Hyderabad: The battle lines are drawn between ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for December 1 elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC).
Fresh from its victory in the recent by-election to Dubbak Assembly seat, the BJP is determined to wrest the prestigious municipal body while the TRS leadership is gearing up to check a possible saffron surge.
The run-up to the polls indicates that the two parties will be locked in a direct fight in the divisions outside the strongholds of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), the third main contestant which will be looking to play key role by retaining 44 seats it won in the 2016 elections.
The stakes will be high for the TRS, which had won a landslide majority in the previous elections with 99 seats in 150-member body as BJP will be going all out to win the prestigious battle, being seen as the semi-final before 2023 Assembly polls.
The saffron party will be keen to demonstrate that it can provide a viable alternative to the TRS. The party’s morale seems to be high following the success in Dubbak, which it wrested from the TRS.
“Dubbak election result has changed the political narrative in Telangana. The TRS, which claimed to be an unassailable force is suddenly under pressure due to political excitement surrounding the BJP,” political analyst P. Raghavendra Reddy told IANS.
Though the BJP had to contend with just four seats in 2016 GHMC polls, the party this time is confident of capturing power in the municipal body. BJP leaders say they have significant support base among over 74 lakh voters in GHMC.
The party will be looking for an impressive performance in divisions which come under Secunderabad Lok Sabha constituency, represented by its key leader and Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy. The party has also claimed to have pockets of support in the divisions which fall under Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency represented by AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi and also in surrounding Malkajgiri, Chevella and Medak Lok Sabha constituencies.
A battery of BJP leaders including the recently appointed national Vice President D. K. Aruna and party’s OBC Morcha president G. Laxman besides Kishan Reddy will be campaigning for the party.
The announcement by Jana Sena party of popular actor Pawan Kalyan not to contest the polls and instead back the BJP has come as another boost to the party.
Political analysts say the party also seems to have become aggressive under the leadership of Bandi Sanjay Kumar, who was appointed state unit president in March. The MP from Karimnagar is considered a firebrand leader and is a bitter critic of Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao.
The TRS leaders also acknowledge that they can’t ignore BJP. “Politics is dynamic. It’s not static,” Chandrasekhar Rao’s son and state minister K.T. Rama Rao recently said at a presser when asked why the TRS is giving importance to the BJP, which had forfeited deposit in 105 out of 119 Assembly constituencies in 2018 polls.
Despite the drubbing in 2018 polls, when it won a single seat, the BJP came back strongly in 2019 Lok Sabha elections to put up its best ever performance in the state. It not only retained Secunderabad but dealt a huge blow to TRS by wresting three other seats.
The victory had infused enthusiasm in the saffron party and it started working on Mission 2023 to come to power in Telangana. The party, however, had mixed fortunes. In Huzurnagar Assembly by-election last year, the BJP suffered humiliating defeat polling less than 3,000 votes.
The BJP was nearly wiped out in rural and urban local body polls as TRS swept to consolidate itself after the setback in Lok Sabha polls.
While highlighting the development Hyderabad has seen over last six years to seek fresh mandate in the GHMC, the TRS leaders are mounting a scathing attack on the BJP for running what they call ‘false propaganda’ and its government at the Centre not providing any funds for the city battered by heavy rains and floods last month.
In fact, the floods have become a major poll issue. The TRS is targeting BJP state President for writing a letter to the Election Commission resulting in a halt to distribution of Rs 10,000 relief package each among the flood affected families. Bandi Sanjay, however, alleged that his signature was forged by TRS to send a letter to the poll panel to malign BJP.
The BJP is going to polls with the promise of Rs 25,000 each to the flood affected families. “If BJP wins GHMC polls, it will get funds from Centre to build new houses for those who lost their houses in the floods. For those who lost cars and two-wheelers in the floods, we will give new vehicles,” said Bandi Sanjay.
“Recent rains and flooding in the city has surely caused animosity towards the pink brigade, and KCR-KTR together are putting in efforts to minimise the damage to maximum possible extent,” said Raghavendra Reddy.
He believed that KCR announcing various doles for citizens of Hyderabad indicates his and the TRS’ nervousness over party’s prospects in GHMC polls.
Both KCR and KTR have upped the ante against the BJP, targeting the party for divisive politics, ‘anti-people’ policies and blaming it for economic crisis.
Setting the tone for the TRS campaign, KCR even declared a war against the BJP and announced that he will host a meeting of leaders of non-NDA parties in Hyderabad next month to give shape to an alliance against Narendra Modi-led government.
The BJP is trying to use this to its advantage by citing it as a sign of frustration by the TRS leaders.