By JR Janumpalli
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is indulging in a peculiar political turf war in Telangana. The party has just 3 MLAs in the 119-member Assembly. The Congress has 6 MLAs and MIM, 7. Yet the BJP is making all the noise as if it is the major opposition and is on the verge of toppling the TRS government. The Assembly elections are some two years away. The TRS has 103 seats in the Assembly and is batting very strongly on the placid wicket of the State. It is a rather curious noise, considering the circumstances.
Prior to the formation of the State, the BJP comparatively had more presence in Telangana than in Andhra. But, in the first Assembly elections in 2014, the BJP did not evince much interest in Telangana. It threw its weight around the TDP in AP and helped Chandrababu Naidu win. The jugalbandi with the TDP continued till Venkaiah Naidu was in the Central cabinet. Later, the TDP separated from the BJP. The present YSRCP government is wooing the Central BJP for obvious political reasons.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP winning 4 MP seats in Telangana whetted its appetite for increasing its strength in the State as part of extending its presence in the South. So it enhanced its political investment in the State. It attempted a big raid on the GHMC elections and won a large number of seats but could not win the mayoralty. The performance helped it win Dubbaka with a slender margin. And in the high stakes Huzurabad byelection with the connivance of its arch-rival Congress, it could wrest the seat from the TRS. The BJP now thinks it has breached the fortress and is encouraging the local cadre to indulge in all sorts of theatrics to create an impression that it is the next big thing in Telangana.
A national party like the BJP has every right to expand its domain in any State if it can win there. But its credentials, ability and promise to do better than the incumbent party in the State matters. Though the BJP promised Telangana State, it went back in 2000 while granting statehood for three other States where the demand for separation was not as intense as in Telangana. In the decider Statehood struggle, the BJP was on the fence, except for one or two individual leaders. In fact, in Parliament, LK Advani wanted to defer passing the Telangana State Bill.
Once the State was formed, Narendra Modi openly lambasted the State formation, in a trope calling it: ‘killing the mother and saving the child’. He kept the friendly Telangana government at an arm’s length and snuggled closer to residual AP for its more number of MPs. Seven mandals of Telangana were taken away through an ordinance to be submerged in the Polavaram project.
In AP, the BJP did not get traction because of the caste polarisation there. There was not much scope for the Hindutva factor. Moreover, though it was partial to AP’s needs vis-a-vis Telangana, the BJP was not in a position to accede to many inordinate demands of AP. Thus continuing the political support to the AP government, the electoral focus was shifted to Telangana, as part of the saffronisation of southern India. The win of 4 MPs in the 2019 elections boosted the idea. Hyderabad and its comparatively large minority population helped it play the majority nationalism card.
Both the TRS in the State and the BJP at the Centre have won two general elections after the formation of Telangana. The performance of both the governments in their respective constituencies in the last seven-and-a-half years is there for all to see. Telangana has done exceedingly well among all the States. It is among the top 5 in all the major economic growth indicators. It has maintained a balanced Budget and executed many welfare and infrastructural projects in power, irrigation, drinking water, industries, IT, with its own resources. The same cannot be said of the Central government. The economy is in the doldrums and the country has fallen on many development indexes. The BJP-ruled States are lagging behind. The BJP’s flagship States like UP, Bihar and MP still languish in the bottom rung of development.
The BJP at the Centre has not helped the new Telangana State in finding its moorings. Much help flowed into AP in the name of deficit Budget. Two finance commissions provided about Rs 53,000 crore as a deficit grant. The Rs 60,000 crore Polavaram project is being constructed by the Centre and it has helped establish many national institutions there. Telangana, which was kept backward for 58 years, has spent heavily on several socio-economic schemes enhancing the per capita income of its people. The Centre did not extend any special assistance despite the recommendation of national institutions and the requests by the State government.
The BJP’s political relationship with the Telangana government has not been not very sanguine from the beginning. In recent years, it started exhibiting more bias against the State. Krishna and Godavari issues are a major pointer. The BJP has delayed and blocked the legitimate interests of Telangana in the river water projects with political intent, causing a great loss to the State.
In the case of rice procurement under MSP, it has created a great deal of discomfiture to the State. While it was procuring more quantity of rice in kharif and also wheat in rabi seasons from many northern States, it has refused to procure more rice from Telangana. In addition, it has encouraged local BJP leaders to agitate and make political capital out of it.
Even for a small local issue of GO 317 zonalisation of employees transfers and recruitment, a big ruckus has been created. The BJP national president and former and present BJP Chief Ministers are sent to raid the State as a preparation for its political railroading into Telangana. It is a strange political turf war considering BJP’s almost nil contribution to the consolidation and development of Telangana.
(The author is a freelance journalist)