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

The Congress and BJP claimed eight seats each in Telangana; the clear loser is KCR’s party.

Published : Jun 06, 2024 11:32 IST - 5 MINS READ

Cut-outs of former Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, BRS working president K.T. Rama Rao, and other members of the party near a road in Telangana.

Cut-outs of former Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, BRS working president K.T. Rama Rao, and other members of the party near a road in Telangana. | Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

June 2 marked a decade of the existence of the State of Telangana, an anniversary that was overshadowed by the 2024 general election. This election has turned the spotlight on Telangana, and not necessarily for celebratory reasons. The Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), earlier the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), won no seats, ceding its share to the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), each of which won eight seats. The one remaining seat went to the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s (AIMIM) Asaduddin Owaisi, who won his fifth successive election.

As a counterpoint to Owaisi’s success is the performance of the BRS and its founder, K. Chandrashekar Rao. Rao, popularly called KCR, founded the TRS in 2001 to fight for the creation of Telangana State. It took more than a decade for that to happen, but in 2014, Telangana finally came into being. KCR served as Chief Minister of the State for almost 10 years, finally losing in 2023 to Revanth Reddy of the Congress.

Also Read | How Bharat Rashtra Samithi lost its sheen to the Congress

In 2022, KCR decided to rename the TRS, changing Telangana into Bharat, signalling his national aspirations. But in its first Lok Sabha outing as BRS, the party was wiped out, and KCR has to now be content with his role as leader of the opposition party in the State. The Congress and BJP have made gains at its cost. But what is probably more galling for KCR is the runaway success of his bitter foe, N. Chandrababu Naidu and his Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.

It’s not as if KCR was not given a warning that he and his party were losing their grip. In 2023, the BRS was decimated by the Congress-Communist Party of India alliance, which won 65 seats in the Telangana Legislative Assembly election, leaving the BRS with 39. KCR himself lost in one of the two seats he contested in. But even that could not have prepared him for such a wholesale defeat.

Steady decline

BRS contested from all 17 LS seats in Telangana and was relegated to the third spot except in three seats. In Mahabubabad and Khammam, BRS remained a distant second, as Congress leaders won these seats by over 3.5 and 4.6 lakhs, respectively. The party stood fourth in the vote tally in the Hyderabad seat. BRS’s vote share was 34.67 per cent in 2014 (11 seats) and 41.29 per cent (9 seats) in 2019. In 2024, BRS retained only 16.68 per cent vote share. In a press note, BRS Working President K.T. Rama Rao called the results a disappointing electoral setback.

“Firstly, we were fighting both Congress and BJP in the State. Second, since this is a national Parliamentary election, people perhaps did not see BRS as having much of a role at this point. Third, the Hindu-Muslim polarisation in several pockets of Telangana worked against us; we will bounce back,” BRS senior leader Dasoju Sravan Kumar told Frontline.

The Congress and BJP have won the same number of seats, but it appears that the grand old party has benefited from the backlash against the BRS. The Congress improved its tally from three in 2019 to eight in 2024. It retained Bhongir and Nalgonda, and has won six seats formerly held by BRS: Peddapalli (SC), Zahirabad, Nagarkurnool (SC), Warangal (SC), Mahabubabad (ST), and Khammam. In terms of vote share too, the party claimed 40.10 per cent soaring up from 29.48 per cent in 2019.

Also Read | Will the slow saffronisation of Telangana help BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha election?

The Congress’ significant gains came from the rural belt of Telangana, barring a few pockets. “Congress surely has done some good groundwork in the elections. But as anticipated early on, they should have swapped candidates in some seats such as Mahabubnagar with senior leaders,” says Harathi Vageeshan, a political science professor at Hyderabad’s NALSAR University of Law. Mahabubnagar was the sole constituency with a slim margin victory in Telangana, where BJP’s D.K. Aruna won over Congress’ Challa Vamshi Chand Reddy by 4,500 votes.

Meanwhile, the BJP has been working hard to consolidate and even outdo its Legislative Assembly election performance. Six months ago, the BJP managed to win only eight. Now, in the Lok Sabha election, BJP retained all four seats it had won in 2019 and added four more. The party has also boosted its vote share, from 19.45 per cent in 2019 to 35.08 per cent in 2024.

BJP supporters celebrate after the party’s performance in the Lok Sabha elections, at the party office in Hyderabad on Tuesday. 

BJP supporters celebrate after the party’s performance in the Lok Sabha elections, at the party office in Hyderabad on Tuesday.  | Photo Credit: ANI

The defectors

“The gains by the BJP were anticipated in Telangana once the space opened up after the weakening of the BRS in Assembly elections,” said Telakapalli Ravi, a political analyst. “To add to that, metropolitan areas haven’t been hospitable to Congress.”

Following the debacle in the 2023 Assembly Elections, several BRS leaders (including MPs) defected to the Congress and the BJP. Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee senior vice-president G. Niranjan told Frontline that prioritising defected candidates over party loyalists had impacted the party’s prospects in the State. Niranjan had even written to Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge in March, cautioning the party about his concerns. However, the party had gone ahead with the nominations of new entrants. Except for Kadiyam Kavya, who won from Warangal (SC), the other three leaders who defected to the Congress from BRS lost.

The defected candidates in BJP met with a similar fate. Six out of the 17 candidates fielded by the BJP in Telangana had defected to the party in 2024 (five from BRS, one from Congress). Only one of them won (Godam Nagesh, Adilabad).

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