In August 2013, the then chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, was a month away from being declared the prime ministerial candidate from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
He addressed a massive rally in Hyderabad's Lal Bahadur Shastri stadium at the time.
This was the period which marked Modi's transition from a state chief minister to a national figure, and the BJP's emergence in the newly formed state of Telangana.
People bought passes to attend the rally and watch Modi speak, a first in India's political history. The event also introduced the use of holograms.
As expected, the now-Prime Minister Modi recalled this incident on 7 November in his address to BJP supporters at the Lal Bahadur Shastri stadium, with Telangana going to polls days from now.
The 'BC Atma Gaurava' rally in Hyderabad was seen as the BJP's attempt to woo the backward caste (BC) voters in the state.
From Pawan Kalyan's overzealous supporters cheering for his 'Jal, Jungle, Jameen' promise to PM Modi reiterating it with 'Neelu, Nidhulu, Niyamakalu', the event was packed with punchlines from Telugu films.
Kalyan, among others, made the effort to establish PM Modi's popularity among the crowd. He said his only desire for India during testing times, such as when cities like Hyderabad faced terror attacks, was that it had a 'strong leader'.
He was referring to the August 2007 twin bombings in Hyderabad where two explosions took place, in Lumbini Park and Gokul Chat Bhandar, leaving more than 40 people dead and several injured.
Although the latest push from PM Modi may not be enough for the BJP to emerge as the principal challenger in the state, it does set things in order for the party in Telangana, an important state ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in 2024.
The Backward Caste Push
Before PM Modi arrived at the arena, the audience cheered the loudest for Bandi Sanjay Kumar, the former Telangana BJP chief who is seen as a Hindutva face for the party and, coincidentally, happens to be from a backward caste himself.
Besides Kumar, Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Eatela Rajender, a former aide of Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR), was present. Rajender is now taking on KCR in his constituency and projected to put up a strong fight against KCR.
The Other Backward Class (OBC) constitutes 54 per cent of the population in Telangana and are very important politically for all the parties.
At the rally were representatives of various backward-caste communities, most prominently the Telangana BC Welfare Association president, Jajula Srinivas Goud.
The BJP has given tickets to 40 different backward-caste candidates from the state and is managing to create an impression among the community ahead of the elections.
There are 134 backward castes in Telangana. Several demands have been made by the community, including seeing one from among them become the chief minister of the state.
Referring to the same, PM Modi said "Yeh likhlo, Modi ka vaada hain" very often during his address Tuesday.
Dr K Laxman, the BJP's OBC morcha president, oversaw the arrangements, and caste heads from different communities were present, including Gouds, Yadavas, Mudirajs, Rajaka, and Munnuru Kapus (to which Bandi Sanjay Kumar belongs).
'AAA' Battery Lights Up Crowd
PM Modi went after the ruling party, Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), and the Indian National Congress for failing to deliver on schemes and for false promises, respectively.
His attacks were threefold:
Attacks against the BRS and Congress
Alcohol issue in the state
Bhantara Bhadra Seenu, a resident of Vikarabad, said the push for a chief minister from the backward-caste community will empower them further.
"The Congress has made a lot of promises, but has barely done anything for the community. Tanguturi Anjaiah was the only SC (scheduled caste) chief minister of Andhra Pradesh (1980-1982) while the Congress was in power.
"BRS, on the other hand, promised a Dalit CM since 2014. KCR has not lived up to his word. But we trust PM Modi to do this," Seenu said.
Additionally, PM Modi said the BJP has had 27 OBC ministers in the NDA government. It has also given 85 OBC MPs, 365 OBC Vidhan Sabha MLAs, and 65 Vidhan Parishad representatives.
His focus also remained on Vishwakarmas, who constitute a majority among the backward castes. While stating that the BJP has done a lot to help them, he also made it a point to mention that the BRS government failed to do anything constructive for the welfare of backward castes.
"They promised a lot on the education front, but have only allowed madhushalas (wine shops) to be built and not pathshalas (schools)," Seenu said, mockingly.
Interestingly, a man outside the stadium was protesting against the state government for promoting the sale of alcohol in Telangana as a means to earn revenue. He was swiftly removed from the scene after a kerfuffle with the police.
PM Modi targeted the BRS by saying that surprising revelations will be made, as BRS leaders are even accused in the Delhi liquor scam.
He was talking about the alleged connection of K Kavitha, KCR's daughter, in the Delhi liquor policy case.
Even the Congress and its chief in Telangana, Revant Reddy, have taken jibes at KCR and BRS for banking on revenue from alcohol sales to fund their election campaigns in the state.
A shocking development occurred recently when the state Excise Department managed to collect more than Rs 2,500 crore without selling a drop of liquor. This came from application fees for licences.
Notably though, there is reservation in the allotment of liquor licences, with 786 licences (30 per cent) for disadvantaged sections.
From earning Rs 12,703 crore in 2015-16, Telangana has collected nearly Rs 30,000 crore in liquor sales revenue in 2021-22.
Maybe Not Now, Maybe '24
The BJP's OBC push in Telangana may be the right idea, but it might be coming too late in the day. After positioning itself as the main challenger to the BRS for most of 2022, the BJP seems to have lost that position to the Congress.
However, for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, all bets are off. What the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) do now is too late for the Telangana assembly polls. But it may well pay off in the summer of 2024.
Sharan Setty (Sharan K A) is an Associate Editor at Swarajya. He tweets at @sharansetty2.
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