BJP replaces Bandi with Kishan; Eatala to head party’s poll panel

The development followed weeks of internal bickering in the saffron party and growing opposition to Sanjay’s leadership.

HYDERABAD: On expected lines, the BJP central leadership on Tuesday announced the appointment of Union Tourism Minister G Kishan Reddy as the president of the Telangana unit of the party in place of Bandi Sanjay. The development followed weeks of internal bickering in the saffron party and growing opposition to Sanjay’s leadership.

The party also sought to placate dissident leader and Huzurabad MLA Eatala Rajender by appointing him chairman of the party’s Election Management Committee (EMC). However, the reshuffle in the Telangana BJP has raised more questions than it answered.  

The key takeaway from the rejig is that Reddy is at the helm now. Until now Sanjay, a BC face, led the BJP, as the party wanted to acquire a pro-BC image given their enormous population -- more than half -- in Telangana. However, Rajender, also a BC, has been denied the party’s leadership and has been asked to be content with the post of chairman of the EMC which is not as powerful a post.

The shakeup in the party is a clear endorsement that the BJP leadership is not inclined to trust the Telangana unit with a newcomer but wants to go by the old guard, who are dyed-in-the-wool party workers, with RSS blood coursing through their veins. This is the third time that Kishan has been appointed president of the Telangana BJP.

Bandi Sanjay served the party in this capacity from 2010 to 2014 in undivided AP and later as president of the Telangana State unit from 2014 to 2016. He led the party in the Assembly elections in 2014 in alliance with the TDP that won five seats in Greater Hyderabad limits.

Now the question uppermost in the minds of a section of BJP leaders is how would Rajender react to the new responsibility given to him. They had expected Rajender to be made the president of the party’s State unit. They feel that EMC means playing second fiddle to the party president which they find difficult to digest. Rajender’s mission was only partially successful; he could get Sanjay out but could not make the cut to step into his shoes.

Though it is understandable that the BJP central leadership trusts only the leaders who share its DNA, entrusting the responsibility of leading the party to victory in the Assembly election in the eleventh hour to Kishan Reddy, in fact, spoil the broth for him. If there are any setbacks in the election, Kishan would have to take the rap, despite the fact that he has no time to prepare himself or the party for the electoral battle.

Party erred, believe analysts

Political analysts believe the party leadership has erred in replacing Sanjay, a BC leader with Kishan, a Reddy leader. They point out that the Congress too has a Reddy at the helm and if the BJP has a BC as the president it would had have an edge over the grand old party.

The removal of Sanjay means taking away from the battlefield a soldier who could wage a valiant fight against BRS and Congress. They recall how Sanjay had imparted momentum to the party helping it to win 46 divisions in the GHMC polls. He was the only leader who was picked from rural Telangana to lead the party. Till then it was Hyderabad leaders who were at the helm and now Kishan, a Hyderabadi, is back in the driving seat.

ALSO READ | Bandi supporters shocked, say decision avoidable

An impression is gaining ground that had Sanjay been allowed to lead the party in the Assembly election, he would have definitely won a considerable number of seats for the party. The performance of the party in the Assembly elections has been dismal over the years, the maximum being 12 in 1994 in an alliance with TDP. From then on, the number has been shrinking, and in 2018, it came down to one. Sanjay’s supporters argue that the new president would have a tough time with dissidents who lobbied for Rajender. As they could not accomplish their mission, they might leave the party.

There are also fears among the dissidents that the youth might shift to the Congress as they might lose faith in the capability of the new dispensation in fighting with BRS and taking forward Hindutva ideology. The appointment of Kishan is also being seen as some kind of a confirmation that there is a secret pact between BRS and the BJP.

Is Kishan reddy not happy?

Kishan Reddy was apparently upset over being appointed Telangana BJP president. The way he evaded media questions on his new appointment raised questions as to whether he was happy or not with the new role. He was scheduled to go to Bengaluru on Tuesday evening, but cancelled the programme and went straight to Delhi. According to those close to him, he was reluctant to let go off his ministerial position.

Raghu’s audio clip sent to the central leadership

State BJP leaders sent a translated copy of the audio clip in which MLA M Raghunandan Rao is heard allegedly criticising party president JP Nadda and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to the party central leadership. During a chit-chat with media in New Delhi on Monday, he also levelled serious allegations against Bandi Sanjay, stating that he has spent `100 cr on publicity.

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