BJP’s pitch for renaming Hyderabad shows party has learnt no lessons from Bengal

Slated for 2024, elections may still be far off in Telangana, a new state for BJP; but going by indications the saffron party has already begun battling for the elections.

Before the 2021 assembly elections in West Bengal, most analysts gazing at the public mood perceived that Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress would be ousted at the hustings. They were quite sure of this. But as the campaign proceeded electoral analysts began to modify their thinking. This was not surprising: the Bharatiya Janata Party’s campaign was based on their age-old strategy of asking for votes in the name of Rama bypassing Durga, the Mahisasur Mardini whose writ runs large on the hearts of Bengalis.

This failure to effectively appeal to the hearts of voters, caused the BJP to be a failure at the hustings. Trinamool Congress though in power for 10 years in West Bengal and with a lot of anti-incumbency against it romped back to power winning a majority of seats.

The BJP seems to have learnt nothing from its experience in West Bengal on how to approach a new state. Slated for 2024, elections may still be far off in Telangana, a new state for BJP; but going by indications the saffron party has already begun battling for the elections. Last fortnight saw many BJP leaders in the state – led by party president J P Nadda and including others like Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma campaigning in the state. Even newspaper reports suggest that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a long telephonic conversation with BJP Telangana president Bandi Sanjay Kumar about Telangana affairs. Modi patted Bandi Sanjay Kumar, a clear indication that he should continue with “his good work.” This means effectively taking up the agenda of the party which many see as ‘divisive’, but BJP does not.

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Sources said that BJP perceived that it could turn out good results in the state with its history being what it was. Hyderabad state was ruled by the Nizams before India became independent and this left its indelible impression on the city. Forty percent of the population of Hyderabad is Muslims and this is the only major city in the country that has such a high proportion of Muslims. “So it is possible to run a campaign by pitching against the domination by Muslims,” says a political analyst who prefers not to be identified. “Of course it is easier to run a pro-Muslim agenda; however it can be successful in running an anti-Muslim or ‘let the Muslims be ignored’ policy.

The RSS, the ideological parent of the BJP, refers to Hyderabad not by this name but as Bhagyanagar contending that this was the original name of the city. They argue that the name of Hyderabad should be reverted to Bhagyanagar to restore the original truth. Incidentally, the Charminar, which stands in the old city of Hyderabad, has a temple of Bhagyamata, on its side. This is presented as the truth of the city which derived its name of Bhagyanagar from this temple.  But heritage activists assert that this is a tale and produce a copy of the Hyderabad edition of Hindu newspaper in 1959 which does not have such a picture of a temple abutting the Charminar. This is adduced as proof of the fact that the antiquity of the temple is doubtful.    

“It is quite possible that in the next elections the renaming of Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar could become an electoral issue,” say heritage activists bent on protecting the name of Hyderabad as it is. Last week Deccan Heritage Trust held a well-attended press conference where it questioned the renaming of the city. They asserted that the renaming had a political objective. Capt Panduranga Reddy, a retired army officer who had fought for the creation of Telangana state, said that the temple of Bhagyamati came up in 1963. “I can attest to all these false facts on whose basis the whole city’s name is proposed to be changed. This is unfortunate,” he adds. 

“Another old story that is false is also circulated. The city was known as Bhagyanagar after Bhagyamati the lover of Quli Qutb Shah the founder of Hyderabad,” says Syed Inamur Rahman Ghayur. He adds: “Therefore the old name should be restored it is contended. But this is false because Hyderabad a 500-year-old city was always called Hyderabad. It had no older name.”

The fears have arisen because over the last few months, BJP leaders like Amit Shah have been promoting Bhagyanagar and visiting the temple. The party’s new program in Uttar Pradesh to rename many places in the run up to the state elections has raised the temperatures in Hyderabad. Cities like Allahabad (renamed Prayagraj), Moghulsarai (renamed Deendayal Upadhaya Nagar) and a proposal to rename Aligarh is causing much consternation in the state.    

What will happen ultimately? That remains a million dollar question.

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