Why did BRS suspend Jupally Krishna Rao, Ponguleti Srinivas Reddy?

The decisive move against the two leaders brings to an end an excruciating phase of maximum restraint on the part of the BRS where they were given a long rope despite their persistent dissidence

Why did BRS suspend Jupally Krishna Rao, Ponguleti Srinivas Reddy?

HYDERABAD: Finally, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) has cracked the whip against dissident leaders Jupally Krishna Rao and Ponguleti Srinivas Reddy. As per the directions of party supremo K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR), the party on Monday announced the suspension of both the leaders citing their ‘anti-party activities’ as the reason.

The decisive move against the two leaders brings to an end an excruciating phase of maximum restraint on the part of the BRS where they were given a long rope, despite their persistent dissidence. With crucial elections barely a few months away, the leadership has decided to put its foot down in an effort aimed more to send a strong message that it was in no mood to remain blind to disgruntlement and its possible costs on the electoral prospects.

Both Jupally Krishna Rao and Ponguleti Srinivas Reddy had been feeling like fish out of the pond in the BRS for varied reasons.

In Jupally’s case, it is the political vicissitudes at the constituency level that saw him fall from grace – from being one of the closest to KCR till 2018 to a virtual pariah in the next four years.

A minister in KCR’s cabinet since 2014, Jupally suffered a humiliating defeat in Kollapur at the hands of Congress party’s Beeram Harshavardhan Reddy in the 2018 elections. But the Congress legislator soon switching his loyalties to the then TRS almost sounded the death knell for the Mahabubnagar strongman. The move left Jupally in jitters as he felt insecure over his political future. He first went into a cocoon before becoming a perennial dissident in the party.

Several attempts by the party leadership to placate him failed to yield positive results as the senior leader shunned all the proposals for his accommodation in some position of respectability. Some of the overtures were made by none other than K T Rama Rao, the party working president, not so long ago. In an attempt to dispel premonitions and boost his morale, KTR went all the way to Jupally’s house in Kollapur a few months ago. Having already become rock-hard, the veteran leader was in no mood to pay heed to the party’s pleas.

Even though Krishna Rao’s frequent rants in public against Harshvardhan Reddy, and at times against KCR, complicated the matters, the party leadership feigned ignorance of it in the hope of assuaging his feelings sooner or later and convincing him to work for the party again.

A few developments in the last few days seem to have prompted the BRS leadership to actively decisively against Krishna Rao. Speaking to the media the other day, Krishna Rao shot back at a television journalist, saying: “Who said I am in the BRS?”. This, coming around the same time he joined hands with another BRS dissident leader Ponguleti Srinivas Reddy, seemed to have worked as the last nail in the coffin for Jupally’s continuance in the BRS.

Within 24 hours of Jupally taking part in an ‘Aatmeeya Sammelanam’ organised by Srinivas Reddy, the party announced their suspension, as directed by its supremo KCR.

For a leader who followed KCR in his footsteps right from the days of the separate statehood movement, his political flight in the pink party ending in a tailspin could not have been more ironic.

Reacting to his suspension, Jupally Krishna Rao, however, tried to put up a brave front on Monday. He claimed to be feeling like a ‘bird freed from a cage’ and that he was happy to have been suspended from the BRS.

Repeating the swarm of his accusations against the BRS government, KCR and the party, he alleged that he was not given the party membership enrollment books for the last three years. “This used to make me doubt whether I was really in the BRS or not. They suspended me today fearing that their wrongdoings would be exposed. I sacrificed the minister’s position for the sake of Telangana. I made it clear that I cannot be bought even with a bait of a thousand crore rupees. I had been criticising KCR since January. He (KCR) should spell out why he suspended me. I would have felt happier had they only answered all my posers before suspending me,” he said.

Denial of ticket, the reason for Ponguleti Srinivasa Reddy’s dissidence

Political existence coming under a cloud is the common factor in the cases of both Jupally and Ponguleti Srinivasa Reddy. It was only that their manifestations were different. Ponguleti Srinivasa Reddy was elected to the Lok Sabha from Khammam in 2014 on the ticket of the YSRCP of YS Jaganmohan Reddy.

Call it greener pastures stemming from personal business interests or a post-bifurcation compulsion, he immediately switched over to the TRS (now BRS). Even the leadership of the YSRCP, after making feeble noises initially, appeared to have quickly reconciled to this reality. But trouble started for Srinivasa Reddy when the then TRS denied him renomination from Khammam for the 2018 elections while favouring TDP migrant Nama Nageswara Rao for the key seat.

His reputation as a rich businessman, all willing to spend liberally, did not help his cause in his campaign for his renomination. He ended up as a sore loser as the then TRS found a better bet in Nama Nageswara Rao with an eye on the TDP votes to also help increase its Assembly seats in the district. Nama did win the election but the TRS’ plan to grab more Assembly seats backfired. This has only rubbed more salt on an already bruised ego of Srinivasa Reddy.

Seething in anger, he had been targeting his own party and KCR in public, especially in the last one year or more. A few months back, he hogged all the limelight in the media as he was speculated to be heading towards the BJP. After a few days of hype, the buzz died down as his plan to join the BJP fold apparently fizzled out, for reasons best known to Ponguleti and the saffron party.

He was also rumoured to have made hectic backdoor efforts to align with YS Sharmila’s YSRTP. Given his close proximity to the family of the late YSR and his widow YS Vijayamma, he was expected to join YS Sharmila’s party. But even that plan did not take any concrete shape and one is not sure if the idea is still in the pipeline or has been conclusively ruled out.

In all the political melee, Srinivas Reddy was said to have mended his ties with his former boss YS Jaganmohan Reddy, largely influenced by his business interests. The proof of it came when he met YS Jagan in Amaravati following which, his company was awarded a digital meter manufacturing contract by the Andhra Pradesh Government

The BRS leadership also tried to address the concerns of Ponguleti to the extent possible. KTR also made efforts to reach out to Srinivas Reddy to dispel his misgivings and have him working again for the party but the issues remained sticky as ever at the former MP’s end. Like in Jupally’s case, the party leadership also chose to ignore Srinivas Reddy’s frequent barbs against KCR in the recent past until the two dissident leaders joined hands at a recent event. In an attempt to preempt the traits of open dissidence from becoming contagious, the party leadership suspended Srinivas Reddy too, along with Krishna Rao.

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