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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was supposed to have ‘emptied’ the Congress of its leaders as per the master political strategy, but in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, the party did the hit job on BRS.

A majority of the candidates for the 17 LS constituencies in Telangana hail from BRS and among them, there are those who got tickets within days of joining the party and there are cases of tickets being announced before even the ‘defections’ had happened.

This has been causing much hand-wringing and consternation among those who have invested years with the party and its ideology. Save for party chief and Union Minister G. Kishan Reddy (Secunderabad) and national general secretary Bandi Sanjay Kumar (Karimnagar), the rest are either ‘newcomers’ or turncoats.

“We did not expect so many seats to to be given to newcomers. The cadre is unhappy and feel let down while there is heartburn among seniors about being ignored. Money, caste and so-called winnability factor have become dominant over ideology and commitment based on vague surveys,” said a senior leader, pleading anonymity.

But, the overriding belief is that the Modi factor will prevail over any such ‘disappointment’ before Parliament polls. Former Minister Eatala Rajender is contesting from Malkajgiri constituency with the Central leadership choosing him over the claims of seniors like P. Muralidhar Rao despite his poor show during the Assembly polls.

He is not the only ex-BRS leader as Chevella’s Konda Vishweshwar Reddy, Medak candidate and former MLA M. Raghunandan Rao too, jumped from the pink ship.

Incidentally, all the reserved seats went to turncoats. General secretary Bangaru Shruti, daughter of former national president Bangaru Laxman, was distraught over being overlooked for Nagarkurnool (ST) seat, which was allotted to Bharat Prasad, son of BRS MP Rajaiah. Another former MP Seetaram Naik was given ticket for Mahabubabad (ST).

Ex-BRS MP G. Nagesh got ticket for Adilabad replacing incumbent S. Bapu Rao and another ex-BRS MLA A. Ramesh was chosen for Warangal (SC) ignoring veteran Ch. Sambamurthy. BRS MP B.B. Patil was selected for Zaheerabad while T. Vinod Rao became a surprise choice for Khammam even as Nalgonda ticket went to ex-BRS MLA S. Saidi Reddy.

An ex-Congress leader G. Srinivas was chosen for Peddapalli (SC) and he joins Mahabubnagar candidate and former Minister in erstwhile Congress Government D. K. Aruna, who is trying her luck for the second time having lost in 2019. Dharmapuri Aravind will also be contesting for the second time from Nizamabad having trounced ex-Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s daughter and MLC K. Kavitha. He too is relatively new to the saffron brigade and had lost in Assembly elections.

Top party leaders attest candidates were chosen after due deliberations and weighing factors of caste and following at the constituency level. “Prime Minister Modi is our tallest leader, but we also need popular and strong candidates at the local level. How can those who have been in the party for more than five years called newcomers? We are sure to capture majority seats,” asserted Rajya Sabha member K. Laxman.

Former MLC N. Ramchander Rao said, “All our eight MLAs in the Assembly are newcomers even when stalwarts lost. Our party has decided to widen its base for future growth and remove the impression about being confined to a few sections only. So those from other parties are being welcomed, especially in the South.”

But, veterans are not impressed. “Those who have stood by the party should have been considered for four or five seats. Even during the Assembly elections 90 turncoats were preferred. It is not correct to say we lack suitable candidates. How did Bandi Sanjay Kumar get elected last time? This election is about another term to Mr. Modi, who won’t be interested if the party assures adequate support?,” questioned a leader.

“A proper balance has to be maintained between old and new leaders. We can no longer claim to be the party with a difference as we are now in the same boat as others with backdoor entries being encouraged,” remarked another leader. Both requested not to be identified.

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