Purandeswari appointment: Is BJP aiming at resurrection or only flogging dead horse in AP?

BJP appointing Purandeswari as its Andhra Pradesh president ended up reaffirming the perception that it is only flogging a dead horse

Purandeswari appointment: Is BJP aiming at resurrection or only flogging dead horse in AP?

HYDERABAD: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s recent appointment of Daggubati Purandeswari as its Andhra Pradesh unit president has only ended up reaffirming the perception that the national party is only flogging a dead horse in the State and not aiming at its resurrection. The way the former Union Minister was put in the saddle in a sudden, lightning move bore the classic signature of the BJP in withholding its true card while floating other names for attention diversion.

Without a speck of doubt, Purandeswari takes on the mantle replacing someone whose leadership skills were constantly under question right from his day one. Somu Veerraju’s inability to keep the BJP’s so-called alliance-partner Pawan Kalyan of Jana Sena away from the courtship of Telugu Desam Party’s Chandrababu Naidu also played its part in unseating him. Veerraju’s honeymoon with the state presidentship itself began under trying circumstances when his predecessor Kanna Lakshminarayana was accused of stooging heavily for Chandrababu Naidu even at the expense of the party’s own identity.

While the Congress paid the ultimate price with its complete decimation, thanks to the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, the BJP too, received flak partially for being party to this decision. But, the BJP largely suffered – as was evident from the election results of 2014 and 2019 – due to the lack of a powerful leader who could play the proverbial pied-piper to make gains from its Narendra Modi hype. The proof of the saffron party’s listless performance in Andhra Pradesh lies in the amount of votes it received in 2019. With 1.5 percent votes, even NOTA (none of the above) fared better than the BJP’s 0.96 percent vote share in the State.

And now, after two failed experiments at the helm in Andhra Pradesh and with the elections almost appearing on the horizon, the party Central leadership really needed a strong leader that can act as a binding glue and re-energise the cadre for the impending ballot fight. But, has the BJP really succeeded in this is the question playing on the minds in the political circles.

For starters, Purandeswari, until her elevation into the key leadership role, hasn’t been a force to reckon with since the time she ditched the Congress in a huff after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and found her sanctuary in the BJP in 2014. After two straight humiliating defeats in Lok Sabha polls from Rajampet and Visakhapatnam in 2014 and 2019 respectively, she also lost the much-needed nip and knack to win electoral battles. Her worries seem to be centered more around salvaging herself, oscillating between Bapatla and Visakhapatnam for an ideal ‘re-launch’.

Her stint as BJP Mahila Morcha Prabhari hardly grabbed any eyeballs and thus went unnoticed. Many would not even know that Purandeswari was actually in-charge of the party’s Odisha affairs until her latest appointment to the AP unit.

Eyewash or gamble aimed at robbing TDP of NTR’s legacy?

Purandeswari’s promotion comes as part of the BJP’s national-level rejig to ‘fine-tune its strategy’ in Assembly poll-bound states and ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha elections. There is hardly any cognisable significance in her appointment for the naked eye. In fact, it only became a butt of ridicule in political circles that while it found replacements in Union ministers including Kishan Reddy in Telangana, the party merely went for a former Union minister as it had none to boast from Andhra Pradesh in the Narendra Modi Cabinet.

Also, the response has been passive even within the BJP: There are no signs of big, euphoric celebrations, and no outpouring of overwhelming reactions from the leaders and no added spring in the stride among the cadre in Andhra Pradesh. Barring a few perfunctory greetings, the news was absorbed with the same, usual nonchalance by the saffron folks.

Political analysts are, however, intrigued by the BJP Central leadership’s logic and timing in choosing Purandeswari ahead of the key elections. It goes without saying that whoever is in the saddle will have to take on the mighty YSRCP of YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on one side and carefully handle the fragile coalition conundrum involving Chandrababu Naidu and Pawan Kalyan on the flipside.

The decision appears even more perplexing in this context as history suggests that Purandeswari hasn’t had the best of relations with Chandrababu Naidu, at least in the political realm. Pawan Kalyan, the official ‘alliance partner’ of the BJP, has been rooting for the presence of the TDP in the mix to fight the formidable YSRCP in the coming elections. Will Purandeswari be able to take up cudgels with a leader that she had crossed swords a zillion times is the missing jigsaw in the BJP’s puzzle.

The decision also compounds the confusion on how the saffron party views the coalition equation, specifically with regard to the TDP. Is Purandeswari’s promotion a strong hint at the possibility of only a BJP-Jana Sena combine heading to the hustings and with the design of denting the prospects of the TDP than the ruling YSRCP? For now, only the BJP think-tank holds the answer to this riddle.

Another insinuation links Purandeswari’s cause to a quiet and subtle move by the BJP top leadership, aimed at robbing the TDP of its share of NTR’s legacy. With the daughter of NTR herself leading from the front, the hypocrisy of Chandrababu Naidu and his TDP could be thoroughly exposed, as per this line of thinking.

BJP gave up on Kapu hopes?

Purandeswari’s elevation also marks the BJP’s deviation from the ‘Kapu’ considerations which were bandied about as its main plank before the 2019 elections. The party looked to tap the potential of the influential caste and its huge vote base by appointing Kanna Lakshminarayana first in 2018 and then replacing him with Somu Veerraju hailing from the same community in 2020.

The national party has also been keeping Pawan Kalyan and his Jana Sena Party firmly in its grasp with the hope that the actor-turned-politician would eventually wean off those from the community aligned to YS Jagan’s YSRCP. As it was proven, the BJP hasn’t really succeeded in moving the mountains to attract the Kapus in significant numbers to its fold. Now, with Purandeswari’s appointment, the national party has only set the tongues wagging on whether it has given up its hopes on the Kapu equation and hence looking the other way.

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