It’s raining tickets for turncoats in Telangana

In Telangana, the BRS is facing the brunt of defections

Updated - March 19, 2024 01:14 pm IST

Published - March 19, 2024 12:33 am IST

Bharat Rashtra Samithi MP Ranjith Reddy joins Congress in the presence of Telanagana Chief Minister Revanth Reddy and Telangana AICC in-charge  Deepa Dasmunsi and others, in Hyderabad. File

Bharat Rashtra Samithi MP Ranjith Reddy joins Congress in the presence of Telanagana Chief Minister Revanth Reddy and Telangana AICC in-charge Deepa Dasmunsi and others, in Hyderabad. File | Photo Credit: ANI

The Congress, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are all fielding turncoats to improve their chances in the Lok Sabha elections. However, the party that is facing the brunt of these defections is the BRS.

Defections galore

In the 2019 elections, the BRS won nine Lok Sabha seats, followed by the BJP with four, and the Congress with three. But today, five BRS MPs — B. Venkatesh Nethakani (Peddapalli SC), B.B. Patil (Zaheerabad), P. Ramulu (Nagarkurnool SC), Pasunuri Dayakar (Warangal SC) and G. Ranjit Reddy (Chevella) — have already defected to other parties. While Mr. Venkatesh, Mr. Dayakar, and Mr. Ranjit Reddy have crossed over to the Congress, the other two have defected to the BJP. Mr. Patil was named a BJP candidate from Zaheerabad a day after joining the saffron party and Mr. Ramulu’s son, P. Bharat, has been chosen as the BJP’s Nagarkurnool candidate.

Sensing the deepening crisis, party supremo K. Chandrashekar Rao announced the BRS’s first list of candidates for four Lok Sabha seats. The names included two sitting MPs — Nama Nageswara Rao (Khammam) and Maloth Kavitha (Mahabubabad). Had he not acted in time, the two leaders would have mostly left the party, say sources.

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But the BRS remains wary of the intentions of its remaining MPs. Mr. Rao and BRS executive working president K.T. Rama Rao have been holding meetings with leaders at the parliamentary constituency level to instil confidence in them.

The only solace for the BRS was the decision of Telangana Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president and former IPS officer R.S. Praveen Kumar to join the party. Last week, the BRS and BSP announced an alliance after Dr. Kumar met with Mr. Rao. This came as a big relief for Mr. Rao as the BRS was hard-pressed for a candidate in the Nagarkurnool SC constituency, where the sitting MP had crossed over to the BJP. When the BSP leadership reportedly forced the State unit chief to call off the alliance, Dr. Kumar quit and joined the BRS and is now set to contest from Nagarkurnool.

Dr. Kumar hails from the influential Madiga sub-caste among the SCs, who form at least 10% of the Dalit voters in Telangana. The total SC population in the State is 18%. Parties have always tried hard to attract the votes of the Madigas ahead of the polls. Earlier last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended a rally organised by the Madiga Reservation Porata Samiti leader, Manda Krishna Madiga, who wields considerable influence in the community. But the rally did not benefit the BJP in the Assembly elections.

Upsetting leaders within

Meanwhile, the BJP too is busy inducting leaders from other parties. The State leadership seems to have taken the Central leadership’s aim of 400-plus Lok Sabha seats very seriously. It is now focused on winning every MP seat in Telangana. The party has so far named 15 candidates. It has given tickets to many turncoats, even as party loyalists continue to wait impatiently for an opportunity. The BJP has accommodated leaders from the BRS in Mahabubabad, Zaheerabad, Peddapally, Adilabad, and Nalgonda, which has upset longstanding leaders in the party. Turncoats are also expected to be announced for two more seats — Warangal and Khammam. The party has so far retained only three sitting MPs — Union Minister G. Kishan Reddy (Secunderabad), national general secretary Bandi Sanjay Kumar (Karimnagar), and Dharmapuri Arvind (Nizamabad). The BJP does not seem particularly worried about whether these turncoats will stay with it in the event of its loss in the elections.

Meanwhile, the Congress is riding high on the massive support it had received from the SCs and Scheduled Tribes in the Assembly elections. While it is giving tickets to strong candidates from the party, the Congress, too, is not averse to giving tickets to leaders from rival parties. Buoyed by its impressive performance in the Assembly elections, the party is keen to establish its dominance in the State.

While the Congress is fighting from a position of relative confidence since five of its six guarantees have already been implemented, the BRS, which was strong just five years ago, seems to be fighting in desperation to prevent more fissures in the party. The BJP is trying to induct as many leaders from the rival parties so that it can better its 2019 tally. It looks like the outcome will depend to a considerable extent on the performance of the turncoats.

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