Prof Nageshwar : Can BJP be the alternative in Telangana?

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Embarking upon Yatra, the state BJP chief Dr.K.Laxman asserted that BJP is the real alternative to TRS in Telangana. The ruling TRS leaders pooh poohed the claims of the saffron party. Amidst these claims and counter claims, what exactly is the political reality in Telangana?

Notwithstanding the fact that the BJP is not even a significant player in the Telangana politics, there is nothing wrong if a party aspires for power in any State. But the moot question is whether the ground reality is fertile for the BJP to translate its dreams into reality.

The BJP could stitch together a formidable socio-political coalition that could make a perfect chemistry in the states it has own from Assam to Uttar Pradesh. For instance, understanding its limitation quite effectively, the BJP roped in Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) and the Rabha, Tiwa and other plains tribal organisations. Similarly the BJP allied with even smaller caste based political parties like Apna Dal and IPFT in Tripura. But, BJP fails to effect any such social engineering in Telangana.

The BJP is clueless on how to challenge the redoubtable TRS whose government clearly enjoys pro-incumbency. The political situation shows no signs of TRS retreat, leaving no space for new aspirants. The BJP has no such political or social coalition to anchor in Telangana. The BJP leadership is announcing from rooftops that it would go alone in the State in 2019.

The party has already divorced the TDP. There is no prospective ally for TDP in Telangana. Even TJS founded by Kodandaram is not interested in allying with BJP.

In fact, the BJP State leadership is caught in a typical Hamletian dilemma of ‘To be or not to be’ in regard to its relations with TRS. This is precisely the reason why a section of BJP Telangana leadership displays political faintheartedness in questioning the TRS government. This deprives the BJP of any advantage from possible anti-incumbency in Telangana.

Nothing can be said in finale about the electoral tie-up with TRS. In case the party chooses to go with TRS in 2019, the BJP cannot realise its dreams of coming to power in Telangana as it would only be a junior partner. But such a possibility exists today only in the realm of imagination, not even speculation.

States like Assam where BJP could achieve spectacular win presents an altogether distinct social and political milieu which has no comparison with that of Telangana. The unstopped illegal infiltration from neighbouring Bangladesh and unrelenting migration is effecting a substantial demographic change much to the chagrin of the local people.

This divisive situation is superimposed by ethnic strife that has often had violent manifestation. This situation resulted in competitive polarisation of the electorate not just on religious basis but on linguistic and ethnic identities. The indigenous people were fearing marginalisation in their own State. Thus preserving this identity continues to be an explosive electoral issue which BJP could successfully exploit.

The Telangana social landscape has no similarity with the prevailing situation in Assam or Tripura. Muslims account for over 12 % of Telangana population. But there is no such abnormal surge in the population of Muslims in the State, as it is not a border State to experience unprecedented migration of people belonging to a particular religious community. Unlike in Telangana, the ethnic and indigenous groups in Assam fear a demographic onslaught making the issue politically sensitive.

On the other hand, Muslim population in Telangana poses no such challenge to the Hindu population in the State. Besides, Telangana, especially Hyderabad culture, is often described as Ganga-Jamuna Tehzeeb signifying peaceful coexistence and integration of Hindu-Muslim culture

The Congress in Assam failed to arrive at an understanding with All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) that largely represents Muslims, fearing a Hindu backlash. This costly mistake proved to be dearer for the party as the anti-BJP vote split. On the contrary the congress in Telangana is trying hard to build a grand opposition coalition to take on TRS.

The BJP will not be the chief beneficiary of any possible anti incumbency against TRS government as Congress is the main opposition. Most of the Assam’s BJP leadership is made up of former All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) that led the Assam identity movement. The chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal was also a former AASU President and a former AGP leader.

The BJP could also induct prominent Congress dissident Himanta Biswa Sarma into the party fold. In fact, these new comers into the party led the BJP campaign in Assam thus bridging the serious leadership deficit in the state party. But, the BJP is unlikely to find any such popular leaders from any other party to lure. The plethora of indigenous leaders is unlikely to allow any such political adoption.

Leader matters a lot in Indian politics. The Delhi, Bihar, Bengal, etc. and even Assam mandates clearly depict the importance of leader in marshalling a victory. The BJP could find in Sonowal an accepted leader who remains an icon of Assamese and ethnic identity politics. On the contrary, though politics of Telangana is still deeply influenced by an identity of some other kind, the State BJP failed to attract any prominent leader of Telangana movement.

In fact, the party could not reap rich dividends, despite being an active partner in Telangana movement. Without its support in Parliament, the dream of separate State would not have become a reality for the people of Telangana. But, the ruling TRS is headed by the architect of Telangana movement. The TRS victory is primarily the mandate the Chief Minister KCR got from the people.

KCR’s political stature and iconic image have in fact got further reinforced. Thus, the entire opposition, leave alone the BJP, has no leader to match the charisma of KCR whereas an appealing Sonowal led the BJP against discredited Tarun Gogoi of Congress in Assam. Barring a miracle, the BJP’s hopes of emerging as an alternative in Telangana in 2019 remain a figment of imagination, though the politics have a remarkable character of changing colours swiftly.

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