Hyderabad: With the main opposition Congress rocked by the defection of 12 party MLAs and TDP pushed to the margins, the BJP is making aggressive efforts to emerge as the alternative to the ruling TRS in Telangana.

BJP president and Union Home minister Amit Shah, who launched the party's membership drive in Telangana here, on Saturday, asked the party cadres to enrol 18 lakh additional members to the existing 18 lakh as the basis for strengthening the party in the state.

Though it could win only one of the total 119 seats in the Assembly elections held in December last year, the BJP is upbeat about its prospects in Telangana after bagging four of the 17 constituencies in the recent Lok Sabha elections.

In terms of vote share, the party secured about 20% votes in the Lok Sabha polls.

Shah, who held a meeting with key state leaders Saturday night after kicking off the membership campaign, is understood to have told them that 20% vote share meant the party is near power in the state.

Citing the example of states like Tripura where the BJP increased its strength manifold from a marginal vote share, he told the leaders that the party stood a bright chance of growing in Telangana, BJP sources said.

What created an encouraging atmosphere for BJP's growth is the problems that Congress is beset with, besides the decline of TDP in the state.

Congress won 19 seats in the Assembly polls and as many as 12 of them recently left the party and merged with the ruling TRS.

The issue of leadership at the national level, with Rahul Gandhi stepping down as party president, also had its impact on the party in the state.

The TDP, which was once a formidable force in Telangana, finds itself on the margins now with a number of leaders switching over mainly to the TRS and also the Congress during the last several years.

The TDP had won only two of the 119 seats in the assembly polls though it contested in alliance with the Congress and others.

The party's massive defeat in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh also had its impact on the party in Telangana.

The BJP seeks to occupy the space created by TDP's decline and the Congress suffering a setback.

"Now, no one can stop BJP. Because, people are looking towards the BJP as an alternative. Only thing is, it should work to live up to the expectations of people as an opposition, for which we are ready," BJP MLC N Ramachander Rao said, according to a PTI report.

“The TDP and Congress are almost finished in Telangana,” he claimed.

Not only the weakening of Congress and the "political wilderness" of TDP cadres, the anti-incumbency against TRS would also help the BJP, he said.

The Congress, however, dismissed the BJP's claims.

"If you look at the numbers, BJP is a one-MLA party. Congress, despite the defections, we are still a six-MLA party. Technically, we are a 19-MLA party (prior to merger of its MLAs)," AICC spokesperson Sravan Dasoju was quoted saying in a PTI report.

BJP winning four MP seats in the Lok Sabha poll does not mean it has absolute mandate, he said.

Congress has organisational structure in every nook and corner of Telangana, whereas BJP has such structure in only 20% of the villages, he said.

It is "ridiculous" for the BJP to assume, because of the desertion of few leaders, that good days have begun for it and that Congress has shrunk, he said.

"They are thinking that they can polarise people, but Telangana has a Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb (composite culture)," he said.

The leadership issue is not for Congress but for the BJP as can be seen in it encouraging leaders from other parties to join, he said.

AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi told reporters on Saturday that Sangh Parivar's alleged attempts to spread hate and hatred would not succeed in Telangana as an atmosphere of brotherhood prevails in the state.

K Chandrasekhar Rao is a formidable chief minister and the state is number one in the country in social welfare, he said.

There is also a strong regional feeling in Telangana which the BJP would not be able to change, Owaisi said.