With veteran actress and former MP M. Vijayashanti’s return to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after 15 years, the party has received a shot in the arm in Telangana.
Vijayashanti quit the Congress to formally join the BJP and the move came at a time when the saffron party is upbeat over its impressive performance in the elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC).
Increasing its strength in the 150-member municipal body to 48 from a mere four, it emerged as the main opposition to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).
This surge came close on the heels of BJP’s victory in the by-elections to the Dubbak Assembly seat.
Now Vijayashanti’s return is likely to give a further boost to the party in Telangana. The development may help the party to attract some key leaders not only from Congress but also from the TRS.
The actor-turned-politician, who joined the BJP a day after meeting Union Home Minister Amit Shah said only the BJP can provide an alternative to the TRS. She exuded confidence that the BJP will come to power in the state in 2023.
Vijayashanti, who was heading the campaign committee of Congress, said she was ready for any role that may be assigned to her by the BJP leadership.
She recalled that she began her political journey in 1998 by joining BJP. She said for some reason she left the party in 2005.
Political analysts say BJP may use the actor for an aggressive campaign against TRS ahead of 2023 polls.
The BJP may also try to woo senior leaders of the Congress party who are losing hopes of a revival of the party’s fortunes and also the TRS leaders who may be unhappy with the party leadership.
Popular as ‘Lady Amitabh’ for her acting roles in Telugu films, Vijayashanti had joined the BJP in 1997 and served as general secretary of the party’s women’s wing. Riding on her popularity, BJP had named her as the party candidate for Kadapa Lok Sabha seat after reports that Congress leader Sonia Gandhi will be contesting from there. She withdrew from the race after Sonia Gandhi filed her nomination from Bellary.
Vijayashanti quit the BJP in 2005 to float a separate outfit, Talli Telangana, to fight for separate statehood for Telangana.
She later merged Talli Telangana with TRS and was elected to the Lok Sabha from the Medak constituency in 2009.
There was some drama on the eve of the 2009 elections. Vijayashanti had threatened to quit TRS after she was named party candidate from Mahabunagar. TRS Chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao, who wanted to contest from Medak, conceded her demand at the last minute.
In August 2013, a few months before the formation of Telangana state, TRS suspended Vijayashanti for anti-party activities.
The TRS politburo cracked the whip as she was planning to switch loyalties to the Congress for deciding to grant statehood to Telangana.
She had stayed away from TRS activities for a few months because of differences with Chandrasekhar Rao.
Vijayashanti had been in a sulk ever since she was informed that Rao was keen to contest from Medak in the 2014 elections.
The actor, who was advised to contest from the Secunderabad constituency, had stated that nobody could prevent her from seeking re-election from Medak for as long as she enjoyed the blessings of the people of Medak.
After joining the Congress, she contested from the Medak Assembly constituency in the 2014 polls but lost to Padma Devender Reddy of TRS.
After lying low for four years, Vijayashanti again became active in Congress in 2017 and was named its star campaigner for the party in the 2018 Assembly polls.
Vijayashanti, whose film career spans nearly four decades, has acted in over 180 films in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, and Hindi.
Her movie appearances had become rare from 1999 after she started focusing on politics.
After a sabbatical of 13 years, she returned to the silver screen this year with ‘Sarileru Neekevvaru’, which stars popular actor Mahesh Babu in the lead.