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Eye on 2019 polls, Amit Shah to visit Telangana this month

LiveMint logoLiveMint 30-04-2017 Yunus Y. Lasania

Hyderabad: Kicking off its 2019 election preparation two years in advance, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) president Amit Shah will visit Telangana in the last week of May to participate in a poll-booth level programme to be held in the districts.

With only five seats out of the total 119 in the state assembly, the BJP is aggressively looking to leapfrog to 70 in the next elections.

During his stay, Shah will interact with voters and ground-level party workers as part of the BJP’s ‘Deen Dayal Vistar Yojana’, through which the party will focus on booth-level management.

“Amit Shah will spend three full nights in Telangana. We will decide on the districts soon. In 2019, we are not going to try and take up the opposition space, but will look to at least gain 70 seats and come to power,” said Telangana BJP spokesperson Krishna Saagar Rao.

The BJP will also train its guns on All India Majilis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi’s Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat, which AIMIM has been winning since 1984.

“It is in the heart of the BJP’s electoral pursuit and the No. 1 seat to be won in Telangana,” said Rao.

In the 2014 general election, BJP candidate for Hyderabad M. Bhagwant Rao was leading for some time. However, Owaisi won the seat with a huge 52.88% vote share, translating to 513,868 votes compared with Rao, who got 311,414 (32.05%) votes.

The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and AIMIM are, however, not worried.

Taduri Srinivas Prajapati, senior TRS leader and chairman of the Most Backward Classes Development Corporation (MBC), said the BJP government at the centre has failed to honour its poll promises made to the people of Telangana.

He added that by targeting the Hyderabad LS seat, the BJP could up end up polarizing voters. A senior AIMIM functionary, who works closely with Owaisi, said the latter is being targeted because he regularly raises minority-related issues in Parliament.

The AIMIM functionary said the BJP lost its voter base in the 2016 municipal polls in Hyderabad in which it won only four out of the total 150 seats. The ruling TRS won 99 and the AIMIM 44.

Last week, Shah was in Kolkata where he claimed the BJP’s support base will continue to expand and that in the 2019 general election his party will win a majority of West Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha constituencies. The BJP won only two seats from West Bengal in the 2014 general election but its vote share is on a steady upswing.

G. Kishan Reddy, Telangana assembly’s BJP floor leader, put down the party’s debacle in the 2016 municipal poll to a TRS “wave” due to the schemes it had announced.

“In 2019, we will also bring up the Triple Talaq issue and will garner votes from Muslim women,” he added.

Padmaja Shaw, a former faculty member at the department of communication and journalism, Osmania University, sees the BJP’s 2019 pitch as religiously slanted. She pointed out that by passing a bill in the assembly to extend Muslim reservation to 12% on 16 April, the TRS may have given the BJP a chance to gain in Telangana.

“We did not communalize the atmosphere in Uttar Pradesh (assembly elections) recently. Muslims and other minorities will understand our agenda of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikaas (development for all),” Rao said.

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