Enthused by the spectacular win in Huzurabad, the BJP is embarking upon an ambitious multi-pronged strategy to irk KCR.

The party has witnessed a steady growth in the recent past. The BJP tally in the 2019 LokSabha elections was quite impressive. The saffron party defeated high profile TRS nominee and Chief Minister's daughter K.Kavitha in Nizamabad, besides winning two other Lok Sabha seats in northern Telangana which was otherwise considered to be a bastion of TRS since the days of the Telangana movement.

The BJP which won only one seat losing all the four remaining sitting seats in the 2018 assembly elections managed a spectacular comeback in the 2019 general elections. The party's vote tally jumped from a mere 7 percent in 2018 to nearly 20 percent in 2019. KCR committed a costly political mistake by viewing BJP's performance as an aberration given the national political sentiment associated with parliament elections.

But, the saffron party proving KCR wrong managed to spring a surprise to the pink party by wresting the Dubbak seat from TRS in the by-poll. It followed up the battle with a remarkable performance in the GHMC polls. TRS tried to sell a narrative that BJP's performance is not a trend by cashing upon the latter's poor performance in Nagarjunasagar and the loss of sitting Hyderabad seat in the MLC elections. Notwithstanding these electoral reverses, the BJP came back stronger in the Huzurabad bolstered by the entry of Eatala Rajender. The TRS has also dismissed the GHMC verdict as a result of a polarized campaign run by the BJP.

KCR's strategy of poaching Congress MLAs and undermining the grand old party through political machinations proved to be handy for the BJP. The three-cornered contest between TRS-BJP and Congress would have been beneficial to KCR. But, his strategy of weakening Congress with the hope of dismissing the opposition has proved to be counterproductive.

However, Revanth Reddy assuming the PCC has helped Congress to alter the perception of a losing party to an extent. But, the saffron surge has decimated the Congress in Huzurabad as the electoral battle completely polarized between KCR and Eatala Rajender, relegating even their respective parties to the back seat.

The BJP is now toying with the idea of waging a head-on battle on TRS. By-polls proved to be a huge asset for the BJP. KCR could successfully make the then ruling Congress in the united Andhra Pradesh vulnerable by repeatedly inviting by-polls. The TRS MLAs and even KCR repeatedly resigned forcing by-elections in a bid to create a vibrant political narrative around the Telangana movement. The BJP is planning a similar strategy. If these reports are to be believed the next by-poll may perhaps be in Munugode, represented by Komatireddy Rajagopala Reddy who is still officially in Congress. But, Rajagopala Reddy has already given enough indication that he prefers to join BJP leaving Congress. The appointment of Revanth Reddy as PCC chief has further alienated the Komatireddy brothers who are known to have a strong influence in the undivided Nalgonda district. But, TRS sources claim that the pink party may even spring a surprise if Munugode faces a by-poll. The BJP would be more than happy to invite yet another by-poll here. However, the saffron party would not get the mileage even if it wins this by-poll which it got in Dubbak and Huzurabad. This is because Munugode was won by Congress in 2018 defeating the TRS nominee. Still, it will help the BJP to popularize the narrative that Congress is no longer the challenger to the pink party.

Political circles reveal that BJP is hunting for disgruntled but locally influential TRS legislators. Eatala Rajender may prove to be a saffron ambassador for this political engineering. The TRS would feel further heat if the BJP succeeds in thrusting a few more by-polls on KCR.

The second strategy is to continue the tirade over TRS through daily outbursts. The TRS response led by chief minister KCR himself has given further ammunition to the BJP in creating a narrative that it is emerging as the real alternative to TRS. State BJP chief Bandi Sanjay's padayatra would be yet another occasion to continue its anti-KCR tirade.

The third strategy is to exert pressure on the ruling TRS regime by taking up public issues. The ongoing fight over paddy procurement is only one such example. Unemployment and other unfulfilled promises of TRS would be BJP's weapons in this battle. Realizing the BJP strategy, KCR is personally leading the campaign against the BJP soon after losing Huzurabad.

Polarization has always been BJP's most effective electoral strategy. The efficacy of such a strategy was already proved during the GHMC elections. Bandi Sanjay in his first phase of padayatra has attempted Hindu consolidation capitalizing on TRS' friendship with MIM. However, the pink party chief seems to be unconcerned with BJP using Owaisi against TRS. KCR in his recent press conference has acknowledged MIM as an ally of TRS, the fact which the pink party refuted during GHMC polls.

The fifth aspect of the BJP strategy is to poach and discredit Congress to give an impression that the battle at the hustings is primarily between pink and saffron. If it succeeds, this would help BJP to polarize anti-KCR votes evident from the Huzurabad mandate.

KCR's inability to mount a spirited fight against the Modi government's policies is proving to be costlier for the TRS. KCR was always inconsistent in his approach to BJP. His wavering stand on farm laws illustrates this. The BJP is gaining from this pusillanimity of TRS.

The BJP has all the resources to face KCR. Besides, the party has an advantage with Modi's charisma and the ability to steer the political discourse around emotive issues. Telangana BJP does not suffer from the disadvantage which its Andhra counterpart has. The party has actively participated in the movement for a separate state. BJP's support was instrumental in realizing the dream of the separate state of Telangana. Over 12 percent Muslim population and the history of Hyderabad state make Telangana a potentially fertile ground for saffron experiments if other political factors are conducive. Thus the BJP is expected to move heaven and earth to capture Telangana if the KCR regime faces significant anti-incumbency and the Congress fails to live up to the expectations. But, politics need not always tread a scripted path.

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Prof. Nageshwar K

Prof.K. Nageshwar is noted political analyst and columnist. He is a former member of the Telangana Legislative Council and currently a professor at the Department of Communication & Journalism, Osmania University, Hyderabad. He is the former editor of The Hans India. He was earlier the Editor-in-Chief of Telugu news channel HMTV. He was the founder chairman of 10TV. He is the author of the books Interpreting Contemporary India; How to win at life. He served on the United Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council as an independent member from 2007 to till the bifurcation of the State in 2014 representing the Graduates' constituency of Hyderabad.

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