. The PM Awas Yojana, the Ujjawala Scheme, and loans to self-help groups (SHGs) were the bestsellers for the BJP, BJP workers said.

Later, closer to the 2023 assembly elections, many BRS leaders joined the BJP.

“We were short of leaders for the 2019 election because we had to field 119 candidates. This was part of our plan because to win a higher number of seats in the state election, we did need prominent faces. With the end goal in mind, we gave tickets to leaders who switched from the Congress and the BRS,” A BJP party leader said on the condition of anonymity. The BJP won eight seats, its highest since the state’s formation in 2014, and with this, its fourth objective was also met.

The latest campaign conducted jointly by the RSS and the BJP doing the rounds in Telangana’s districts is “Hamare paas Modi hain. Aapke paas kaun hai?” which translates into, “We have Modi [as our PM candidate], whom do you have?” Undoubtedly, this is to make the most of the PM’s popularity in Telangana.

Deepika Amirapu is a freelance journalist based in Hyderabad. Each week, Southern Lights examines the big story from one of the five states of South India.


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