Bandaru Dattatreya: The loneliness of a BJP MP in Telangana

Now, the septuagenarian four-time MP from Secunderabad faces the prospect of being dumped by the party in favour of a younger face

The lone BJP MP in Telangana, Bandaru Dattatreya, was dropped from the Union ministry during the cabinet expansion undertaken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2017. With that, the country’s youngest State is left with no representation in the Union Cabinet.

Now, the septuagenarian four-time MP from Secunderabad faces the prospect of being dumped by the party in favour of a younger face. He was the lone winner for the saffron party in Telangana in the 2014 elections.

This time around, the BJP central leadership is keen to field former state unit president G Kishan Reddy from this urban constituency where the party enjoys considerable support base.

“The party leadership is yet to take a decision. The picture will be clear in a day or two. I will abide by whatever decision the party takes,” Kishan Reddy, a long-time aspirant for an LS ticket, said.

The buzz in the party circles is that BJP president Amit Shah is keen on fielding a young leader from Secunderabad, a seat Dattatreya has been contesting since 1991.

He was elected to the Lok Sabha from here in 1991, 1998, 1999 and 2014 and had served in the Atal Bihari Valjpayee ministry, handling Railways and Housing and Urban Development portfolios during 1998-2004.

Connect with cadre

Known for his affable nature and ready connect with the cadre, Dattatreya was made the state BJP president in 1997. The party appointed him national vice-president in 2013.

After back-to-back defeats in 2004 and 2009, he bounced back with a massive victory in the 2014 elections with a margin of over 2.54 lakh votes and got inducted into the central cabinet, holding independent charge of Labour and Employment before being removed in September 2017. Though the party leadership wants him retire from active politics, the BJP’s drubbing in the December Assembly elections in Telangana, where it managed to win one seat in the 119-member House, has kindled hopes among the followers of the veteran leader.

On the other hand, Kishan Reddy was defeated in the Assembly polls from Amberpet constituency in the city by a slender margin of 1,016 votes.

The dropping of Dattatreya from the central cabinet had surprised many in the party because he had a hands-on approach to the people’s issues and was popular among the cadre. The only controversy surrounding him was when he was named in the charge-sheet related to the suicide of Rohit Vemula, a Dalit research scholar of the University of Hyderabad, in 2016. The BJP leader was later cleared of the charges.

In the changed political dynamics post-bifurcation, the BJP has been suffering a steady erosion of its support base in Telangana. In the 2014 elections, it had won five Assembly seats in alliance with the TDP. The tally has been reduced to one in the recent elections. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which has secured a second term with a resounding mandate, is likely to support the NDA if the BJP-led formation falls short of the required numbers.