The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is finding it difficult to penetrate the South beyond Karnataka, has set its eyes on the two Telugu States of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The party finds the two States, which have 42 seats collectively, a fertile ground to expand into the South, which continues to be a hard nut to crack despite unrelenting attempts.

While Home Minister and senior BJP leader Amit Shah, the No. 2 in the party, is in the city today to rev up the party machinery for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has lined up five back-to-back public meetings (two in Andhra Pradesh and three in Telangana) in a span of three days this week.

He is going to address three public meetings in Telangana covering nine Lok Sabha constituencies on March 16, 18, and 19. He is going to kick off the election campaign on March 16 by participating in a public meeting in the Malkajgiri constituency in the city. He will also address public meetings in Jagityal and Nagar Kurnool.

Amit Shah will address a conference of booth-level leaders of the party. The party is trying to gain more seats in the State, pushing the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), which suffered a defeat in the recent Assembly elections, to the third slot.

The party, which had won four seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, is targeting to win 8-10 seats in the State. The importance that the party is giving to the State is quite evident going by the line-up of visits by high-profile leaders in the next few weeks.

In Andhra Pradesh, where the party has announced an alliance with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Jana Sena, he would address a public meeting at Chilakalooripet. He is going to share the dais with TDP President N Chandrababu Naidu and Jana Sena President K Pawan Kalyan.

Interestingly, the party, which doesn’t have any base in Andhra Pradesh, has wrested six seats as it joined hands with the TDP-Jana Sena combine. While TDP is contesting in 17 seats, the Jana Sena is given two seats.

The TDP’s largesse to the BJP raised eyebrows considering the latter’s poor presence in the State. But, then, the BJP knew that Naidu, who launched a scathing attack on the NDA Government and Modi personally in 2019, was in a desperate condition now, angling for the NDA’s support to ensure a ‘smooth conduct’ of the poll.

A strange situation

The present political situation in Andhra Pradesh looks very strange. Both the ruling YSRCP headed by Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy (which has 22 seats) and the Opposition TDP (which has three seats) back the NDA Government.

Though the situation is not going to change much in the post-election scenario, the BJP insists that it gets a good number of seats this time. It is trying to build its base in the State to play a much bigger role in the 2029 elections.