Major leadership reshuffle in BJP state units: Why in Telangana and will there be a change in Tamil Nadu?

The BJP high command has on Tuesday rolled out a major leadership overhaul in crucial BJP state units where the leaders of four state units were replaced with the new faces. The four states that welcomed a new BJP leadership are Telangana, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, and Jharkhand. Notably, all these four states are non-BJP ruling states and the rejig in Telangana has come at a high time when the state is going for the assembly polls later this year. 

The BJP has a bleak base in these states and the changes in the leadership were done in a fashion of balancing political and vote-bank factors. As BJP would be facing its foe Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) - led by K Chandrasekhar Rao in the assembly polls of Telangana, the saffron party's high command has changed the leadership with an objective of ending the political infight within the party in Telangana and revive it ahead of the polls. 

The BJP has announced that the Union Minister of Tourism, G Kishan Reddy has been appointed as the Telangana BJP unit chief and Reddy has replaced Bandi Sanjay, whose tenure had a pile of controversies and political outcries. Bandi Sanjay had recently completed his third year as the state BJP chief and in the midst of speculations about the reshuffle in Modi's cabinet, it has been reported that Sanjay would be inducted to the central cabinet as a Union Minister. 

Kishan Reddy is a native of Telangana and is BJP's new captain to lead the party for the polls in Telangana and indeed to South India. After the party's historical debacle in the recently-held Karnataka polls, the BJP is out of a direct regime in South India and if the party triumphs in the Telangana polls, it would enter into what remains a troubling territory for the party. While former Union Minister Purandeshwari has been appointed as the BJP state chief of Andhra Pradesh, Sunil Jhakhar and Babulal Marandi have been appointed as the chief of BJP state units of Punjab and Jharkhand respectively.

BJP's political backlash in Telangana 

Under Bandi Sanjay's leadership, the BJP state unit in Telangana had gone through episodes of political impasse, sparked by a slew of factions. Sanjay has encountered a lot of disagreements from the opposite camps - particularly from the one that led by Etela Rajender, who was once a friend and now a foe to Chandrasekhar Rao, the Telangana Chief Minister. Rajender has left BRS and joined BJP in June 2021 in the presence of Kishan Reddy, the incoming chief of the BJP state unit.

BJP Telangana had witnessed a conflict between Rajender and Bandi Sanjay and eventually, Rajender won in ousting Sanjay from the power. In their conflict, Rajender had recently threatened to resign from the party if Sanjay wasn't removed. Though Sanjay had a backing from the BJP's central leadership, the party was more concerned about the growing tussle and political infighting in Telangana, which pushed for the removal of Sanjay. 

As Kishan Reddy had earlier served as the Telangana BJP unit chief, he has again become the choice of the high command and this time, Reddy would be facing impending challenges of mitigating the infighting and pacifying the dissenting leaders. According to reports, Bandi Sanjay has been accused of disrespecting other leaders and exercising autocratic leadership. Sanjay has also been slammed for his self-boasting drive at the cost of the party. 

Last week, Etela Rajender had informed the BJP's high command that his workers and supporters aren't getting respected and he also claimed that due to Sanjay's conduct of insulting others, many leaders who were bound to join BJP from BRS are now backtracking their decisions. Besides this leadership crisis, the BJP factions also had a conflict over how their rival Chandrasekhar Rao's BRS should be attacked. In the wake of these serious risks, the BJP has removed Sanjay as the state party chief and replaced him with Kishan Reddy, who has a good trackrecord among the BJP leaders.  

The change has become imperative in Telangana owing to the state assembly polls and besides appointing Kishan Reddy as the state BJP chief, the party's high command has also appointed Etela Rajender as the chairman of Election Management Committee of the state unit for the assembly polls. Rajender was the first finance minister of Telangana under Chandrasekhar Rao, when the state was bifurcated from Andhra Pradesh. The BJP hopes that with a key post, Rajender would bring leaders from the Congress and BRS and he will also add strength to the party in the dominant Mudiraj community. 

Will there be a leadership change in Tamil Nadu? 

For BJP, Tamil Nadu is a long-evasive state in a troubling territory of South India and currently, the state BJP unit is headed by an IPS officer-turned-politician, K Annamalai and the state leadership is marred by his controversial tenure. Annamalai is the youngest person to head the Tamil Nadu BJP unit and as the party aims to have a political breakthrough in Tamil Nadu in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, it is mulling replacing Annamalai with a veteran leader. 

If replaced, Annamalai might be called to Delhi with a ticket to enter the new parliament as a Rajya Sabha MP. In July and August 2023, ten Rajya Sabha seats will go to the polls and of these ten, six are from West Bengal, three from Gujarat, and one from Goa. According to our sources, the BJP high command had planned to elect Annamalai to Rajya Sabha from any of these three states. As talks about Annamalai's elevation as Rajya Sabha MP have been rife among the state BJP leaders, a handful of veteran leaders are already on a race to replace him as the next Tamil Nadu BJP chief.