In more than one way, the Huzurabad election is crucial for the ruling TRS and emerging BJP.

Defeating the party's former minister Eatala Rajender, BJP candidate in Huzurabad by-poll, has strategic importance for TRS. It will demonstrate that chief minister KCR stands for zero-tolerance for corruption. It will also send across a stern message that nobody can survive by challenging the party's supremo K Chandrasekar Rao (KCR).

For BJP, Eatala Rajender's performance in the election will shape the future strategy of the party. Eatala, an electoral veteran in Telangana, is a prize catch for the Saffron party. Though many leaders have joined the party recently, BJP has never had a mass leader in its stable comparable to the stature of Rajender. He has got a clean image, huge fan following, leadership qualities, and caste-class background. Though the party is hopeful of a win, a promising performance by Rajender, a BC leader, is what the BJP looking for in Huzurabad to unveil its strategy.

BJP is contemplating dangling the social justice concept in Telangana to fill the void left by the Telugu Desam Party.

TDP has been driven out of Telangana as an unwanted 'Andhra Party' by the TRS. TDP was the only party in India, which gained a moniker 'Pro-BCs party' though launched by an upper-caste Kamma leader NT Ramarao.

Even during Chandrababu Naidu's era, though his government was marred casteist charges, the pro-BC image continued, and especially in Telangana, BCs formed the core-vote bank of the party. Many BC leaders in Telugu state owe their position in public life to TDP.

At a time when Congress was seen as the party of SCs and Brahmins or Upper castes, NTR with an amazing foresight positioned the party closer to the middle castes i.e. BCs.

Political scientists consider this as a masterstroke by NTR. But, following the formation of Telangana, TDP was demolished with the 'Andhra party' tag. Many suspect, the motive that BCs would migrate to TRS once the TDP is shunted out, could be the strategy behind KCR's hatred for Naidu and TDP.

BJP, however, is under the impression that it could hijack BCs by effectively projecting the BC leadership for the party in Telangana. The party appears to be formulating a Telangana-specific strategy after the Huzurabad by-poll.

Party senior leaders have dropped enough hints at the new strategy. "Why not we have a BC CM next time in Telangana?" asked party veteran Perala Sekha Rao. Rao, who worked for the party in North East for over three decades, is campaigning among the Backward Castes in Huzurabad.

Since he is the South Zone chairman of Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), Rao is the right person to meet the BCs in the constituency.

He held caste meetings with all-BC communities for the past month. His campaign is revolving around a single point that Rajender's election would pave the path for a BC chief minister in Telangana. As BJP's in charge of Assam, Rao is credited with bringing Sarbananda Sonowal from AGP to BJP. Sonowal later became chief minister of Assam.

Talking to Newsmeter, Sekhar Rao, who is popular among the cadre as Sekherjee, said Telangana is poised to have BC chief minister soon. "Huzurabad by-poll is going to change the course of Telangana politics. It will pave the path for a BC chief minister. BCs are with us. Telugus haven't had a BC chief minister so far. Under the leadership of BJP, the BCs are going to set the agenda for the future Telangana," he said.

Stating that he cannot hazard a guess on the chief ministerial candidate, Sekherjee said, "Our party is full of BC leaders. Our state president Bandi Sanjay is a BC leader, Our Nizamabad MP Arvind Dharmapuri is a BC leader. Our National BC Morcha president Laxman is a BC leader from Telangana. And now, Eatala Rajender is a most popular BC leader in Telangana," he said adding confidently that all Backward Castes would rally behind BJP before the next Assembly polls.

Jinka Nagaraju

Jinka Nagaraju is a Hyderabad based journalist. He covered the entire spectrum of political activities of Telugu states from Hyderabad and New Delhi for about 3 decades. He represented Vaartha in New Delhi during the most happening decade of 1996-2006. He was the political correspondent of Times of India from Hyderabad for 10 years. He was editor of Asianet's Telugu digital platform.

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