Telangana: Like Bengal, BJP looking to poach leaders from TRS?

Hyderabad: Facing a tough regional leader in Telangana, will the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) here adopt a similar strategy like it did in West Bengal to try and take on Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee? With former TRS leader Eatala Rajender all set to join the BJP, it seems like the saffron party will try and rope in more people in the coming days.

Eatala Rajender’s decision to join the BJP, which senior leaders from the saffron party confirmed to, is likely a move to protect himself from the state government’s corruption probe against him. More importantly, sacking him was also a move by TRS supremo and Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar (KCR) to quieten other dissidents who perhaps would have made some noise if they would have been unchecked.

“We are expecting some more leaders to join our party here in the coming days. Now there is the Huzurabad by-poll coming up, but apart from that all other elections are over. So we have to wait and see. As of now however, no other MLA from the TRS wants to defect. But there is time before the 2023 state elections,” said a BJP leader, who did not want to be quoted.

The BJP leader informed that KCR choosing his son and IT minister KT Rama Rao as his replacement may lead to uneasiness among many MLA in the party. “If that happens then we expect 10-15 MLAs to leave the TRS. So we will have to see then,” he added. However, it may be noted that the BJP’s plan in West Bengal failed, where in spite of mass defection from the TMC, it won only over 70 seats, while the TMC won more than 200 out of the total 294.

Last week, Eatala finally announced his resignation from the TRS (of which he was a founding member) and the state Assembly. However, he remained mum about joining the BJP. Eatala had earlier been dropped by KCR from the state cabinet, after which an inquiry was set up against him, over land grabbing allegations. But even much before that, he had questioned KCR’s leadership, indicating that all was not well in the TRS and its senior leaders.

More importantly, through Eatala, the BJP is also looking to make inroads into constituencies where it doesn’t even have pockets, in spite of claiming to the be main opposition in Telangana. In the 2018 Telangana Assembly polls, Rajender secured 104469 votes, with the Congress candidate getting 60604 votes. The BJP’s Raghu Puppala got a paltry 1670 votes. In the 2018 state elections, the BJP won just one out of 119 seats.

After back-to-back good electoral performances in the greater Hyderabad Municipal Corportation (GHMC) polls and Dubbaka by-poll last year, the BJP was on a new high. However, it failed to perform when it mattered most: in the recently concluded Nagarjunasagar by-election. The saffron party’s candidate could muster just over 7,000 votes. TRS’s Nomula Bhagat won with over 80,0000 votes, while Congress candidate and veteran leader Jana Reddy secured over 70,000 votes.

“We are expecting the BJP to do something similar it did in West Bengal. However, as things stand, Eatala will not be able to win his seat on his own. Even the Congress is a big player in the constituency, where it got over 60,000 votes in the 2018 state assembly elections,” a TRS leader who did not want to be quoted, said. He added that sacking Eatala was also a power move to tackle dissent within.

Few days ago, local media reports also indicated that TRS MLA and state minister for power Jagdish Reddy is on KCR’s radar. However, the TRS leader dismissed it, saying that Jagdish Reddy is a “loyalist”. ” The news appeared in some other newspapers as well, but I don’t think it is true,” he added.