Hyderabad: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president Amit Shah on Wednesday tried to win the backing of the large Adivasi and Dalit population in Adilabad district, about 300 kilometres from Hyderabad in Telangana, by painting the Opposition as minority appeasers who denied opportunities to other oppressed communities in the state.

Targeting the Congress, Telugu Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), Shah tried to strike a chord with the socially backward classes by singling out the Muslim community, to build on the party’s Hindutva platform in the run-up to the elections in the state.

Shah even invoked the life of Komaram Bheem, a Gond tribal from the district who fought against the Nizam rule (in the erstwhile state of Hyderabad) and died, to make his point on how the Opposition had resorted to politics of appeasement at the cost of Telugu pride and self respect.

“K. Chandrashekar Rao has only done minority appeasement. He announced 12% reservation only for Muslims that has stopped the reservation for Adivasis and Dalits," Shah said at a public meeting in Adilabad on Wednesday.

However, it might be recalled that apart from increasing the minority quota from the existing 4% to 12%, the state government passed a bill in the Assembly last year seeking to increase the ST quota from the current 6% to 10%. Telangana has a limit of 50% on reservations, as set by the Supreme Court. The Centre, however, objected to the move.

Rao had gone back on his promise that the party would make an Adivasi or Dalit as chief minister, and instead was busy promoting his own family members, Shah added.

The TRS, which had close to 90 of the 119 Assembly seats (as many opposition MLAs switched over to the TRS after the 2014 Assembly polls) in the state, was the main target of all Opposition parties, including the BJP and Congress, who were both trying to make a strong case for itself in the southern state.

Rao has distanced himself from all other parties, but is close to the Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka, which is part of the loosely evolving ‘Mahagathbandhan’ or grand alliance led by the Congress and the TDP against the BJP (for the 2019 general elections).

For the BJP, defeating the Congress is its main aim to help it get closer to its ‘Congress mukt Bharat’ agenda in Telangana as well. Shah criticised the Congress manifesto, which he said was partial to minorities. “This manifesto is against the constitution. Development should not be religion based," Shah said.

The BJP, which has just five seats in the 119-member Assembly house and just one of the 17 parliamentary seats in the state, is hoping to make a major dent in the 7 December polls, which would give the party some standing in the south Indian state ahead of next year’s elections.

Though the BJP has better chances in other poll-bound states such as Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, the party is trying to gain some ground in other parts of Telangana and especially in the city, from where it won five seats in 2014, against the Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM, which won seven in the Muslim-dominated areas of the city.

Shah said the entire Opposition had knelt before the ‘Majlis’ but the BJP would stare the party in the eye and help restore Telugu pride and self respect.

BJP has an uphill task in Telangana, especially with the party’s former ally, Andhra Pradesh chief minister-led Telugu Desam Party (TDP) opposing the bifurcation of a unified Andhra Pradesh.

With TDP now allied with the Congress, the BJP is also trying to leave a larger footprint in south India where its only real presence is in Karnataka.

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