Hyderabad: BJP president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah has set his eyes on capturing political power in Telangana by the next Assembly elections in 2023. Shah chose to launch the BJP’s membership drive from Hyderabad on Saturday. Among the five southern states, Shah appeared to have made Telangana as his next target to come to power.

Addressing a gathering of party cadre near the Shamshabad International Airport here, Shah told his leaders to leave no stones unturned to unseat the TRS government which has already been discarded by the people. Shah reminded his party leaders that Chief Minister KCR, who won 88 out of 119 Assembly seats in December, could only win 9 out of 17 MPs. BJP won four MPs and Congress three and MIM got one.

BJP’s surprise win in Nizamabad, where it defeated Kavitha, sitting TRS MP and daughter of CM KCR, and  Karimnagar, where it trounced senior TRS MP B. Vinod Kumar, along with Secunderabad and Adilabad seats has definitely buoyed the leadership. In acknowledgement of this show, Prime Minister Narendra Modi rewarded Telangana by making Secunderabad MP G. Kishan Reddy as MoS for Home in his ministry.

Shah’s choice of Hyderabad for launching the membership drive at a time when PM Modi went to Varanasi for the same purpose also, is being interpreted as the BJP chief’s seriousness in winning the state by the next elections. Shah, in fact, wanted to defeat TRS in the recent Assembly elections, but the BJP fared poorly thanks to its local leadership, by retaining one out of five MLAs it had earlier.

Before launching the membership campaign, Shah had tea with a tribal family near the airport and interacted with the villagers. The villagers who interacted with Shah were joyous that Modi came to power for a second time with a record 303 MPs and vowed to bring the BJP to power in Telangana too in 2023. Shah instructed the local BJP leaders to admit into the party whoever shows interest, irrespective of their standing in public life with the sole aim of replacing Congress as the next alternative of people to TRS. As a result, former Chief Minister Nadendla Bhaskara Rao, who held the post for a month in 1984, joined the BJP on Saturday. Entry of this octogenarian is a symbolic gesture of the BJP to show its doors are open to all.

Congress MLA Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy had already gone on record saying that his joining BJP was a mere formality and it is a question of when but not if. Rajagopal Reddy, who commands clout in his Nalgonda district, is ready to quit Congress officially and resign to his MLA post too, if necessary to get elected on BJP ticket. But, he is still waiting for an opportune time to resign.

BJP’s Telangana president K. Laxamn had welcomed into the party around 500 senior leaders from other parties from Karimnagar and Adilabad districts on Wednesday. He claimed on the occasion that dozens of leaders and workers from Congress, TDP and even TRS, are ready to join BJP and bring it to power in the next elections. “Now, we are a bigger force in Telangana,” Laxman told this newspaper.

BJP’s strategy to expand its base in Telangana is based on polarisation of Hindu votes as the ruling TRS is glued to Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM which is a Muslim-dominated party in Hyderabad city as well as several other districts in the state. BJP believes that the same formula had helped it win the Adilabad MP seat where Muslims are of around 22% of the population.

The CM, in a recent meeting with TRS leaders, is learnt to have commented that they can just ignore BJP in Telangana as it is a marginal force here.

KCR’s confident comes from the fact that the BJP, which won four MPs in April, couldn’t win even one per cent of the seats in the local bodies elections held within fortnight. BJP is not in a position to put up a fight in the coming municipal elections also. KCR thinks that BJP won the four MPs purely based on local conditions and that they cannot pose a bigger threat to him anytime soon.

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