‘Telangana BJP not likely to reap dividends under Kishan Reddy’

“None of the state BJP presidents could create the kind of momentum which Bandi Sanjay created,” he said.

Hyderabad: The appointment of Union Minister G. Kishan Reddy as the new President of Telangana unit of the BJP is not likely to yield political dividends for the party in the state, where elections are due later this year, as per political analysts.

The central leadership of BJP has yielded to the pressure from two MLAs and some other leaders to remove incumbent Bandi Sanjay just 4-5 months before the elections.

The move is seen as an attempt to placate MLAs Eatala Rajender, Raghunandan Rao and some others who had reportedly threatened to switch loyalties to the Congress, which appears to be on the path of revival in the state.

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Political analysts say the sacking of Bandi Sanjay may, in fact, hit the morale of his supporters within the party as he is seen as the leader who gave momentum to the party during the last three years.

Sanjay, a Member of Parliament from Karimnagar, was appointed as Telangana BJP President in March 2020, replacing K. Laxman. Known as a rabble-rouser, Sanjay played a key role in strengthening the party. It was under his leadership that the party won two Assembly by-elections and replaced Congress as the main opposition party.

“The BJP was nowhere in the state before Sanjay became the party President. He was a street fighter and the party gained momentum under his leadership,” said analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.

He pointed out that almost all key leaders of BJP had served as state President of the party. Kishan Reddy had served as BJP President of united Andhra Pradesh from 2010 to 2014 and as Telangana unit chief from 2014 to 2016.

“None of the state BJP presidents could create the kind of momentum which Bandi Sanjay created,” he said.

The BJP, which could win just a single seat in 2018 Assembly elections with Kishan Reddy himself tasting defeat, got a major boost in 2019 when it won four Lok Sabha seats, apparently riding on the Modi wave. Interestingly, Kishan Reddy was elected from Secunderabad Lok Sabha constituency and became a minister at the Centre.

Sanjay, who was till then considered a small time leader in Karimnagar, came into prominence by winning the Lok Sabha seat. A year later he became the party President.

A strong Hindutva supporter and a bitter critic of Chief Minister KCR and his family, Sanjay, with his aggressive style, built the BJP. The same year, the BJP shocked the TRS by wresting Dubbaka Assembly seat in the by-elections. This was followed by the party’s impressive show in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections as it improved its tally in 150-member civic body to 48 from just four earlier.

The party emerged as the main challenge to the ruling BRS and it started projecting itself as the only viable alternative to KCR’s party.

With the central leadership sensing a big opportunity in Telangana, the party started working with Mission 2023 to capture power. When Eatala Rajender quit the BRS after he was dropped from Cabinet by KCR in 2021, the BJP invited him to join the party. His victory in Huzurabad by-election was seen as a shot in the arm for the party.

The BJP got further boost last year with Congress MLA Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy resigned from the party to join the saffron camp. He tried to repeat Huzurabad in Munugode but was unsuccessful as the BRS wrested the seat.

Sanjay had also undertaken Praja Sangram Yatra to expose the “failures” of the BRS government. He, however, had landed himself in a few controversies with his remarks against KCR and his family members.

Recently, he was arrested by Warangal police on allegations of Class 10 question paper leak. Sanjay’s efforts to strengthen the BJP had also won praise from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP President J.P. Nadda on several occasions.

Political observers say the central leadership had no option but to remove Sanjay as Rajender, Raghunandan and some other leaders had reportedly threatened to defect to Congress, which is on the path of revival in the state following its victory in Karnataka elections.

They do not agree that BJP under Kishan Reddy will be able to tap the votes of Reddys, a powerful and influential community.

“Traditionally Reddys have been supporters of the Congress. In 2014 and again in 2018, they backed KCR but this time they appear to be shifting back to Congress,” said Raghavendra Reddy.

Unlike Sanjay, Kishan Reddy is considered a soft leader. He is seen as ‘unfit’ by many for the kind of aggressive Hindutva line the BJP seems to be adopting for electoral gains across the country.

A three-time MLA, Kishan Reddy had served as BJP floor leader in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Assemblies. He has been associated with the BJP since its inception and played an active role in BJYM, the youth wing of the party. He became national President of BJYM in 2002. He was elected to Andhra Pradesh Assembly from Himayat Nagar constituency in Hyderabad in 2004.

Considered close to senior leaders like M. Venkaiah Naidu, Kishan Reddy held several key positions in the BJP. He was rewarded with a Cabinet berth after he was elected to Lok Sabha for the first time in 2019. The 62-year-old faces a tough challenge in carrying all sections of the party together and gearing up the organisation for the electoral battle with just a few months left.

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