A "weakening" Cong & BJP's gameplan to challenge TRS in

With the Congress facing desertions in Telangana, a resurgent BJP is now pushing ahead to expand its base, occupy the main opposition space and emerge as the only viable alternative to the ruling TRS.

Winning four seats of the total 17 in Telangana in the Lok Sabha elections has given the Amit Shah-led party new confidence and energy that it indeed can challenge the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, headed by Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.

Seen as only a marginal player and not a force to reckon with in Telangana, the BJP's Lok Sabha election performance has come as huge suprise to political circles.

The BJP had bagged only five seats in the 2014 assembly elections and it came down to a mere one in the polls held last December, amid signs that it would take a long time for the party to make inroads in the State.

But it has all changed now, and the BJP sees a clear opportunity to emerge as the main opposition, replacing a "weakening" Congress.

Twelve Congress MLAs, of the total 19, joined the TRS last week, dealing a huge body-blow to the Rahul Gandhi-led outfit.

BJP's vote-share went up to nearly 20 per cent in the Lok Sabha elections, from about seven per cent in the December Assembly poll.

BJP national spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao said the Lok Sabha election results have shown that his party has grown tremendously in Telangana and "people have lost confidence in the Congress party."

"And after massive drubbing of the Congress on a national scale, BJP is certainly seen as the only viable alternative to the TRS," Rao told PTI.

"BJP will chalk out an action plan to emerge as the only viable alternative to the TRS by 2023 (when Assembly elections are due). BJP is very confident of achieving this goal."

Senior Congress leader D K Aruna joined the BJP on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections, as also A P Jithender Reddy, who had served as the floor leader of the TRS in the previous Lok Sabha, after being denied ticket by TRS.

BJP is drawing huge inspiration from victories in Nizamabad and Karimnagar Lok Sabha segments.

In Nizamabad, BJP nominee defeated the Chief Minister's daughter K Kavitha, while in Karimnagar, its candidate accounted for B Vinod Kumar, who was deputy floor leader of the TRS in the previous Lok Sabha.

The defeat of these two leaders is seen as a huge setback to the TRS.

Narasimha Rao made no secret that his party is keen to get leaders of other parties into the BJP fold.

"There are some remnants of TDP still remaining (in Telangana) and there are many Congress leaders.

So the BJP is open to attract newcomers or people who are in senior positions in other parties, BJP is certainly willing to admit them but it will be done on a case-to-basis," he said.

But political analysts said it is too early to say if the BJP would indeed emerge as the "only viable alternative" to the TRS and occupy the main opposition space, squeezing out the Congress.

"BJP is working very seriously now to strengthen itself. If the Congress does not pull its act together immediately, lot of people will shift," a political observer said.

A Congress leader said: "If Congress loses its spirit and doesn't function, only then BJP will pick up; otherwise Congress will continue to be the main political rival of TRS.