With national leaders like Amit Shah and JP Nadda visiting the state in quick succession, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is giving out a clear message that Telangana is important for them.
After Karnataka, the saffron party seeks to continue its southern conquest with Telangana, and all its dreams are riding on state party chief Bandi Sanjay Kumar’s shoulders. The 51-year-old MP from Karimnagar just concluded his 25-day Praja Sangrama Yatra 3 at Hanmakonda.
Known for his aggressive style and unapologetic delivery of the BJP’s Hindutva agenda, he was made the Telangana state chief at a time when the BJP saw an unexpected rise in vote share in 2019.
Talking to News18, political analyst Gali Nagaraja said: “Sanjay became the Telangana BJP chief after the 2019 elections. In that election, the BJP sprang a big surprise by getting four parliament seats and 20% vote share. It was a dramatic rise as in the state election in 2018, they had just one seat and less than 5% vote share.”
With such a turn of events, the BJP started looking for a new face. There was a general perception that the leaders were helming the BJP at that time — Dr K Laxman and Kishan Reddy before him — were close to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi.
Sanjay, meanwhile, was a young leader who came from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) background. “Sanjay, who was under 50, was relatively young and a core RSS member. He rose from his position of a municipal councillor. With his RSS background, he could aggressively push the Hindutva agenda and spread the BJP’s message through some gruelling padayatras. The party leadership is hopeful of flourishing with divisive politics in Telangana,” added the analyst.
Immense Gratitude to @BJP4India President Shri @JPNadda ji for gracing the Public Meeting at Orugallu and kind words. Under your able leadership @BJP4Telangana will work towards ousting the New Nizam and bring BJP to power in Telangana.#PrajaSangramaYatra3 pic.twitter.com/DB06ikN3Mv
— Bandi Sanjay Kumar (@bandisanjay_bjp) August 28, 2022
Sanjay does not hail from a political family, but joined the RSS at the age of 12. He was an active member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). While pursuing an MA in public administration from Madurai Kamaraj University, he occupied various ranks in the students’ organisation.
Talking about his colleague’s core strength, former MLA from Uppal, Dr NVVS Prabhakar told News18: “Sanjay is a self-made political leader and occupied various posts in the party. He also took part in the struggle for a separate Telangana state. He served as a municipal corporator from Karimnagar from 2005 to 2019 and became a force to reckon with due to his active involvement in festivals such as Hanuman Jayanti and Ganesh Chaturthi. With his organisational prowess and passion for Hindu causes, he has been able to influence the masses. He has also taken up long padayatras that have brought him close to people all over the state.”
Sanjay is known to be close to Amit Shah and rose up the ranks by organising meetings, taking part in agitations and writing articles. His party members believe that he is able to fight KCR tooth and nail through his confrontational oratory style.
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A caste angle, too, threatens to upset political equations for the BJP. Vidyasagar Rao and Telangana’s CM belong to the same community — Velama. The small community is politically ambitious and it does not have loyalty to any one party. It is believed that Vidyasagar is close to KCR and this does not bode well for BJP.
Will Bandi Sanjay Kumar be able to overcome these challenges and turn fortunes for BJP in the 2023 general elections? One needs to wait and watch.