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Hyderabad The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s hopes to emerge as a potential alternative to the ruling YSR Congress party (YSRCP) in Andhra Pradesh and replace the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) as the principal opposition were completely dashed off following the recent by-election to Tirupati parliamentary seat.
The BJP finished a poor third in the by-election with its candidate K Ratna Prabha, retired IAS officer and former chief secretary of Karnataka, securing only 57,080 votes, which was just 5.17 per cent of the total number of 11.05 lakh votes polled.
The seat was won by YSRCP candidate Dr M Gurumurthy, who got 6.26 lakh votes, defeating his nearest rival Panabaka Lakshmi of TDP by over 2.70 lakh votes.
The BJP, which could not win a single assembly and Lok Sabha seat in the 2019 general elections in Andhra Pradesh after severing its ties with former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP a year before, was hoping to emerge as a big force because of the miserable show put up by the latter, which ended up with just 23 assembly seats and three MP seats.
The saffron party saw a chance to replace the TDP as a principal opposition after it felt that Naidu may not be in a position to put up a fight against Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP by 2024. The party quickly forged an alliance with Jana Sena Party floated by popular actor Pawan Kalyan, who has a considerable hold in the Kapu community which accounts for 15.2 per cent of the total population in the state.
The BJP also played its traditional brand of politics by highlighting the attacks on Hindu temples and burning of chariot of the famed Antarvedi temple in East Godavari, besides launching a high-decibel campaign against alleged promotion of Christianity by the Jagan government.
“But the Tirupati by-election has proved that its narrative doesn’t get acceptance in Andhra. Despite the campaign by top BJP leaders, including national president J P Nadda, the party was rejected even in Tirupati, the most revered place for the Hindus,” political analyst Suresh Dharur said.
According to Dharur, the TDP is still a major force to reckon with in Andhra despite its poor show in the last elections. “It is a 40-year-old party with a vast cadre network and strong leadership in Naidu. It has every chance to bounce back by the next elections. So, when there are two strong regional parties like YSRCP and the TDP, there is hardly any space for a national party like the BJP, as is the case in Tamil Nadu,” he said.
Another political analyst from Visakhapatnam, Mallu Rajesh, said the BJP was banking too much on the charisma of Kalyan, instead of building up its own base in the state.
“Pawan Kalyan has a lot of craze among the youth but it is not enough for the BJP-Jana Sena combine to emerge as a strong political force. Neither of the two parties have any organisational structure in Andhra, unlike the TDP. So, they will always remain a poor and distant third,” Rajesh said.
Soon after the Tirupati by-election, the BJP and Jana Sena leaders slipped into silent mode. While Kalyan, who returned to acting in films after two years, has kept himself busy with scripts for his forthcoming projects, BJP leaders have stopped making any political statements, even on the Covid-19 situation in the state.
“There has not been any attempt by our party’s Andhra unit president Somu Veerraju to hold any internal meeting to review the Tirupati by-poll outcome and come out with an action plan. No meeting was held with Jana Sena to discuss the post-poll strategies and strengthen the alliance,” a BJP leader said on condition of anonymity.
The leader added that there was nothing much for party leaders to criticise the YSRCP at this stage, as chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy has been maintaining friendly relations with the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.