How An ‘Outsider’ Bandi Sanjay Kumar Helped The BJP Pull Off A Surprise In Greater Hyderabad Corporation Polls
Sanjay Kumar won from the Karim Nagar Lok Sabha constituency in Telangana last year triumphing over two of his better-known rivals in the TRS and the Congress.
His victory came after his failure in the 2014 and 2018 assembly elections from Karim Nagar itself.
When Bandi Sanjay Kumar was appointed president of Telangana unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in March this year, he ended the hold of Hyderabad-based leaders on the party.
His appointment was the first of a person who was from a district — Karimnagar — other than Hyderabad. But little did anyone think that an 'outsider' will help the BJP to 'shake and stir' Telangana’s capital as never before in the recently-concluded Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections.
The BJP often has the habit of springing a surprise with its selections and Sanjay Kumar’s elevation was no exception as he rose from being a relatively lesser-known face to one of the popular leaders in the state.
It helped BJP not only finish as the second-largest party, ending up with 48 wards against a meagre four in 2016, but also left the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) with a proverbial bloodied nose after it fell far short of a majority.
It is a woman’s turn to become a Hyderabad mayor this time and the TRS, which got 55 seats, has to look for outside support to get its candidate elected as the mayor.
Sanjay Kumar succeeded Dr K Laxman as Telangana BJP chief. Though Laxman also belongs to his Backward Class Munnuru Kapu community, Sanjay Kumar was picked since the party leadership felt he had it in him to take on the TRS besides the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM), which ruled the roost in old Hyderabad city.
The other factor that went in his favour was his connect with the youth, his strong belief in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideology and the cause of Hindutva.
Besides, the 49-year-old Sanjay Kumar has risen through the ranks from the grassroots after being a key player in Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha.
Sanjay Kumar’s elevation as party chief in Telangana was to test his ability in taking on the TRS and its principal leaders — Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and his son K T Rama Rao — ahead of the state assembly elections due in 2023-end.
The state BJP president, who won from the Karim Nagar Lok Sabha constituency last year triumphing two of his better-known rivals in TRS and the Congress, is adept at striking an emotive chord with the people. His victory came after his failure in 2014 and 2018 assembly elections from Karim Nagar.
That came in handy despite the hurdles the BJP faced in the run-up to the GHMC elections, including an alleged bias of the State Election Commission.
Like catching his opponents by surprise with an early election to the assembly in 2018, the Telangana Chief Minister got the GHMC elections, too, advanced to this month instead of February next year.
The BJP was not only short of time but it had to face many problems, including from officials and police who registered multiple cases against its leaders, including the party chief.
In the GHMC elections, Sanjay Kumar helped the party adopt an aggressive stance threatening ‘surgical strikes’ on the Old City and raising the issue of Rohingya, Pakistani and Bangladeshi illegal immigrants.
Initially, his strategy was considered as one that would backfire but it seemed to have paid rich dividends. This was besides BJP declaring that it would change the name of Hyderabad to Bhagyanagar and going all out in its attack on the TRS government.
For Sanjay Kumar, the support of Union Minister of State for Home, G Kishan Reddy, who won from the Secunderabad Lok Sabha constituency, has been key, helping him to come up with a strategy that worked.
With party general secretary Bhupendra Yadav, who was part of the Bihar Assembly elections winning team of the National Democratic Alliance, the duo formed a team to leave the TRS short.
Their strategy included bringing in star leaders from Home Minister Amit Shah to former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to young Lok Sabha member Tejasvi Surya.
What got the party going was its performance in the Lok Sabha elections last year after a virtual drubbing in the assembly elections. The BJP had won only a solitary seat in the assembly but in the Lok Sabha polls, it won four, including the one that Sanjay Kumar won.
Then, followed the party’s victory in the by-election to the Dubakka Assembly constituency last month, against all odds and an aggressive TRS.
These performances have now given the BJP the confidence of emerging as a key player in the next assembly elections, especially given historical reasons.
The party appears to think it can easily consolidate the Hindu votes in the state (Muslims make up only 12 per cent of Telangana’s population). That the Congress and Telugu Desam Party have become “also-ran parties” has helped its cause.
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