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BJP Gave A Push To Telangana Statehood Movement

HYDERABAD: It is a well-documented fact but that got buried in the heated atmosphere of the hurly burly of statehood politics. The Bharatiya Janata Party was among the foremost to formally ask for a separate Telangana and pass a political resolution to that effect.

But, unlike the then Telangana Rashtra Samithi, which was born specifically out of this demand, and with a single-point agenda, made better use of its position than the BJP as it reaped political benefits from Telangana achieving statehood.

It was way back in 1997 that the BJP, in a resolution passed at its AP state unit’s annual meeting in Kakinada made a promise of ‘one vote two states’ and ran with the slogan in the 1998 elections which saw it win four Lok Sabha seats, two – Rajahmundry and Kakinada — from what is now Andhra Pradesh and Secunderabad and Karimnagar from the Telangana region.

Though the BJP was first off the block on this front, the struggle for the party even as it made its intention clear about statehood for Telangana — and that too before the formation of the TRS — was that its national leadership was wary of putting its weight behind it. The high command was that it would open the floodgate on demands from its other large state units for smaller states.

Union minister G. Kishan Reddy, who was the BJP state president in undivided Andhra Pradesh at the time of the state bifurcation, admits: "The question of exploiting it for political gains was never a part of our plan as ours is a national party. It was different for the then TRS party. Its entire reason for existence was the formation of Telangana and it claimed credit. But the fact remains that it is the BJP which was the first national party to seek Telangana state."

The struggle for the BJP, even as it made its intention clear about statehood for Telangana, before the formation of the TRS, was that its national leadership was wary of putting its weight behind its then AP unit worried that it would open a floodgate of demands from its other large state units for smaller states.

It was only after the present defence minister Rajnath Singh’s tenure as the party president between 2005 and 2009 that the BJP agreed to fully back Telangana but it also had to contend even as this decision was not welcomed in Andhra region. But with its national leadership's backing, the BJP then dived hard into the statehood movement becoming the only national party to become part of the Joint Action Committee steering the struggle.

The BJP leaders, and its cadre, along with the party’s associated wings, led their own programmes, marches and padayatras and protests, including a few at Jantar Mantar in Delhi but things really began coming to a head after the UPA II government announced on December 9, 2009 that it would start the process of bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.

But in the hiatus that followed till 2014, a key moment that forced the then Congress-led UPA government at the Centre was the 2012 February byelection victory of the BJP from Mahbubnagar Assembly constituency. That bypoll was necessitated by the passing away of N. Rajeshwar Reddy, who had won the seat in 2009.

"That was also the time when the TRS was running a vilification campaign against the BJP and other parties saying they are not for statehood in a bid to gain monopoly over the issue," says Yennam Srinivas Reddy, who won the seat on a BJP ticket.

Though it took some more time before the Bill for reorganising the state was introduced and passed in Parliament, the bypoll outcome had the Congress wondering if time was running out for it in the region.

It was after this win that the BJP made an unequivocal promise that it will grant statehood within 100 days of coming to power in the Centre left the Congress with no option but to hasten the process. These developments left Congress, which feared a strong BJP in the state, with no option but to finally put the wheels of reorganization into motion.

"Everything we did," recalls Kishan Reddy, "we did with full commitment. The Telangana Poru Yatra from the Krishna river in Mahbubnagar to Godavari river in Khammam tilted the scales in our favour. Many said Telangana will never happen but we never gave up."

In some ways, the people of Mahbubnagar were instrumental in things getting expedited towards Telangana formation.

And 10 years down the line from June 2, 2014, the BJP leaders across the party say that their party’s role may not have made headlines but it was they, who were the force behind the realisation of Telangana’s statehood.

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