While the BJP has had a strong presence in Karnataka for over 15 years now, it has hitherto struggled to make headway in other southern states
Polling for the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) election is slated to be held on Tuesday, with over 74 lakh voters holding the key to the fate of 1,122 candidates.
While the corporators who get elected will work on civic issues such as repairing roads and maintaining the water supply network, the campaign rhetoric would suggest that much more is at stake. Much of the political canvassing has been focused on emotive topics that are decidedly outside the purview of a municipal corporation — such as illegal Rohingya migrants, alleged ‘anti-national’ elements, and even the repealing of Article 370 of the Constitution.
Communally charged campaign
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath set the tone for the BJP’s campaign, as he reiterated the demand to rename Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar. He said at a rally, “Some people were asking me if Hyderabad can be renamed as Bhagyanagar. I said – why not. I told them that we renamed Faizabad as Ayodhya and Allahabad as Prayagraj after BJP came into power in Uttar Pradesh. Then why can’t Hyderabad be renamed as Bhagyanagar?”
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi, on his part, said, “The fight is between Hyderabad and Bhagyanagar, now it is the responsibility of the people to decide whether it is Hyderabad or Bhagyanagar.”
Adityanath also made a reference to Article 370, and he was quoted by India Today as saying, “Under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah repealed Article 370, giving full freedom to the people of Hyderabad and Telangana to purchase land in Jammu and Kashmir.”
The BJP’s Telangana state president Bandi Sanjay also courted controversy after he vowed to carry out ‘surgical strikes’ on the old city to weed out Rohingya Muslims and Pakistanis.
The Times of India quoted Owaisi as saying in response, “If there are 40,000 Rohingyas, what is home minister Amit Shah doing? Do we prepare the electoral list in the GHMC? If there are 40,000 Rohingyas as BJP members claim, show us at least 1,000.”
Union home minister Amit Shah also took part in the campaign, in an indication of the importance that the BJP attaches to the election. Most of his speech remained focused on civic issues, as he promised to make Hyderabad a global IT hub and questioned the TRS and AIMIM over the recent floods in the city. However, in a remark that can be construed as a veiled appeal to religious sentiments, he said that the BJP wants to free Hyderabad from ‘Nizam culture.’
Meanwhile, the AIMIM’s Akbaruddin Owaisi also courted controversy after asking whether the ‘samadhis’ of former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao and TDP founder NT Rama Rao, built on the Hussain Sagar lake bank, would be removed as he questioned the eviction drive against “poor people” residing near water bodies.
In response, Bandi Sanjay said that if these ghats are touched, then Darussalam — where the AIMIM party office is located — would be demolished.
The Hyderabad Police has filed cases against both Akbaruddin Owaisi and Sanjay over their speeches.
BJP’s foray into Telangana
Behind the BJP’s aggressive campaign for the Hyderabad civic polls lies a clear intent to expand its footprint south of the Vindhyas. While the saffron party has had a strong presence in Karnataka for over 15 years now, it has struggled to make headway in other southern states.
However, three recent developments have given the BJP significant cause for cheer in Telangana. In the recent bypolls, the BJP won in Dubbaka, which was earlier seen as the TRS’ home turf.
Secondly, in a shot in the arm for BJP, actor-turned-politician and Jana Sena Party president Pawan Kalyan has announced his party’s support to it for the coming polls to the city civic body.
Kalyan, who has a good following especially among the youth, said his party candidates who have already filed nomination for the polls would withdraw from the contest.
Lastly, Swamy Goud, senior TRS leader and former chairperson of the Telangana State Legislative Council, joined the BJP on 26 November, in an indication of the BJP’s growing acceptability in the region.
In this backdrop, the BJP would fancy its chances of increasing its political footprint in the GHMC polls. In the previous polls, the TRS won 99 seats, AIMIM won 44, while the BJP won only 4 seats.
This time, however, the saffron party would hope to significantly improve upon its performance, which explains its no-holds barred campaign in Hyderabad.
With inputs from PTI
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