BJP’s national general secretary Ram Madhav, who has been deputed to Andhra Pradesh, will enthuse party workers to gear up for the 2019 polls which the BJP would most likely fight alone in the state, on an increased number of seats, following ally TDP’s decision to part ways. At the same time, Madhav is expected to hunt for new allies.
The BJP leadership brainstormed over the recent developments in AP after the Telugu Desam Party, which rules the coastal state, upped its attack on the national party for not granting a special category status to the state. The TDP has also accused the BJP led Centre of not fulfilling the promises made to AP at the time of its bifurcation four years ago. On Thursday, the TDP called for a blockade of the national highways to protest the Centre’s attitude.
In AP, the BJP had been playing the role of a junior partner; it won two seats in alliance with the TDP in the 2014 elections. In a meeting of party seniors held at the residence of BJP president Amit Shah, it was decided that the party will have to turn things around in a year.
Ram Madhav was made the in charge of the Andhra affairs of the party after Shah agreed to spare the party’s general secretary to devote time to AP, a state with 25 Lok Sabha seats, said sources who were a part of the meeting. The party leaders had asked Shah to depute a leader who can deal with the tough times in AP.
The 53-year-old Ram Madhav was preferred mainly because of his aggressive line on expanding the BJP in AP and increasing its stakes in the state politics. All these years, the BJP was just a marginal player with a few seats randomly winning here and there. The party won a handsome 16% votes in 1998 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister but later lost its steam following its decision to ally with the TDP.
In the last two decades, the BJP relied on leaders defecting from other parties and only managed to somehow retain its vote share which mostly hovered around four to five percent. In the combined AP, the BJP mostly focused its attention on Hyderabad city and Telangana, but not in Andhra. “To grow electorally in Andhra, we need a strong, hard working leader with ideological commitment and we see Ram Madhav as one,” said a former AP minister who left the Congress and joined the BJP four years ago. He was present at the meeting held at Shah’s residence in New Delhi last week.
BJP MLC Somu Veerraju told this newspaper that there would be organisational changes in AP unit soon, but refused to comment on whether or not, Hari Babu, state unit president of the BJP, would be replaced. “We will soon be holding a state executive meeting in Vijayawada or Visakhapatnam and come up with a new leader and new strategy to win Andhra,” said Veerraju. BJP leader in AP assembly Vishnu Kumar Raju told this newspaper that the party would utilise the space it has got after TDP ended its alliance with the BJP. “Many senior leaders who joined us in 2014 (from Congress, in protest against the bifurcation of the combined State) were sitting idle, but now they will get a chance to become active again,” said Raju.
Former union ministers Kavuri Sambasiva Rao and Daggubati Purandeswari, who came from the Congress and Krishnam Raju, who joined the BJP in 1998, along with former ministers like Lakshminarayana, were not happy with the way the party was forced to play a second fiddle to the TDP. Shah has asked them to be ready to contest the next elections. These leaders had told the BJP president that if they were to go it alone in 2019, many seniors from other parties were ready to join the party. Hari Babu told Shah that the recent BJP convention in Kurnool on 24 February 24, during which the Rayala Seema Declaration was announced, has evoked a huge response from the public. The BJP in that declaration had demanded the setting up of an AP High Court in Kurnool.
As Ram Madhav is considered to be close to Shah and other top brass of the BJP in New Delhi, he would be the right person to take decisions on finding new allies in Andhra. Though currently all parties are demanding a special status for AP and holding demonstrations and rallies against the Centre, the BJP sees some scope for an association with Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress and Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party.