Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) tactics of creating religious divides and hate-mongering will not work in the southern states of India, as was depicted by the defeat the party faced in the Telangana Assembly elections. Many crucial contenders from the party, all of whom had a number of criminal cases to their name, lost their seats and tasted defeat in the state assembly elections, the polling for which was held on November 30. The party suffered a major setback as some of the party’s key leaders, namely Eatala Rajender, M. Raghunandhan Rao, Bandi Sanjay Kumar and Arvind Dharmapuri, lost their seats from their perspective constituencies. The only sitting BJP MLA who was able to retain his seat was T. Raja Singh, a serial hate offender and hate speaker. Goshamahal was the only seat that the BJP managed to retain in the recent state elections while losing four other seats.
The BJP state election campaign committee chairman and former health Minister Eatala Rajender, the seven-time MLA, lost to his arch rival P. Kaushik Reddy of the BRS (Bharat Rashtra Samithi) in Huzurabad Assembly constituency by a margin of more than 16 thousand votes. Notably, in May 2021, Rajender had been expelled from the BRS party over land grabbing allegations in Medak district, after which he joined the BJP and won the 2021 by-election. As per the allegation, the land of some farmers was encroached by Jamuna Hatcheries, a company owned by his wife, in Hakimpet in the Gajwel Assembly segment. Notably, a total of 40 criminal cases have been filed against Rajender which involve Covid-19 protocol and election code violations and unlawful assembly, as per a report of Times of India.
Dubbak MLA M. Raghunandhan Rao also lost his seat to a BRS candidate and Medak MP K. Prabhakar Reddy by more than 53 thousand votes. He had been elected from Dubbak in a by-poll held in the year 2020. As per the affidavit filed by Rao, a total of 27 cases are pending against him. In February 2020, a 47-year-old woman had accused Rao of raping her in 2007, when he was an advocate, after which a rape case was filed against him. More recently, in June 2022, the Hyderabad Police had registered a case under Section 228 (disclosure of the victim’s identity) of the Indian Penal Code against Rao after the legislator had revealed a few images and videos connected to a minor’s gang rape in Hyderabad in June 2022.
The BJP lost another crucial seat in a keenly fought electoral battle from Karimnagar Assembly seat where BRS’ candidate Gangula Kamalakar won by 4 thousand votes, defeating the BJP national general secretary and OBC leader Bandi Sanjay Kumar. Kumar’s name was a regular on headlines, having been accused of paper leaks and malpractice. The BJP MP also had a slew of anti-minority hate speeches to his name. As per a report of the Indian Express, in May of this year, Kumar had delivered a hate speech demanding that mosques across the state should be dug up and if Shivlings were found beneath them, then the sites should be handed over to Hindus. A few months prior to the state election, Kumar had been removed as BJP state President a few months ago and replaced by Union Minister G. Kishan Reddy.
It is essential to note that during the recent state election cycle, on October 17, 2023, Citizens for Justice and Peace had moved the Election Commission of India as well as the Telangana State Election Commission against an election speech delivered by BJP national general secretary Bandi Sanjay Kumar. In the said speech, made on October 10 in Adilabad district of Hyderabad, Kumar had made communally inflammatory and violence promoting comments. The complaint had highlighted that through his speech, Kumar has not only used manipulative and defamatory words against the AIMIM (All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen) party, but also made communally inflammatory remarks to promote violence against Muslims as well as raised calls for conducting encounters.
Meanwhile, Arvind Dharmapuri, who had previously defeated BRS’ K Chandrasekhar Rao’s daughter K Kavitha in the Lok Sabha elections from Nizamabad, lost to Kalvakuntla Sanjay, who is also from KCR’s family. He lost by a whopping margin of ten thousand votes. In June 2022, Dharmapuri had been booked for hate speech by the police under Section 505 (1)(c) of the IPC for abusing the then Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao. It had been alleged that Sharmapuri had used abusive words against the incumbent CM to degrade the Government’s image, to develop hate and create an unlawful atmosphere, which demanded legal action. As per a report of Newstap, he had called KCR a liar and a criminal and had threatened to “kill him and his hens”. In November 2022, as per another report of Newstap, the residence of Dharmapuri had been allegedly attacked by a mob of people after he had made certain provocative statements against KCR’s daughter Kavitha.
Raja Singh and his legacy of hate swims him through:
BJP leader T Raja Singh, known for targeting the Muslim community and raising the flag of Hinduvta in the otherwise peaceful and harmonious South, came to power for the third time in Goshamahal, which falls under Hyderabad’s Old City. The controversial leader scored a hat-trick from his constituency by defeating Nand Kishore Vyas of BRS and Congress’ Sunitha Rao, securing 80,182 votes in all and 21,457 more than his closest BRS competitor. It seemed that the decision of the party to revoke the suspension of the leader and seeking votes on the basis of his polarising speeches worked after all.
It is essential to note here that on October 22, 2023, a statement was released by the BJP reinstating Singh and revoking his suspension based on his reply to the show cause notice issued to him by the Central Disciplinary Committee. In his response to the secretary of the BJP disciplinary committee Om Pathak, Singh had promised not to do anything that brought disrespect to the party. He had further alleged that he had ‘never criticised Muslims’. As per a report of the Print, party insiders had alleged that Bandi Sanjay Kumar had a hand in bringing Singh back into the fold.
Notably, during the state election cycle, two complaints had been sent by CJP against Singh, seeking action against his corrupt conduct. In the first complaint, sent on October 25, CJP had approached the ECI, highlighting the hate speeches delivered by Singh in Gujarat during the Garba festivities which were aimed at instigating disaffection, spreading misinformation, peddling conspiracies and promoting violence against religious minorities. In the other complaint, sent on November 14, CJP had complained against a hate speech delivered by Singh in his own constituency during an election rally. The said speech had shown Singh indulging in the corrupt practices of promoting enmity between different communities/faiths, raising calls for violence and spreading misinformation to gain votes.