Telangana BJP’s internal rift: Komatireddy, Eatala likely to quit party

Reports of some leaders who had joined the BJP and now planning to switch loyalties to Congress appear to have further demoralised the party.

Hyderabad: From the main challenger to the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) only a few weeks ago, the BJP in Telangana appears to have slipped to the third position in the run-up to the Assembly elections following its defeat in the Karnataka polls and due to the internal rumblings.

Not long ago, the saffron party was projecting itself as the only viable alternative to the BRS and its leaders were hoping that after Karnataka, Telangana will become their second gateway to the south.

However, today it finds itself on a sticky wicket.

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Political analysts say the shifting of momentum towards Congress following the party’s massive victory in Karnataka, BRS rebels preferring the grand old party over BJP and increasing voices of dissent against the state leadership have landed the saffron party into problems.

Reports of some leaders who had joined the BJP and now planning to switch loyalties to Congress appear to have further demoralised the party.

With just 4-5 months to go for the polls, the BJP seems to be facing an uphill task in entering the fray as a cohesive unit.

BJP MLA Eatala Rajender and former MLA Komatireddy Raj Gopal Reddy are reportedly planning to quit the party and join Congress.

This will be a big embarrassment for the BJP as Rajender is heading the joining committee or the panel tasked with luring leaders from other parties to join the saffron camp.

Rajender had quit the BRS in 2021 after he was dropped from the state Cabinet by Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao. He had also quit his Assembly seat Huzurabad and joined the BJP.

In the by-election held the same year, Rajender was elected with a comfortable margin to give a big boost to the BJP.

Raj Gopal Reddy, who was Congress MLA from Munugode, followed in the footsteps of Rajender. Union Home Minister Amit Shah himself had come to Munugode to welcome the businessman-politician into the party. However, Raj Gopal Reddy failed to repeat Huzurabad in Munugode late last year and the BRS wrested the seat.

“BJP’s slide had started after its defeat in Munugode. The party which was in aggressive mode started looking vulnerable,” said political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.

Now with Congress regaining the lost ground, Raj Gopal Reddy appears keen to return to the party. His brother and Bhongir MP Komatireddy Venkat Reddy is also making efforts to facilitate his return.

Both the leaders had stayed away from the mass contact programme organised by the BJP on June 22 across the state to reach out to 35 lakh households in a single day to explain to them the achievements of the Modi government during the last nine years.

Both Rajender and Raj Gopal Reddy along with some other leaders like former MP Konda Vishweshwar Reddy, who too had quit Congress to join BJP, are unhappy with the style of functioning of state part president Bandi Sanjay Kumar.

That the central leadership of BJP is worried over the developments in Telangana is clear from the fact that both Rajender and Raj Gopal Reddy have been summoned to Delhi in what is seen as a last-ditch effort to persuade them to remain in BJP.

Sanjay, however, is trying to put up a brave face. “We can’t stop if somebody wants to board a sinking ship,” he said when asked about the plans by some BJP leaders to crossover to the Congress.

The BJP camp has been witnessing rumblings among different factions for several months.

The differences came to the fore again last month when Rajender and other leaders left for Khammam to meet former MP Ponguleti Srinivas Reddy and former minister Jupalli Krishna Rao to invite them to join the BJP without informing Bandi Sanjay and other senior leaders.

Since Srinivas Reddy and Krishna Rao were recently suspended by BRS for anti-party activities, Eatala and others held talks with them to persuade them to join the saffron party.

Rajender later revealed that the two leaders tried to persuade him to join hands with them in ousting BRS from power.

Upbeat after the victory in Karnataka elections, the Congress party appears to have gained an upper hand over BJP in attracting rebels from other parties.

Political observers say that with the recent joining of leaders from BRS and other parties, the Congress party started emerging as the main challenger for the BRS.

During the last few days, the Congress party succeeded in attracting even those rebel BRS leaders who earlier seemed to prefer the BJP.

The Congress party appears to have achieved a big success with Srinivasa Reddy and Krishna Rao almost making up their mind to join Congress.

This is not the first time that BJP is witnessing acrimony in its camp. Recently, BJP MP Arvind Dharampuri came out openly against Bandi Sanjay’s alleged derogatory remarks on BRS leader K. Kavitha, the daughter of the Chief Minister. The Nizamabad MP had said that he does not agree with Bandi’s remarks

This was a jolt for the party as Arvind is a bitter critic of CM KCR and his family. In 2019, he had defeated sitting MP Kavitha in Nizamabad. A few months ago, Arvind finding fault with Sanjay’s remarks was surprising for the BJP and this indicated the differences among the leaders.

A section of the leaders feel that Sanjay’s immature inappropriate words, dictatorship and undemocratic antics may damage the party’s prospects.

Bandi Sanjay enjoys the confidence of BJP top brass as it was under him that the party won two Assembly by-elections, put up a strong fight in the third by-election and also significantly improved its tally in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC).

At the BJP national executive meeting in Hyderabad last year and on other occasions Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded Sanjay’s fighting spirit. Other central leaders also praised him for the manner in which he led Praja Sangram Yatra to take on BRS.

However, it is a known fact that BJP has different groups. A section of leaders support union minister G. Kishan Reddy, who has differences with Bandi Sanjay.

Landing BJP in further embarrassment, its MP Soyam Bapurao admitted last week that he had constructed a house for himself and performed the wedding of his son with the help of funds from the Members of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) scheme.

A video clip of the Adilabad MP’s speech at a meeting of BJP workers went viral on social media on Monday.

The MP blamed BJP leaders Ramesh Rathod and Payala Shankar for the video’s leak.

A recent reported statement by a senior BJP leader about the saffron party’s real strength in the state also dealt a blow to its rank and file. The leader reportedly admitted that BJP is trailing at third position in the state.

In the 2018 Assembly elections, BJP won only one seat in the 119-member House. It finished second in only nine constituencies and in most of the seats its candidates forfeited the deposit.

However, the BJP sprang a surprise in Lok Sabha elections held a few months later. The party not only retained Secunderabad but also wrested three other seats — Karimnagar, Nizamabad and Adilabad.

Though the BJP improved its tally to three in Assembly by winning two by-elections, the fact remains that the saffron party does not have a strong presence outside some urban pockets in Hyderabad and north Telangana.

With its infighting and the Congress on the path of a recovery, the BJP faces an uphill task in Assembly elections scheduled towards the end of 2023 and the Lok Sabha polls next year.

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