Hyderabad: Over the past two weeks, the city has been a blitzkrieg of political campaigns rife with communal remarks and incendiary speeches by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders in the run up to the upcoming Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC).
It has made many wonder if this really is a civic election, where issues like roads and infrastructure matter, or if this is the general elections, given that the BJP has roped in big leaders like its national president J. P. Nadda and even union minister Amit Shah for campaigning.
The BJP, buoyed after winning the Dubbak assembly in a bye-election earlier this month, now thinks it can dethrone the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), starting with the GHMC elections. However, trying to win an election is a right of any political party, but at what cost? In Hyderabad, a city with a dominant Muslim populace, it seems the BJP sees a place that it has to conquer.
From BJP’s Telangana president Bandi Sanjay Kumar calling for “surgical strikes” in the Old City (which is predominantly Muslim) to BJP Nizamabad member of Parliament D. Arvind inducing in hate-speech, the message is clear. This time, unlike usually when a few stray leaders indulged in bigotry, the party’s entire machinery seems to be trying to polarise the electorate.
It is a pattern that one can see in parts of the country. Even in West Bengal, the BJP has been attacking state chief minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee for her perceived support to Muslims through her actions. It has clearly reaped dividends for the saffron party, as it won nearly half the Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 general elections.
“This is something that we are doing as a trial and error. Whatever we did in the past did not work, so we have nothing to lose,” said a BJP leader, who did not want to be named. Essentially, the saffron party, which was a non-player in state politics even until last year, has now clearly shifted gears to try and take a hardline Hindutva stance, which includes targeting Muslims as part of its strategy.
This can be easily gauged from the fact that Hyderabad has never seen such a high-pitched campaign for the GHMC polls, especially with it taking a communal turn. On Thursday, the State Election Commission also issued a statement asking political party leaders to adhere to the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), and to avoid stating unverified attacks to make personal attacks.
“There is a very clear design to whatever the BJP is doing in its campaign for this GHMC election. They have a narrative this time, and compared to the rest of Telangana, Hyderabad is fertile grounds for the BJP,” said political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.