Pune: Keen on gaining a toehold in Maharashtra, Telangana chief minister and Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) chief K Chandrashekar Rao reached the state on a two-day visit amid much fanfare.
Rao, travelling in a convoy of about 600 vehicles and accompanied by the entire Telangana cabinet, BRS MPs, MLAs and other party leaders, arrived in Solapur on Monday afternoon by driving more than 600km.
Rao will on Tuesday offer prayers at Vitthal temple in Pandharpur on the occasion of Ashadhi Ekadashi, an auspicious day for devotees. The Telangana chief minister would also shower rose petals from a helicopter on warkaris (pilgrims), devotees of Lord Vitthal who undertake the wari (pilgrimage) on foot from across the state and reach Pandharpur on Ashadhi Ekadashi. The Warkari sect has a strong following in rural Maharashtra, especially among farmers, who are being wooed by Rao’s party to build its base in the western state.
The 6km long convoy interacted with people en route and functionaries initiated a membership drive, the BRS said in a statement.
After seeking the blessing of Lord Vitthal, Rao will address a gathering in Sarkoli of Pandharpur. Rao is also likely to visit Tulja Bhavani temple in Tuljapur of neighbouring Osmanabad district on Tuesday afternoon.
“In Solapur, the CM would inspect weaving industry and handloom units on Tuesday before leaving for Pandharpur and Tulja Bhavani temple,” the Telangana chief minister’s office said in a statement.
After renaming the Telangana Rashtra Samithi as BRS in December, Rao has been trying to make space for his party in Maharashtra. He is focusing on districts bordering Telangana, which will help him make inroads in the state. Two days ago, Sushma Mule of Savkheda village in Aurangabad district was elected as the first sarpanch (village council chief) from the BRS.
In the past three months, Rao has visited Aurangabad, Nanded and Nagpur, three prominent cities in Marathwada and Vidarbha. He has urged farmers to help in bringing a pro-farmer government in Maharashtra by promoting the Telangana model of governance. With a slogan “Ab ki baar, kisan sarkar” (a farmers’ government this time), the BRS has been trying to connect with farmers in Maharashtra that has the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party worried.
It became evident when NCP leader Ajit Pawar told a party gathering last week that they cannot ignore the BRS and Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, considering the fact VBA reached damage to the prospects of a Congress-NCP alliance candidate in the last state assembly and Lok Sabha elections.
Moreover, NCP leader Bhagirath Bhalke, who lost the Pandharpur assembly by-poll in a close contest against the bharatiya Janata Party in May 2021, is all set to join the BRS on Tuesday. The by-poll was necessitated following the death of Bhagirath’s father and NCP MLA Bharat Bhalke. The BRS chief had recently sent a chartered flight for Bhagirath Bhalke to visit Hyderabad for a meeting.
The Rao-led party has also said it would declare disgruntled BJP leader Pankaja Munde as its chief ministerial candidate if she joins BRS. “Pankaja Munde is certainly capable of leading the state and justice will be done to her abilities,” Balasaheb Sanap, state convenor of BRS, said on Friday.
Meanwhile, Congress and Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) have termed BRS a B team of the BJP.
“BRS is a B team of BJP and will make no impact in Maharashtra politics. The people are smart enough to understand who will benefit from the division of votes,” said Nana Patole, state Congress chief. The BRS is facing a crisis in Telangana as many of its leaders are joining the Congress, he claimed.
Shiv Sena (UBT) also accused Rao of using Lord Vitthal for his political entry in the state. “Last time they had AIMIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen) and this time AIMIM in the new form (BRS) has arrived. They have put up banners and hoardings worth hundreds of crores. The state government should investigate where they are getting so much money to spend in Maharashtra,” Sanjay Raut of Shiv Sena (UBT) said.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar was cautious while commenting on the BRS. “The attempt is to show that politically they can show a different picture, nothing more than that,” Pawar said. “If they really want to serve the people, then they are welcome.” Whether the BRS can pose any challenge or not will be known only after the elections, the veteran leader said.