Pariveda Village, Siddipet district: After over a month of his Praja Sangrama Yatra, Bandi Sanjay Kumar, president of the Telangana state BJP and Member of Parliament from Karimnagar, has evolved into a mature leader, having met tens of thousands of common people, interacting with them, asking them their problems and listening to their grievances.
He is a lot leaner, tanned, tired physically from the gruelling walk on a hot sunny Thursday, but is emotionally surcharged and more enthused
than at even the start of the yatra.
As Deccan Chronicle joins his walk along for a few kilometres before a late lunch break, Sanjay meets villagers along the slightly re-scheduled path. “We were supposed to enter Karimnagar district and begin our Huzurabad leg but with the announcement of the model code of conduct for the bypolls, we had to rejig the routes to remain in Siddipet district.”
The popular welcome at every doorstep and at the edge of the fields is spontaneous and overwhelming. Speaking over lunch an hour later, Sanjay recalls some of the most touching moments.
“At a tribal hamlet near Vikarabad, I met a young girl. She was a graduate, her younger sister had completed her Intermediate. She could not get a job. All three of them are doing coolie work. She showed me her hands, and said, ‘Anna, look, at my age there should have been turmeric on my hands with a wedding ahead. Instead, we are doing physical labour to keep our lives going. What future is there ahead?’”
Several thousands of youth have met Sanjay on most of the days of his padayatra, talking of how they feel betrayed and hopeless over no job prospects.
“Far from being a typical political yatra, this has transformed quickly into deeply understanding problems at a heart-to-heart level. The problems in every district are different but the broad underlying thread is essentially about the failed promises and betrayals of Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao. Youth complain of joblessness and lack of prospects, farmers are in despair over the next crop of paddy and the KCR’s turncoat stance that his government won’t procure the harvest,” he says.
Having lunch with the party president is no lavish experience. The simple menu is the same for everyone — rice, dal, sambar, curry and some chutney. He listens to people patiently even while having lunch.
Continuing to describe his experiences, Sanjay says, “Dalits are furious about how after repeatedly not giving them a CM or three acres of land, after hundreds of atrocities across the state on Dalits with few cases where justice was delivered, KCR is now playing with sentiments in the name of Dalit Bandhu for the sake of a bypoll. OBCs are furious because they have been neglected by the government in every allocation.”
Earlier, we stopped in front of a board. “Look, it is a Central-government scheme but is made to look like a TRS state government work,” he points out to the villagers.
He meets an old lady in her early seventies. She smilingly seeks a picture, but when he tells her endearingly, “Avva, I am walking for you,” she has a repartee ready, “It is your first yatra. I have seen a few before. But you are humble and the first from Telangana, unlike all the other Andhra politicians.”
The visit of Union home minister Amit Shah was a high point, where total support of the BJP high command to Sanjay’s no-holds-barred struggle against the Chandrashekar Rao government was made clear.
Asked why Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Union ministers continued to meet Chief Minister Chandrashekar Rao and TRS leaders, even when it was leading to allegations of political collusion, Sanjay replied, “PM Modi has made it very clear to everyone that he won’t allow politics in governance – as PM, he will CM, MPs and people from all over the country, irrespective of party considerations. Even if KCR tries to mislead people, we will dislodge such false claims. People of Telangana have resolved beyond doubt now that it is time for the TRS government to be voted out and the BJP is the real alternative.”
Sanjay will finish the first leg of the yatra on Friday, and then head to Huzurabad for a public meeting for the bypoll. “We are winning with a big margin,” the party chief says, exuding confidence. “All tricks of the TRS will fail, money power will not work. People want the BJP.”
He will take a break for Navaratri to enter a liturgical diksha when he will not think of, talk or discuss politics till he finishes observing abstinence, fasting and prayers for the nine days. The second leg of the yatra will cover other districts, besides having a final leg of the campaign at Huzurabad.
Quick lunch over, Sanjay gears up to resume the walk. “What are you thinking of,” one asks. He pauses before answering with the disarming candour that makes common people like him, and trust him, almost immediately.
“I am thinking of the day when I can help the girl wash the mud of slavery and give her a pen and a good job offer letter; of the day that little sister of mine can have turmeric on her hands. The day, I can as Anna reach out to and help change the destiny of all such little sisters and brothers who have called me anna,” he says softly.
He resumes his walk, with thousands of party workers, activists and common folk joining behind him. He is tired but he has miles to go... before he sleeps.