Ponguleti, Jupally Set to Join Congress! Aruna, Etala May Take Over TS BJP?
DECCAN CHRONICLE | Sriram Karri
Hyderabad: In a couple of days, the politics of Telangana will look different, with big changes finally set to take place in the two major opposition parties, much like IPL teams after a new auction, with major developments likely to be announced in leadership positions and fresh joinings, reportedly likely to happen almost simultaneously.
The currently unattached and highly sought-after Telangana rebel twins from the ruling Bharatiya Rashtra Samithi – Ponguleti Srinivas Reddy, former Khammam Lok Sabha MP, and Jupally Krishna Rao, former state minister and five-time MLA from Kollapur – will be finally joining the Congress shortly, after weeks of speculation.
The resurgent Congress has certainly scored another win with the final confirmation of the Ponguleti-Jupally duo joining it, a few days after senior BJP leaders told the media that despite their best efforts, they could not convince the two to come to the saffron fold.
"The deal is done. We have discussed all issues, including the various posts, positions and tickets to be given to their key followers and camp members. This will give the Congress a huge fillip in the erstwhile Khammam and Mahbubnagar districts, besides furthering the narrative that the tailwinds are behind it in Telangana. All talk of a tri-cornered fight has vanished, it is now a straight fight between the Congress and the BRS, and, given the anti-incumbency, we will win and form government," said a senior leader who was part of the discussions to finalise the duo’s entry.
"Many leaders from both the BJP and the BRS are in touch and several of them will join the Congress in the coming days," he added.
At the same time, the Telangana state BJP, which has after much efforts failed to attract these two leaders to their camp, was abuzz with talk that there could be a change in leadership very soon – with "outsiders" finally scoring a likely win.
Though no senior party leader was willing to confirm on record, only willing to say "We are not aware of any such proposal," off the record, three different leaders confirmed that in all likelihood, former minister and BJP national vice-president D.K. Aruna will take over from Bandi Sanjay Kumar as party state president, and former minister Etala Rajendar will be given the reins of poll management in the likely capacity of chairman, election steering committee.
If the two senior and highly respected leaders, Aruna and Rajendar, take over the BJP, it would the first time that the state leadership would be fully in the hands of relative newcomers — Aruna being a Congress leader and Rajendar having served in the BRS as a top-level leader and a separate statehood crusader.
At least two leaders also confirmed that Sanjay could be likely elevated as a minister of state and shifted to the national capital – a first time for him in any executive post – increasing the total representation from the state in the union ministry to two. Another senior leader, Dr K. Laxman, is part of the party’s apex body, the Parliamentary Board, and is a member of the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh as also president of the OBC Morcha.
"The changes in the state BJP have become a necessity after the party started losing steam as a potential contender for power ever since we lost the Munugode byelection. The loss in Karnataka and the open dissent from several leaders have made it hard to keep things going on in a status quo mode," said a party senior leader. "The inaction against MLC K. Kavitha in the Delhi liquor scam has also abetted the Congress narrative that there is a tacit understanding between the BJP and the BRS."
The BJP hopes to regain its mojo and momentum with changes in the party leadership structure, which many hope will put an end to all dissidence and is also carefully designed to support social engineering plans of the saffron party.
"A Reddy leader as president to oversee the party and a Mudiraj as chairman of steering committee to lead the election efforts will give the BJP an enormous font of energy," a senior leader, who has reportedly been orchestrating the efforts to unite factions within the party against incumbent president Bandi Sanjay said. "The party will predominantly bank on OBC vote, besides the Reddy and other upper caste vote, besides trying to take back the anti-KCR sections of society."
Some leaders and sections in the party are hoping there would be no change. Other formulae being offered are that while Sanjay could be continued, Rajendar and Aruna would be given some "additional responsibilities" but short of complete leadership.
Two different leaders at the state and centre said that if at all there would be a change, it would only be to make Rajendar the state president. But the most preferred view is that both of them will mount the saddle, like a team.
The BJP will also unleash all its different strengths, including bringing in top leaders to the state to showcase its strengths.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi will personally address a public meeting in the city, besides the two massive events being planned for Union home minister Amit Shah and party president J.P. Nadda in the state to bring back the animal spirits," he said.
Some hope it is not a case of not too little, but nevertheless too late, with the Congress having already stolen an irreversible edge.