As BRS faces a crushing defeat in Telangana, BJP sees hope of expansion

The Bharat Rashtra Samithi failed to win any seats in the Telangana Lok Sabha election, with the Congress and BJP gaining ground.

Published : Jun 11, 2024 23:58 IST - 6 MINS READ

The deserted office of the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) in Hyderabad on June 4.

The deserted office of the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) in Hyderabad on June 4. | Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leaders boycotted the Telangana Formation Day celebrations on June 2 in protest against a new State emblem and song, which they felt was an erasure of Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao’s legacy. Two days later, the party drew a blank in the Lok Sabha election.

The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party won 8 seats each (of 17 in Telangana). Both parties asserted their improved standing, with the Congress increasing its tally from three in 2019. Its vote share too increased from 29.48 per cent in 2019 to 40.10 per cent. The BJP had won four seats last time, while the BRS secured nine. The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) retained the Hyderabad seat for a fifth time.

Coming after the November 2023 Assembly election, the Lok Sabha election was crucial for the Congress’ State unit to demonstrate that the public mandate was firmly in its favour. After winning the Assembly election, the party’s priority was to fix governance issues and end a decade of lack of transparency. The government has also been chipping at the debt inherited from the BRS regime. It implemented some of the party’s election guarantees too, which boosted its prospects in the Lok Sabha election.

Also Read | How BRS, the party that created Telangana, is routed in its own State

The run-up to the election, however, saw dissent within the party over candidate selection. G. Niranjan, senior vice-president of the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee, expressed disappointment about prioritising defectors from other parties over loyalists. Only one (Kadiyam Kavya, Warangal) of the four defectors the Congress fielded won.

Referendum on Revanth’s performance

Analysts had warned that prioritising Chief Minister Anumula Revanth Reddy’s candidates over OBCs and seniors in the party would cost the Congress at least a couple of seats. Only three of the seven such candidates won. Harathi Vageeshan, a political science professor at Hyderabad’s NALSAR University of Law, told Frontline that the party should have swapped candidates in some seats, such as Malkajgiri and Mahabubnagar.

The election was also seen as a testament to Revanth’s performance. As such, the party’s loss to the BJP in his home turf (Mahabubnagar) and his former constituency Malkajgiri has hurt his image. Revanth campaigned hard in Malkajgiri for Patnam Sunita Mahender Reddy (a former BRS leader), but she lost to Eatala Rajender of the BJP by 3.91 lakh votes.

Telakapalli Ravi, a political analyst, said the Congress was organisationally weak in metropolitan areas. The Congress campaigned exhaustively in the urban belts (Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation and surrounding regions) to make up for the losses it faced in the Assembly election.

“The gains by the BJP were anticipated in Telangana once the space opened up after the weakening of the BRS in the Assembly election”Telakapalli RaviPolitical analyst

Continuing the trend in the Assembly election, the Congress retained its stronghold in the rural belt of Telangana, except for a few places. It also won all three seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes (Peddapalle, Warangal, and Nagarkurnol) despite the BJP’s Madiga (SC sub-caste) outreach attempts. Another source of solace to the Congress was the victories with huge margins for Kunduru Raghuveer (Nalgonda, by 5.59 lakh votes), Ramasahayam Raghuram Reddy (Khammam, by 4.67 lakh), and Balram Naik Porika (Mahabubabad, by 3.49 lakh).

The BJP retained all the four seats it had won in 2019 (Secunderabad, Karimnagar, Nizamabad, Adilabad) and added four more (Medak, Malkajgiri, Chevella, Mahabubnagar) to its tally. “The gains by the BJP were anticipated in Telangana once the space opened up after the weakening of the BRS in the Assembly election,” said Ravi. Several analysts said the BJP also gained from the slip-ups by the Congress, mainly in candidate selection. The Congress, however, claimed that the BRS transferred votes to the BJP.

According to a Lokniti-CSDS study, traditional BRS (then TRS) and Congress voters had shifted allegiance to the BJP in 2019. In 2024, with the Congress at the helm in the State and voters seeing the party as an alternative at the Central level, this pattern of vote shift appears to have been limited to the BRS.

Outlier State

Telangana is one of the few outlier States where the BJP gained the Lok Sabha election (increasing its share from 19.45 per cent in 2019 to 35.08 per cent). The State has been an ideal laboratory for the BJP’s expansion of its Hindutva agenda in south India (after Karnataka). Between 2014 and 2023, the party made significant inroads into the State, primarily through cultural and social engineering. Years of outreach to disgruntled OBC communities, and the SCs and STs boosted its prospects.

What worked most in the last few months, however, were its campaigns, including multiple visits by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah and an aggressively communal, anti-Muslim, and anti-Congress campaign. For instance, Modi called Muslim reservation an injustice to Dalits, Adivasis, and OBCs. The party’s campaign strategies paid off, except in Hyderabad, where the AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi won by over 3.38 lakh votes.

AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi greeted by supporters after he won the Lok Sabha election from Hyderabad, at the party headquarters on June 4.  Owaisi won by over 3.38 lakh votes.

AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi greeted by supporters after he won the Lok Sabha election from Hyderabad, at the party headquarters on June 4.  Owaisi won by over 3.38 lakh votes. | Photo Credit: PTI

The BJP, like the Congress, aimed to reach double digits, but to no avail. It welcomed several defectors from the BRS and the Congress, but only one of them won (Godam Nagesh, Adilabad).

The 2024 election marks the first time the BRS has failed to win any Lok Sabha seat since its inception. KCR renamed the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, which he founded in 2001, the BRS in October 2022 aspiring for a bigger role in national politics. But anti-incumbency, unemployment, lapses in the implementation of welfare schemes, corruption, and the Kalvakuntla family’s inaccessibility helped the Congress win the State election. This signalled the beginning of the BRS’ downturn.

Soon many of its leaders abandoned the party for the Congress and the BJP. The party faced another setback when the Enforcement Directorate arrested KCR’s daughter K. Kavitha on March 15 in the Delhi excise policy case, a day before the announcement of the election schedule.

Faulty alliance

In a desperate bid, it attempted a coalition with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) despite that party’s lack of electoral prospects in Telangana. Failing to accomplish that, KCR welcomed long-time adversary and former BSP chief R.S. Praveen Kumar into the party and fielded him from Nagarkurnool (SC). The move was dubbed hypocritical by even a section of Kumar’s followers as he had been one of the most critical voices against KCR in recent years. By April, the party appeared incapable of putting up a fight.

Also Read | ‘Due to BRS’ misgovernance, Telangana is a bankrupt State’: Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka

The BRS contested from all 17 seats in Telangana. Its best performance was being a distant second in Mahabubabad and Khammam, where the Congress won by over 3.5 lakh and 4.6 lakh votes respectively. Its vote share plummeted from 41.29 per cent in 2019 to 16.68 per cent. The party’s working president K.T. Rama Rao admitted that the result was disappointing.

  • The Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) lost all seats in the Telangana Lok Sabha elections, signalling a major decline.
  • Internal conflicts, including dissent over candidate selection and strategic errors, contributed to BRS’ defeat.
  • The Congress and BJP gained significantly, with the Congress increasing its vote share.

Some party leaders and cadre attributed the loss to a “betrayal” of voters and the “misinformation campaigns” of the Congress and the BJP. Any sincere attempt by BRS leaders towards course correction remains unknown. Nevertheless, it is too soon to write off the BRS.

KCR was right when he said during his campaigns that regional parties would have a key role in forming the government at the Centre. However, it could perhaps remain a sore point for KCR that his long-time rival, Nara Chandrababu Naidu, has become that kingmaker.

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