The Bharatiya Janata Party as part of its southern expansion strategy has decided to focus on winning Telangana in the 2019 Assembly elections. The BJP wants to win this state so that it can take control of three states in the South, including Karnataka where it has a strong presence and Andhra Pradesh where its ally Telugu Desam Party is in power. Elections in Karnataka will be held in 2018, while AP and Telangana go to the polls next year.

This strategy was conveyed clearly by BJP president Amit Shah to the state leaders at a core group meeting in New Delhi on Friday. Shah addressed the senior core group members of both the Telugu states and asked them to prepare for the same. Shah was unhappy with the party’s position in both the states, sources told The Sunday Guardian.

Shah asked the BJP leaders to occupy the space vacated by other Opposition parties like the TDP, Congress and YSR Congress in Telangana and emerge stronger. A majority of legislators from other parties have defected to the ruling TRS in Telangana. Shah said he would tour Telangana in September, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi would address a public rally in Hyderabad in October.

This meeting was attended by top BJP leaders from both the Telugu states including Union ministers Venkaiah Naidu, Bandaru Dattatreaya, party general secretaries Ram Madhav, Muralidhar Rao, secretaries Krishna Das, Siddharth  Nath Singh, Telangana state unit president K. Laxman and all MPs and MLAs. This is the first such meeting since 2014 to strengthen the BJP in the Telugu states.

Shah asked the BJP leaders to waste no time and take on TRS president and Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao for having failed to deliver most of the electoral promises it made to the people two years ago. “There need not be any doubt that we want to come to power in Telangan in three years,” Shah is learnt to have told the party leaders.

Shah pointed out to the dwindling strength of the Congress, disappearance of TDP and decimation of YSR Congress in Telangana, thanks to the aggressive poaching of MPs and MLAs by KCR in the last two years. The BJP president said a BJP led coalition with TDP will win in Telangana in thenext elections.

As far as AP is concerned, the BJP president adopted a cautious approach and warned party leaders against attacking the Chandrababu Naidu led government as the two the parties are allies both at the Centre and in the state. “I know we have a duty to highlight public issues in AP, but we can do that in a proper manner, not by openly criticising the government,” Shah is believed to have said.

He, thus, put to rest the speculation that the BJP wanted to sever ties with the TDP and ally with YSR Congress in AP. “Our president is clear on winning Telangana in the next elections and we are ready to take up the challenge,” said BJP Telangana president K. Laxman while talking to this newspaper. “We won Assam where we earlier had just five MLAs. In Telangana, too, we will rise from five MLAs to power. In Hyderabad,which accounts for around 25 Assembly seats, our fight will be with MIM, and in the districts, we will fight with the TRS,” said Laxman. Shah’s meeting with party leaders shows the importance he accords to winning Telangana. Buoyed by the rise in vote percentage in Kerala and a positive situation in Karnataka, Shah wants to take the two Telugu states into the BJP-NDA fold. Orissa is also on top of the agenda of Shah, according to Laxman.

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