At 11:37 am on Tuesday, Dr K Laxman, the president of the Telangana unit of the BJP tweeted a couple of pictures from the State Core committee meeting at the party office in Hyderabad. Three hours later, came a cryptic “Again” tweet message from Raja Singh with two perplexed emoticons.
Raja Singh is the lone BJP MLA in the Telangana assembly, elected from the Goshamahal constituency in Hyderabad. According to convention, the floor leader in the assembly is a member of the state core committee. But since the committee has not been reconstituted after the December 2018 assembly elections, Singh has been kept out of official deliberations. A miffed Singh chose to highlight his omission with a sarcastic quote-tweet.
“Door rakhte hain mujhe (they keep me away),” said Singh speaking to UmaSudhir.com. He revealed that he had brought the treatment meted out to him by the party’s state leadership to Amit Shah’s attention on more than a couple of occasions but says “these people do not listen”.
The reason Raja Singh is treated almost like a pariah is because his hardliner image is not in sync with the more moderate leadership of the Telangana unit. Raja Singh has been a champion of causes dear to the core BJP ideology like cow protection and the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. His utterances against Muslims have often attracted attention for the wrong reasons and he has been accused of making hate speeches. On the occasion of Rama Navami in 2017, the legislator threatened to behead those who oppose the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
“All those who warned of dire consequences if Ram Mandir was built, we were waiting for you to say this so that we can behead you. So far you had a government of the Mullahs there, now you have your father’s sarkaar there,” he thundered.
When seven men were arrested in the Old city area of Hyderabad in June 2016 and charged by the NIA of being part of an ISIS terror module, Raja Singh accused political parties like the MIM of converting the part beyond the Charminar into a “mini-Pakistan”.
Singh had also taken on the makers of `Padmavat’, threatening to set fire to the theatres if the movie was screened in Hyderabad. Before that he had targeted Karan Johar’ `Ae Dil hai mushkil’ because it starred Pakistani actor Fawad Khan.
When I asked a Telangana BJP leader on what the state unit of the party thought of Raja Singh’s controversial utterances, he said, “He runs his own parallel shop. The BJP can neither associate with what he says nor can it disassociate from him since he is our MLA.”
Singh was also not a part of the Telangana team that attended the Parliamentary party meeting in Delhi to deliberate on the list of candidates for the Lok Sabha election. Laxman, Bandaru Dattatreya and Kishen Reddy were among those who represented Telangana at the meeting.
But significantly, Amit Shah spoke to Raja Singh from Delhi, in the presence of senior national leaders.
Sources in the Telangana BJP say Raja Singh was asked by Shah to contest either from Chevella or Zaheerabad Lok Sabha constituencies. Singh confirms the offer was made.
“But I asked to be excused from these two seats. I was ready to contest from Secunderabad constituency or just campaign for the party,” said Singh. Kishen Reddy is likely to get the ticket from Secunderabad, virtually retiring veteran leader Bandaru Dattatreya, the four-time MP from the urban constituency from active political life.
But despite his rapport with Amit Shah, Raja Singh has found it difficult to get along with the state leaders.
“After the assembly elections, he demanded action against specific leaders who he alleged had worked against him,” says N Ramchander Rao, MLC and Hyderabad BJP president. “There is no denying that Raja Singh has an impressive fan following. He is very popular.”
The BJP’s strength in the assembly reduced from five to one in the December 2018 elections, with only Raja Singh able to save his seat. Given its meagre strength on the ground, the party’s prospects do not look too bright in the Lok Sabha polls as well.