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KCR said the NDA government is “fomenting trouble among people in different ways, ignoring the nation’s development” | File photo

Strong buzz: BRS, BJP strike deal in Telangana ahead of polls

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Signs of climate change in Telangana politics are clearly visible. The four-year-old war of words between the ruling BRS and BJP is subdued. The Congress has gained a perceptional advantage that the 2023 Assembly election will be a straight contest between it and the BRS.

For some time, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) has not been targeting the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his characteristic vitriolic language. His daughter Kavita, an alleged beneficiary of the Delhi excise scam, is no longer receiving uncomfortable summons from the Enforcement Directorate (ED). And Telangana BJP chief Bandi Sanjay Kumar, a bitter critic of KCR and his family’s alleged corruption, has been silenced by a media leak that the BJP high command contemplated his removal.

Also read: Don’t entertain Congress Party: CM KCR tells people of Telangana

No great political analysis is necessary to infer that these three developments are not unrelated. Till Bandi Sanjay, MP from Karimnagar, was appointed the state BJP chief in March 2020, KCR enjoyed monopoly over using a language that demeans his critics. Bandi, who has enough command over offensive language, started paying in the same coin.

His particular target was KCR and his family. This led to an unprecedented bitter war of words between Bandi and BRS that helped the saffron party gain some visibility. The hostility is now a thing of the past. Bandi, of late, finds himself busy dispelling media reports that he was being replaced.

KCR’s earlier tirade

As for Kavita, the ED had created such a hype that she herself feared arrest in the liquor scam. Chief minister KCR also told a party meeting in March that his daughter Kavitha might be arrested in a day or two. “We will not be intimidated by summons and arrests. We will continue the fight against the BJP until it is ousted out of the Centre,” he reportedly told the party leaders. But the much-feared ED notices and arrest have not happened.

Now the talk of the town is that BRS and BJP have struck a deal.

According to reports, though the negotiations had begun much before the Karnataka assembly elections, the drubbing the BJP received in Karnataka elections has hastened the sealing of the deal. Accordingly, the reports say, Kavita will not be arrested and there will be no mutual slanderous campaign. BRS will target the Congress in the state. KCR’s recent attacks on Congress in Nirmal and Nagarkurnool meetings where he avoided attacking the BJP is a testimony to the shift of focus.

While Karnataka results have robbed the party of its slogans like double-engine government, the alleged deal between BRS and BJP has undone whatever the latter had achieved after some surprising electoral victories. Now, even senior leaders of the party suspect a deal which they say will be suicidal.

Also read: BRS U-turn? Blind hatred against one party can’t unite Oppn, says KTR

Talking to the media in Delhi, former MP and BJP leader Konda Visweswar Reddy said people believed that a deal had been struck between KCR and BJP, and this was the reason behind ED’s failure to arrest KCR’s daughter.

“BJP is pursuing a policy of ‘Delhi mein dosti gali mein kusti’ which will undermine the party at a time when it is perceived as the real challenger to KCR. The BJP high command has put the brakes on BJP’s effective campaign against KCR and his family’s corruption,” Reddy said.

BJP morale

The Karnataka results followed by the news of alleged deal between BRS and BJP has dampened the morale of all KCR critics who joined the BJP recently.

Now, two important leaders, Ponguleti Srinivasulu Reddy, a former MP, and Jupalli Krishnarao, a former minister, who were to join the BJP, are in talks with the Congress.

BJP leader Eatala Rajender, whose job is to lure the senior leaders from other parties to the BJP, admitted that he was given reverse counselling when he called on the anti-KCR duo to join the BJP.

The entry of Reddy and Krishnarao, who are rich and influential, will no doubt be a morale booster to any party they join. Similarly, a few more leaders, mostly Reddys, who joined BJP thinking the saffron party is the right bet to beat KCR, are toying with the idea of quitting.

The party leaders admit that the BJP grew only after it had declared war on KCR. PM Modi’s campaign that KCR’s dynasty ignited more corruption and Home Minister Amit Shah’s unleashing of “double engine Sarkar” had profound impact on the cadre. Now, the anti-KCR brigade of BJP feels that the ‘Delhi mein dosti, gali me kusti’ policy has landed the party in an existential crisis while it benefits the Congress.

Also read: Despite Gowda bonhomie, why is KCR not campaigning for JD(S) in Karnataka?

KCR-BJP deal?

It was the Andhra Jyothi, a popular Telugu daily, that broke a story about the deal between KCR and BJP a week ago, stating that KCR surrendered to BJP to prevent his daughter’s arrest. The story, which said Andhra chief minister Jagan brokered the deal, has created an earthquake of sorts in the state.

Despite his lofty talk of driving the Modi government out of Delhi, KCR is generally perceived as Modi’s friend. Many believe that BRS would come close to the NDA after the 2024 elections. Even KCR’s intensive campaign in Maharashtra is seen as an attempt to cut into Congress votes in Marathwada and Vidarbha districts adjoining Telangana.

Noted political analyst from Mumbai Ashok Wankhede said KCR was not pursuing a serious anti-BJP policy in Marathwada and Vidarbha. “KCR’s BRS is targeting Congress in Marathwada, especially in Nanded, Aurangabad and Latur districts where Congress is trying to consolidate itself. By eating into Congress votes, who is KCR helping ultimately? The BJP,” he said.

All political developments that unfolded after the Karnataka election look like favouring the Congress in Telangana. On one side, the Karnataka result boosted the morale of the party cadre; on the other, the purported deal between BRS and BJP has called KCR’s anti-Modi credentials into question.  As a result, the BJP appears to have shifted the focus out of Telangana.

Congress in Telangana

But the question is, can the Congress rise up to the occasion to capitalize on the changing scenario? According to Prof Karli Srinivasulu, a political scientist from ICSSR, New Delhi, to replay Karnataka in Telangana Congress needs a well-calibrated strategy. “Chief minister KCR is still the tallest leader in Telangana politics with enormous organizational talent. Personalities play a major role in politics.

Also read: Countdown for BRS government in Telangana has begun: Amit Shah

“The Congress has overcome this problem in Karnataka by carefully promoting Siddaramaiah, the tallest leader in Karnataka, and DK Shiv Kumar, an organizational man, as a single unit. This inspired both the party and the voters. While objective conditions look favorable to the Congress in Telangana, the final outcome depends on how the Grand Old Party instills confidence among the cadre and voters vis-a-vis KCR,” Srinivasulu said.

Meanwhile, the BJP high command is planning a damage-control mission in Telangana by organizing public meetings in which Amit Shah and BJP President JP Nadda are expected to address. Party sources have not ruled out a visit by Modi as well at the end of the month.

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