GHMC polls: BJP testing waters with Hindutva campaign in Hyderabad

Hyderabad: What was supposedto be a low-key civic body election in the city has turned out to become a fierce contest, all thanks to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) shrill campaign for 150 wards of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC). If one didn’t know any better, it would seem no less than a general election taking place. 

From its national president J. P. Nadda to no less than union home minister Amit Shah, the BJP is drawing out its big guns for the GHMC polls, which is something that Hyderabad is witnessing for the first time. The saffron party’s campaign and foul-mouthed leaders, who have been passing incendiary comments, have also pushed the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) on the back foot. 

“For the BJP, nothing is small. We want to leverage the Dubbak bye-election win (which BJP won earlier this month). It is about political relevance. We were number three in the last GHMC polls, and now we are number two,” said a senior BJP leader from Telangana, who did not want to be named. 

When asked about the aggressive Hindutva campaign that his party has undertaken here, the BJP leader said it is “a trial and error”. “So far we have only one result (losing), and it did not work. The results will speak for itself. We will give it our best. We want to get the majority in the GHMC and become a strong player,” he told siasat.com.

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A day earlier, Arvind, referring Akbaruddin Owaisi’s (All India Majilis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen MLA) past hate-speech, said that once the BJP comes to power in Telangana, the Chandrayangutta MLA (Akbaruddin) and his brother (and Hyderabad MP) Asaduddin Owaisi will be “near his shoes”. Arvind also said that AIMIM leaders “bark like dogs when they are in the Old City”.

The TRS, which thought it would be a cake walk like last time, has now also begun launching a tirade of attacks on the BJP. Its working president and state IT minister K. T. Rama Rao has been fire-fighting and also countering attacks by the BJP. The situation also drew out Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) also, who countered the BJP two days ago. 

“They have a narrative this time, and there is a clear design. The BJP thinks this is the best opportunity it has. Compared to any other district in Telangana, the ground is much more fertile for the BJP in Hyderabad. Talking about Rohingyas, Hindu-Muslim divide, etc, this is a test for BJP’s politics. In districts, the TRS’s welfare schemes are working, so it will be difficult for BJP to have an impact in rural areas,” said political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy. 

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Reddy added that people have also suffered in the recent floods in Hyderabad, so it is the best opportunity for the BJP to strike. “If at all it succeeds, then there is no stopping the saffron party here,” he opined. 

In the 2018 state elections, the TRS swept the opposition away by winning 88 out of 119 seats, while the Congress, the principal opposition, managed to win in just 19 constituencies in spite of having an alliance with the TDP (won 2 seats), CPI and other smaller parties.

The BJP in 2018 in fact got weaker, as it won just one MLA seat (Goshamahal), four lesser than what it won in the 2014 state elections. However, the 2019 Lok Sabha polls saw the BJP (due to an apparent Modi wave) winning four parliamentary seats, with a 20% vote share. The Congress won three, and the TRS managed to win just nine (out of 17. The AIMIM retained the Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat). 

Since then, the BJP has built a perception that it has replaced the Congress as the main opposition. However, it failed to repeat its performance in various local body elections that have taken place since 2018, until the Dubbak the bye-election, which it snatched from under the TRS’s feet, winning it by a margin of less than 1500 votes. 

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