The Telangana BJP is caught in a leadership rift, with some leaders calling for the removal of state president Bandi Sanjay Kumar. The rift is reportedly due to a number of factors, including Sanjay’s style of leadership, which some have described as “autocratic” and “divisive.” Others have criticized his policies, which they say have failed to garner public support.

The rift has deepened in recent weeks, with some leaders reportedly meeting with BJP national leaders to discuss the issue. It is unclear what, if anything, the national leadership will do to address the rift. However, the situation is likely to have a negative impact on the BJP’s chances of winning the next assembly elections in Telangana.

Here are some of the reasons why the Telangana BJP is caught in a leadership rift:

  • Dissatisfaction with Bandi Sanjay Kumar’s leadership: Some BJP leaders are reportedly unhappy with Sanjay’s style of leadership, which they say is “autocratic” and “divisive.” They also criticize his policies, which they say have failed to garner public support.
  • Factionalism within the party: The BJP has been plagued by factionalism for many years. This factionalism has intensified in recent years, with different factions vying for control of the party.
  • The rise of the TRS: The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has emerged as a major force in Telangana politics. The TRS has been able to consolidate its power base by winning two consecutive assembly elections. This has made it difficult for the BJP to make inroads into the state.

While it may seem like a ‘newcomers versus old faces’ tussle, senior leaders in the BJP hinted that it was also an intra-caste problem between Eatala Rajender and Bandi Sanjay, who represent two of the bigger BC communities in Telangana.

All is not well in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Telangana unit, as a section of leaders, mainly those who defected from the Congress or the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), are unhappy with current president and Karimnagar Lok Sabha MP Bandi Sanjay Kumar. The leaders want Huzurabad MLA and ex-BRS minister Eatala Rajender appointed the new party chief. Leaders close to Rajender said that there is animosity between him and Bandi Sanjay, which has now become obvious to everyone.

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With state elections about five months away, the BJP can ill afford to have such internal issues brewing, especially when the Congress is looking good after winning the recent Assembly elections in Karnataka. An ex-Congress leader who joined the BJP over a year ago told #Khabarlive that most of the ‘outsiders’ are very unhappy with Bandi Sanjay and claimed they are often left out of important meetings.

“Bandi Sanjay has to go. He does not talk to anyone, and except for planning pertaining to Amit Shah’s upcoming public meeting in the state on June 15, the party office is empty and devoid of activity. The BRS began preparing for polls about a year ago and the Congress seems to be charged after its Karnataka win. We had some momentum going, but it’s stalled now,” the ex-Congress leader added.

Another BJP leader hinted that the clash between Rajender and Bandi Sanjay stemmed from them belonging to different Backward Class (BC) groups. Rajender belongs to the Mudiraj community while Bandi Sanjay hails from the Munnuru Kapu community, both BC. The state has over 100 BC groups, of which Munnuru Kapus, Mudirajs, Gouds, and Yadavs are considered to be the largest groups, with their population ranging between 10 to 20%. Though the government classifies them all under the BC category, leaders from different communities do not see eye to eye.

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“Munnuru Kapus are numerically higher in the state, followed by the Mudiraj community. Historically, the latter group has not held leadership roles in politics or risen as high as Eatala Rajender. He is the first big Mudiraj face. Gouds and Yadavs have also traditionally held power and still do, even in parties like the Congress,” the BJP leader stated.

BC communities are believed to comprise about 52% of the total population in Telangana, while Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, and minority groups comprise about 19%, 8%, and 14% respectively. The Reddy community, which is a dominant (forward) caste group that has traditionally been the landed gentry for centuries, is believed to comprise about 6-7% of the population. Velamas, another dominant group to which BRS supremo and Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR) belongs, along with Brahmins form the remaining negligible population.

Some political analysts believe the tussle in the BJP is due to newcomers versus established faces. “Munnuru Kapus in the state are numerically strong and are also a landed class. They have been enjoying a lot of power, especially in the Congress and TDP in the past. In this scenario, Eatala Rajender is the first one from the Mudiraj community to emerge as a major leader. He comes from a left background and supported the BRS in the past, which also provided him good political mileage. There is a question of longstanding faces versus new entrants as well,” said E Venkatesu, a faculty member in the University of Hyderabad’s political science department.

Rajender was associated with KCR from his early days, ever since the latter floated the BRS (then called Telangana Rashtra Samithi or TRS) in 2001. Rajender held cabinet positions after the formation of Telangana in 2014 and was the state health minister until 2021 when KCR sacked him over corruption charges. Rajender eventually joined the BJP, resigned from the Huzurabad seat he held, and won the by-election in November 2021, defeating the BRS candidate.

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After winning in Huzurabad, Rajender’s presence in the BJP has grown, and now the party is going through inner rumblings. However, it is unlikely that Bandi Sanjay will be replaced so close to the state polls. When asked if there is a demand from within to see him as party chief, Rajender, however, chose not to comment. “I will do whatever the party high command needs me to do,” he told #Khabarlive.

When asked about the issue, BJP Telangana spokesperson Kishore Poreddy said there was no infighting in the party. “Everyone will be given responsibilities. The election is in five months and we will shift to a higher gear. We will engage everyone,” he stated.

In the 2018 state elections, the ruling BRS won 88 out of the 119 seats, while the Congress and Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which formed a ‘grand alliance’, won 19 and two seats respectively. The BJP’s Hindutva face, Raja Singh, managed to retain his Goshamahal seat in Hyderabad. Soon after the results, 12 MLAs from the Congress defected to the BRS, rendering the opposition in the state Assembly almost defunct.

The leadership rift is likely to have a negative impact on the BJP’s chances of winning the next assembly elections in Telangana. The BJP will need to find a way to unite its leaders and present a united front to the voters if it wants to be successful in the next elections. ■ #hydnews #khabarlive