Telugus from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana head out to paint Gujarat towns saffron ahead of polls

There are close to 7 lakh Telugu speaking people in Gujarat of which over 3 lakh have voting rights and most of them appear to be BJP supporters.

Published: 07th December 2017 01:37 PM  |   Last Updated: 07th December 2017 01:37 PM   |  A+A-

Telugus in Gujarat hold rallies in support of BJP. (Express Photo Service)

Express News Service

There are close to 7 lakh Telugu speaking people in Gujarat of which over 3 lakh have voting rights; though most of them appear to be BJP supporters, both national parties are roping in leaders from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to campaign in Gujarat.

AHMEDABAD:  Greeting D Nagesh with a “namaskaram’’ brings a smile on his face and he is only too happy to reciprocate. Ask him “bagunnara?’’ (how are you in Telugu) and he is delighted as he replies “Chaala bagunnanandi......’’ (I am good) even as he is keenly following news, in Gujarati on TV.

The next moment, some of his colleagues enter his room and he swiftly switches over to “Kem cho...maja ma cho’’ (How are you? Good) in Gujarati. A Telugu ‘bidda’ -- Telangana and Telugu pride is in Nagesh’s blood. But Gujarat, he says, is his ‘karmabhoomi’ where he has prospered.

While there are many Telugus from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh who have settled and prospered in Gujarat over the last several decades — Telugu speaking people have made a career in politics like never before.

What more, they were also shortlisted for party tickets to contest the Gujarat elections in ‘Modi land’ but luck did not favour them as they were dropped at the last minute!

"Modiji knows me by my name and so does Venkaiah garu, Dattatreya garu (former union minister Bandaru Dattatreya), Vidyasagar Rao garu (Maharashtra Governor) and others. I was hopeful that my party would give me a ticket and the matter was also discussed among the seniors in the party, who were keen on me. But towards the end, it could not materialize as the ticket had to be given to someone else. That does not bother me a bit as I continue to work and campaign for the party,’’ says Nagesh, who was a BJP Councillor between 2005 and 2010. Nagesh’s parents hailed from Kondapaka near Siddipet in Medak district.

They moved to Gujarat in 1936. Nagesh, who is fluent in both Telugu and Gujarati had joined RSS when he was a teenager and has risen in the ranks since then. He is presently the Vice President of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s yuva morcha in Ahmedabad city and has been made in charge of Amraiwadi constituency in Ahmedabad city.

"This time, I missed it but I am sure of getting a ticket next time. My commitment to the party remains intact despite not getting a ticket,’’ says Nagesh as he is off to campaign across the city. He says he still has a house back in Kondapaka.

There are close to 7 lakh Telugus across Gujarat. Of this, over 4 lakh reside in different parts of Surat.

When it comes to voters, there are over 3 lakh Telugu voters in the state, whose roots are in Medak, Warangal, Mahabubnagar and Karimnagar districts of Telangana besides Srikakulam, Vijayawada, Vizianagaram, East and West Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh.

Gujarat has had its first Telugu corporator in 1987 and since then, there have been at least three Telugus who served as corporators.

Rapolu Anand Bhaskar, Rajya Sabha member interacts with Telugus in Gujarat. (Express Photo Service)

Another ticket hopeful was PVS Sarma, a prominent Telugu face in Surat, the fastest growing city of Gujarat. ‘’Yes, I was definitely an aspirant for the party ticket. In fact, my name was shortlisted but was dropped in the last moment. These things keep happening but that is not the point. What is of prime importance here is that our party, BJP should win by thumping majority.

We have been campaigning and telling all Telugu speaking people here to vote for Modiji.

Traditionally, Telugus have been with the BJP and we are all working towards achieving victory,’’ Sarma, who is the Vice President of BJP, Surat mahanagar, tells Express.

Sarma hails from Nalgonda district. Having served as a senior Income Tax officer from 1990 to 2007 and thereafter as Director, Finance and Taxation on the board of various companies based in Surat, Sarma was closely associated with former BJP President of united Andhra Pradesh, N Indrasena Reddy.

In Surat, which has the maximum number of Telugus when compared to other parts of Gujarat, there are several people from the two Telugu speaking states who are actively campaigning for BJP though there are very few who are campaigning for Congress.

“We have taken up door to door campaigning all across Surat,’’ says VS Srinivasa Rao, a private employee and resident of Surat city. Though his Telugu is not as good, he just about manages to speak the language, in bits and pieces and soon switches over to either Gujarati or Hindi.

“I was born here and one cannot expect me to speak good Telugu. I speak whatever i have picked up from parents and grand parents,’’ says Srinivasa Rao, whose grandparents hailed from Karimnagar in Telangana.

“A majority of Telugus are into textile business or are working in the Kandla port and other industries. Telugus here, like in any other part of the world, mingle easily with the local people and become part of them. As for elections, they generally prefer to vote for the leading party in the state. They go with the prevailing wave,’’ says PVPC Prasad, a government official who works in the Town Planning department of Gujarat.

Hailing from Vijayawada, Prasad is also the President of the Ahmedabad Andhra Maha Sabha which was also instrumental in construction of a Balaji temple here with government support. He says that people like PVS Sarma and Nagesh -- who are in active politics in Gujarat have made the Telugu community proud here. “They have worked hard for the party as well as Telugu people here,’’ he adds.

Interestingly, while there are nearly 40 Telugu associations spread across Gujarat, mostly Surat, all say they belong to Andhra Pradesh (united AP).

“We are concerned with the Telugu community as a whole, not Andhra or Telangana,’’ says Prasad. Telugus in Gujarat have been wooed by politicians from Andhra and Telangana for long.

During 2012 elections, we had Venkaiah Naidu, Vidyasagar Rao, Dr K Laxman and G Kishan Reddy campaigning for the party to woo the Telugu voters.

“We have had councilors here and the day is not far when we will have Telugus as public representatives here,” says Subba Rao who resides in Ahmedabad.

Even during the Telangana agitation, then TRS leader and now minister T Harish Rao held a few public meetings in Surat to garner the support of people from Telangana to support their movement.

Presently, the Congress has given the task of wooing Telugu community in Gujarat in favour of their party to Rajya Sabha member Rapolu Anand Bhaskar who has been campaigning in Surat for the last 10 days.

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