KCR’s BRS gets massive boost after Odisha leaders join en masse

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao’s national dream gets a shot in the arm; Bharat Rashtra Samithi to contest all 147 assembly seats in Odisha

Giridhar Gamang, KCR
Former Odisha CM Giridhar Gamang (centre) met Telangana Chief Minister and BRS President K Chandrashekhar Rao in Hyderabad on January 13. Gamang's son Shishir (left) was also present on the occasion. I File photo

With several leaders from Odisha joining the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), led by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao (CSR), the eastern state is abuzz with talks of a new entrant in the state’s political arena. Ahead of the 2024 Assembly elections, many more are likely to switch over to the BRS, giving a push to KCR’s national dream.

Last week, a few days after resigning from the BJP, veteran tribal leader and former Odisha CM Giridhar Gamang, his son Shishir, and wife and former MP Hema joined KCR’s outfit. Gamang is a nine-time MP from Koraput.

Former MPs Jayaram Pangi and Ramchandra Hansda, MLAs Naveen Nanda, Brundaban Majhi, Raghab Sethi, Debraj Seth, a section of leaders of Naba Nirman Krushak Sangathan (NKYS), Akshay Kumar and Seshadev Nanda, RTI activist Pradeep Pradhan as well as some others moved into the BRS fold in KCR’s presence at a special function held in Hyderabad recently.

Earlier, former Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee secretary Kailash Mukhi had joined the party. Incidentally, Shishir (47), who had unsuccessfully contested from the Gunupur assembly seat in 2019 — he secured over 11 percent votes and finished fourth — announced that the BRS will field candidates in all 147 assembly seats in the 2024 polls.


BJP’s lack of leadership in state

While Odisha’s political space is largely dominated by the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has emerged as the BJD’s principal opponent. However, the BJP lacks the grassroots strength and reach of the ruling BJD. Even after two decades, it has failed to project a leader who can match Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik’s image or popularity. In the Panchayat and urban body polls last year, the BJD comprehensively routed the saffron party.

Also read: KCR eyes non-BJP, non-Cong India; may be following Telangana model nationally

Both the BJD and the BJP have maintained that the exodus of leaders to BRS is not going to affect them. Commenting on Gamang’s joining the BRS, senior BJD leader and Puri MP Pinaki Misra reportedly said that the BRS has taken the leaders from them BJP. “Giridhar Gamang’s vote bank will be diverted to the BRS from the BJP. It will not have any impact on the BJD’s vote bank,” said Mishra.

Even the Congress is confident that the BRS presence will have no bearing on the party or its voters. “It (BRS) may win a few thousand votes here and there in some seats, nothing more than that,” senior Congress leader Suresh Kumar Routray told The Federal.

“Those who have gone to the BRS are rejected leaders; they can’t do much. Congress is slowly rising under the leadership of state President Sarat Patnaik. It will surely do much better in 2024,” added Routray.

Focus on Telugu-speaking population

It’s widely believed that the BRS is likely to focus on the 35 assembly and five Lok Sabha seats in southern Odisha, which has a sizable Telugu-speaking population.

Also read: KCR’s mega show of strength at Khammam rally; pitch to oust BJP in 2024

According to Odisha’s political observers, though the BRS has entered the state, it would be difficult for the party to achieve much success in 2024. Most of those politicians who have gone to the BRS were not much active in politics, and few of them have mass appeal. The rest of them, including activists and farmer leaders etc, has never contested a poll.

“The BRS may hope to put up a good fight, particularly, in the southern belt: Gajapati, Rayagada, Koraput, Nabarangpur or Kandhamal districts. Even there, winning a seat is not going to be that easy. In other parts of the state, it can’t do much,” senior journalist Bighneswar Sahu said.

In the past also, many political parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP), Trinamool Congress (TMC), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) tried to enter Odisha politics. However, none of these outfits could leave any lasting impression.

Incidentally, between 1995 and 2004, the JMM tasted success in a few assembly seats in tribal Mayurbhanj and Sundargarh districts bordering Jharkhand. The NCP had also won 4 Assembly seats in 2009 when it entered into an alliance with the BJD.