Former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy joined the BJP on Friday, becoming the second ex-Congress leader from South India to switch sides in as many days, after Anil Antony, the son of Congress veteran from Kerala, AK Antony.
Mr Reddy, who served as the last Chief Minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh before the formation of Telangana state in 2014, resigned from the Congress in March 2023 over differences with the party leadership.
Mr Reddy’s decision to join the BJP comes ahead of the assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh next year, where the ruling YSR Congress and the main opposition Telugu Desam Party are locked in a bitter contest. The move could potentially tip the scales in favour of the BJP, which is hoping to make inroads in the state.
The 62-year-old politician had resigned from the Congress once before in 2014, after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, and formed his party, ‘Jai Samaikyandhra’. However, he failed to make an electoral impact in the 2014 polls. He later rejoined the Congress in 2018 but remained inactive in politics for a long time.
Mr Reddy, who hails from the Rayalaseema region, is expected to strengthen the BJP’s presence in the area where he has considerable influence. He could also be projected as a potential chief ministerial candidate by the BJP, which is attempting to emerge as a third alternative in the state.
Mr Reddy praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he was welcomed into the BJP by senior leaders at the party’s headquarters in New Delhi. Citing his family’s six-decade-long association with the Congress, Mr Reddy said he “never imagined” he would leave the party.
He hit out at his Congress leadership for its “inability to accept the people’s verdict and make course correction”. “They believe they are correct and all others, including the people of India, are wrong,” he said.
“They want authority to control but don’t want to work hard or take any responsibility… The Congress is getting damaged in all states and its high command does not interact with others or take their opinion,” said the four-time former MLA.
Praising the BJP’s leaders led by PM Modi for their “hard work and commitment towards the nation”, he said, “They have clarity of thought and consistency, and taking courageous decisions is the hallmark of the government.”