BJP pushing ‘Liberation Day’ demand harder with eyes on GHMC polls?

Hyderabad: This year, the clamour to observe ‘Liberation Day’ by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been particularly louder, so much so that BJP MP and union minister has asked the state to set-up a memorial for it as well. While this is an annual affair, the timing of it hints that the saffron party may be also looking to gain electorally in the upcoming GHMC (Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation) polls. 

While the TRS has remained mum on the issue of Liberation Day, a statement from the party on Wednesday said that party working president and state IT minister will hoist the national flag at TRS Bhavan on Thursday to mark the day Telangana had joined the Indian union. Ditto with the Congress. A little more fanfare on the occasion may be expected from the BJP. 

September 17, 1948 is when the erstwhile State of Hyderabad, ruled by the last Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan, was annexed to India through ‘Operation Polo’, which is also known as Police Action in local parlance. The princely state was the largest in British India comprising 16 districts in 1948 (8 in Telangana, 5 in Maharashtra and 3 in Karnataka). The annexation happened after negotiations failed and also due to political turmoil.

While the last Nizam is often faulted for his decision to try and stay independent after India got its freedom from the British on August 15 1947, the situation in 1948 was a lot more complex. Telangana between 1946 and 51 also witnessed a peasant rebellion, known as the Telangana Armed Struggle, against state-appointed Jagirdars (landlords), comprising both Hindus and Muslims. It was led by the Communist Party of India. 

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So where does BJP fit into all that? Nowhere. It was literally a non-player in 1948 and in state politics then. Its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), had been active in different parts of the Hyderabad State, but its role was very limited.

But will it be able to gain electorally in Hyderabad during the GHMC polls? While political analysts feel the chance is slim, they believe that this is part of the BJP’s larger game plan, wherein it is looking to spin a narrative on Operation Polo amongst the new generations in Telangana. 

“This is not a new issue, and has been there from 1950s. Considering this, if you think this will have a great impact on the GHMC elections, I don’t think so. But with every passing generation, you have new voters coming into the picture. The BJP wants to keep voters agitated and wants them to believe in the right-wing narrative for which they will do anything,” said analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy. 

He pointed out that the Hyderabad state was merged with India after the Indian army came and that it is a fact. “What went wrong is the politics behind it. The TRS and Congress want everyone to believe that it was integration, while the BJP calls it annexation,” Reddy observed. 

The electoral dividend may pay-off in the capital city, where it can easily polarise voters given that there is a large number of Muslims there. Earlier his month, BJP’s Telangana president and Karimnagar MP Bandi Sanjay Kumar had threatened to “cut-off” hands of anyone “who raises hands on Hindus in the Old City.” He made the comments at a party meeting in Alwal. 

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That it was made with elections around the corner is not surprise. In the 2015 GHMC polls, the TRS won as many as 99 seats, while the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), headed by the Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi won 44, out of the total 150 seats. The opposition BJP, Congress and TDP were left with the remaining handful of seats. 

Krishna Saagar Rao, BJP’s chief spokesperson in Telangana, however said that his party had been talking of ‘Liberation Day’ for a long time. “For the BJP, we have been doing this even when elections were not around. But for KCR this is an electoral game, as they want to appease Muslim voters in the Old City and other pockets. BJP respects Muslim icons, but the Nizams were foreign rulers. We have no issue with Indian Muslims getting iconize,” he told siasat.com.

Moreover, when pointed out that it was the CPI or Communist cadres that had fought against the Razakars in Telangana, Krishna Saagar Rao agreed and stated that the “historic milestone” is for everyone to claim. “The real independence day for Telangana 

is September 17. We acknowledge their (CPI) sacrifice, but my question to the Communists is: Why did they stop talking about it? If you don’t want to say annexation, say independence. Why are Karnataka and Maharashtra celebrating it?,” he questioned. 

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