How Congress secretly boosting BJP’s chances in 6 seats in Telangana, writes Padma Rao Goud

As the Lok Sabha elections approach, the political scene in Telangana appears to set the stage for a triangular contest between the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the Congress. However, beneath the surface, it is increasingly clear that the real competition is not between three parties but between the BRS and a de facto alliance of the Congress and the BJP.

In previous elections, the Congress party coined the term “B-Team of BJP” to label almost every regional party that was not aligned with it. This tactic was strategically employed to sow confusion among voters and weaken these regional parties, inadvertently clearing the path for the BJP. For example, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was branded as the BJP’s B-Team during the Gujarat elections; ironically, the Congress is now allied with the AAP in Punjab, Delhi, and Chandigarh.

The same strategy surfaced in Telangana during the November 2023 Assembly elections, where the Congress attempted to alienate minority communities from the BRS by dubbing it as another of BJP’s B-Teams. This approach backfired, as the minority electorate largely supported the BRS. Although BRS did not secure a majority, it won 18 seats that have a significant Muslim voter base, 16 of which are in Greater Hyderabad. In contrast, the Congress captured eight such constituencies, while the AIMIM secured seven. The Congress’s misleading tactics ultimately facilitated the BJP’s victory in eight constituencies by splitting the minority vote.

An in-depth analysis of the last Assembly election results reveals an apparent nexus between the Congress and the BJP. Notably, the Telangana Congress president and Chief Minister, A Revanth Reddy, who has openly acknowledged his RSS roots and admiration for Modi, employed a two-pronged strategy to bolster the electoral prospects of candidates with RSS affiliations. This included integrating leaders from RSS backgrounds into the Congress and ensuring their candidacy, coupled with a “weak candidate, weak campaign” strategy that directly benefited the BJP in numerous constituencies.

If you examine the Congress candidates pitted against the BJP’s top leaders in the Assembly elections, you will see that none were genuinely competitive. Moreover, key Congress figures, including Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, abstained from campaigning in these critical constituencies. Consequently, the last Assembly elections cannot be characterized as a triangular contest but rather as a direct confrontation between BRS and a de facto Congress-BJP alliance.

Fortunately, the BRS party recognized Revanth Reddy’s strategy and responded by fielding strong candidates capable of challenging the BJP’s incumbents. This tactical move paid off, enabling BRS to unseat three sitting BJP MPs—Bandi Sanjay, Dharmapuri Arvind, and Soyam Bapu Rao—as well as two sitting MLAs, Eatala Rajender and Raghunandan Rao. The party also mounted a formidable challenge against BJP MLA in Gosha Mahal. Notably, while Rahul Gandhi did address a public meeting in the Nampally constituency towards the end of the Assembly election, he did not extend his campaign efforts to support Congress candidate Sunitha Rao against BJP MLA Raja Singh. In contrast, BRS Working President K. Tarakarama Rao actively engaged the electorate with four road shows in Gosha Mahal, where the Congress significantly lagged, finishing a distant third.

Under the leadership of its president and Chief Minister Revanth Reddy, the Congress has adopted a similar strategy for the Lok Sabha elections. Despite claims by Congress leaders of potentially winning 14-15 out of 17 Lok Sabha seats, the reality on the ground suggests they are paving the way for BJP victories in six key constituencies: Secunderabad, Malkajgiri, Chevella, Karimnagar, Mahbubnagar, and Nizamabad. The approach remains unchanged, marked by nominating ‘Weak Candidates’ and conducting ‘Weak Campaigns’.

In Secunderabad, the Congress has fielded Khairtabad MLA Danam Nagender, a recent defector from BRS, against Telangana BJP President and Union Minister G Kishan Reddy, who is seeking a second term. Nagender’s move to Congress was solo, failing to bring any BRS cadre with him. This has led to resentment within the original Congress ranks, who view him as an opportunist and a power seeker.

Nagender’s political journey is marked by frequent shifts in allegiance. In the 2004 elections, he abruptly left the Congress on the final day of nomination submissions to join the TDP, where he won the Asifnagar seat. Despite his victory, the TDP lost power, and he subsequently resigned to rejoin the Congress but failed to win the subsequent by-election. His fortunes improved in 2009 when he not only won his seat but also secured a ministerial role. However, post the formation of Telangana in 2014, he lost the elections and switched allegiance to BRS, where he was elected twice as MLA in 2018 and 2023. Following the BRS’s electoral defeat and the Congress’s ascent to power, he switched sides once again.

Nagender’s repeated party switches have damaged his reputation, not just among the electorate but also within the Congress cadre. In the current political landscape, his candidacy is more beneficial to his BJP opponent, Kishan Reddy, than to the Congress party. Nagender’s role seems more about splitting votes, potentially aiding the BJP, rather than securing a win for Congress.

The BRS party secured victories in six out of seven Assembly constituencies in Secunderabad. For the Lok Sabha election, BRS declared me as its candidate from Secunderabad. I’ve served as MLA for four terms and held positions as minister and Deputy Speaker during the BRS regime. With such a strong background and the full support of the BRS MLAs and party cadre, I’m well-positioned to claim the Secunderabad Lok Sabha seat.

In this context, Danam Nagender’s candidature appears to be less about securing a win for the Congress and more about undermining Padma Rao’s chances. Nagender’s role seems strategically aimed at splitting the vote, potentially diminishing my lead and indirectly aiding BJP President Kishan Reddy’s campaign. This tactic indicates that Nagender is being used by Congress not to challenge the BRS directly but to facilitate a BJP victory in the constituency.

In a similar strategic move, Congress convinced Ranjith Reddy, the sitting MP from BRS, to switch parties and run as their candidate for Chevella. However, this decision was not aimed at securing a victory for Ranjith Reddy in the upcoming election. Instead, it appears to have been orchestrated to aid the BJP candidate, Konda Visveshwar Reddy, in winning the Chevella seat.

Like Nagender, Ranjith Reddy joined Congress without bringing any significant support from the BRS, as the entire BRS cadre remained loyal to their party. This lack of support from his new party members, who view him skeptically, and his former party, who see him as a defector, has left him isolated. His candidacy has thus become largely symbolic, with the real electoral battle in Chevella now primarily between Kasani Gyaneshwar Mudiraj of BRS and Visveshwar Reddy of BJP.

Congress seems to be using Ranjith Reddy’s candidacy as a means to split the BRS vote base, thereby weakening their position and enhancing the chances for a BJP victory in the constituency. This strategy underlines a recurring tactic where Congress fields candidates not to win but to influence the election outcome in favour of the BJP indirectly.

In the Malkajgiri seat, Congress has chosen Patnam Sunitha Reddy, yet another defector from BRS, as its candidate. As a non-local and relatively new to the area, her candidacy seems primarily symbolic. This move by Congress appears to be a strategy designed not to secure a win for its own party but to aid BJP candidate Eatala Rajender by splitting the vote.

Despite these tactics, BRS has fielded a formidable candidate in Ragidi Laxma Reddy. His strong local presence and electoral appeal make him a challenging opponent for any rival. His candidacy poses a significant obstacle to the Congress-BJP strategy, potentially ensuring that electoral manipulation through vote splitting will not easily undermine BRS’s prospects in Malkajiri.

In other constituencies such as Mahabubnagar and Nizamabad, the Congress candidates, Vamshi Chand Reddy and T Jeevan Reddy, respectively, do not present a formidable challenge to their BJP counterparts. In Mahabubnagar, Vamshi Chand Reddy, who narrowly won the Wanaparthy Assembly seat in 2014 by just 82 votes and then placed third in the 2018 elections, is up against DK Aruna, BJP’s national Vice President. Similarly, in Nizamabad, T Jeevan Reddy, who lost the Jagtial seat by a significant margin of 15,822 votes to Dr. Sanjay of BRS in the last Assembly elections, is now contesting against the BJP’s sitting MP, Dharampuri Arvind.

The strategic fielding of these Congress candidates, who have previously shown weak electoral performances, suggests a lack of serious intent to win these seats. Instead, it appears that the Congress’s goal is to dilute BRS’s vote share, inadvertently aiding the BJP. BRS, on the other hand, has positioned strong contenders in these areas, including sitting MP Manne Srinivas Reddy and two-time MLA Baji Reddy Govardhan, enhancing their prospects against the Congress-BJP electoral manoeuvres. This pattern underscores a recurring strategy where Congress seems more focused on influencing the electoral outcomes to benefit the BJP rather than securing victories for themselves.

In Karimnagar, the situation is particularly startling. This Lok Sabha seat, currently held by BJP National General Secretary and former state president Bandi Sanjay, is witnessing a significant tactical lapse from Congress. BRS has robustly entered the fray, nominating former MP Boinapally Vinod Kumar and kicking off the campaign with a massive public meeting. In stark contrast, the Congress party has not declared its candidate for Karimnagar three days into the nomination process. This delay in fielding a candidate and the absence of campaigning have allowed Bandi Sanjay considerable time to fortify his position within the constituency.

Despite these challenges, BRS’s candidate Vinod Kumar is vigorously campaigning and is well-positioned to contend strongly against Bandi Sanjay. BRS’s proactive approach and intensive campaigning efforts starkly highlight Congress’s apparent neglect and lack of serious commitment in this crucial battleground, potentially costing them not only this seat but affecting their overall credibility in the region.

Given the circumstances, it is evident that the BRS is the true contender against the BJP, while the Congress appears to be playing a secondary role. The strategic fielding of weak candidates and lackluster campaigning by Congress in key constituencies like Secunderabad, Malkajgiri, Chevella, Karimnagar, Mahabubnagar, and Nizamabad suggests an underhanded effort to cede these seats to the BJP. This tactic undermines the secular vote and aids in the BJP’s expansion in Telangana.

To counteract the BJP’s communal politics and prevent its growth, voters should consider supporting the BRS, which is actively contesting against the BJP’s agenda. By rejecting the Congress party, whose electoral strategy may inadvertently bolster the BJP, voters can ensure that their support contributes directly to a secular and inclusive approach to governance. It is crucial that voters recognize that in this election, a vote for Congress could essentially serve as a vote for the BJP, given the dynamics at play.

(Author is Secunderabad MLA and BRS candidate from Secunderabad Lok Sabha constituency)