Beyond the corporators and mayor’s post, there is something more to what the saffron party is planning to triumph over.
In the GHMC elections, BJP may be contesting from 149 seats, including all the divisions from the old city, but it is not just that. It is part of a bigger game plan. To unveil their plan, let us first start with reading their manifesto –17th September will be celebrated as Telangana Mukti Divas. Coronavirus vaccine will be given to everyone through GHMC; no one needs to go to a private hospital. The Corona virus vaccine is something which Oxford University cannot promise its delivery while making it available through GHMC is a far-fetched idea.
BJP also promised to scrap the Layout Regularisation Scheme (LRS) if voted to power in GHMC elections. The LRS is a scheme to regularize any illegal encroachments and constructions without layout permission and it is good for the people and scrapping it is not a good idea.
Other promises include direct assistance of Rs 25,000 to those who have suffered damage due to floods and houses to 1 lakh people through GHMC under PM Awas Yojana. This seems more like a copy of two-bedroom housing scheme under some other name. Women will be allowed free travel in metro trains and buses. All children will be given school tabs for free and high quality Wi-Fi connectivity will be provided at all government schools and important places. This facility is already underway in the residential schools and other children of privileged sections do not need free tabs.
100% rebate on property tax is promised in Schedule Caste Colonies. No government fees will be charged if you build a house at 125 square yards. Clean water will be provided for all. This is borrowed from what KCR has already promised to the Telanganites under Mission Bhagiratha. Rs 10,000 crore fund is promised with the help of Central Government for the development of Musi River on the lines of Namami Ganges and Sabarmati Water Front. Free power will be provided up to 100 units for BPL households. This is all what KCR is already working on.
Coming out with a manifesto is the necessity of all the contesting parties but who will implement it is after coming to power is what people are waiting for. Voters will vote not for the best manifesto but for the real doer.
Now, again, let us read between the lines. The BJP wants to suppress the voice of Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, the only potential Muslim face who can challenge BJP at the national level. Then, TRS CM is popular in the whole country for his extra-ordinary initiatives and for the BJP, establishing itself as a force in Telangana would be a boost to them and can open the pathway to the other Southern States.
The BJP has named only one Muslim candidate out of its 149 nominees for the GHMC polls. Mirza Akhil Afandi is their lone minority nominee to fight from Dabeerpura ward where eight other Muslim candidates are contesting on other party tickets and as independents. Interestingly, the main contestants in the fray will be TRS candidate Sadiq and AIMIM nominee Alamdar Hussain Khan. In the by-election held earlier this year, the BJP candidate stood second, leaving the TRS in the third position. But it is fact that the BJP never won from most of the wards in Old City as this area is AIMIM stronghold.
So what’s cooking with BJP this time around? The leaders and cadres are on the ground working hard at the booth level. “They are focusing on all the divisions of Hyderabad parliamentary constituency and their main agenda is to change the name of the Nizam’s city–Hyderabad,” says Ikram ul Hasan, a political observer.
Another journalist and research scholar from the City, Inam-ur-Rahman Ghayur observes, “GHMC is just the first step to capture the State. Hyderabad, being the City to the South of the country itself, assumes significance of its own. BJP will gain at the expense of the Congress.”
“Moreover, the BJP is in the phase of spreading its all-India foot print and thus starting from GHMC, it is aiming to grab power in Telangana. But, for coming to power, they should not carry ugly politics and rather work for uplifting of the people and society. And, I feel the BJP still stands a chance of winning from the State in the future as they have evoked this high fever of development and welfare in the minds of the people who don’t really read the pulse of the nation as they actually vote for them,” another observer adds.
Asked about the ground situation, Nazam, who is on election duty in the city, said, “Firstly, BJP is gaining from the Congress versus TRS fight. They are rallying on for the next Assembly elections. Dubbak assembly by-election verdict in their favor gave them a boost and now they are taking the fight to the GHMC. They are inviting leaders from Congress, TRS and other parties and promising them tickets in Assembly and Lok Sabha polls. BJP is planning to mobilize votes by wooing Seemandhra settlers in Telangana.”
Another young analyst in the city, Siddharth Kumar Singh notices, “BJP was dormant in the State but the Dubbak by-poll win gave them confidence and they have now emerged in full vigor to win in the State capital. One can conclude about their zeal from the comments of Tejaswi Surya and Bandi Sanjay’s threat of ‘Surgical strikes’ in the Old City.”
“Though he came for seeing the vaccine development for COVID-19 at Bharat Biotech or whatever, but the fact remains that PM Narendra Modi was in Hyderabad. Also, Union Home Minister Amit Shah came and campaigned in Hyderabad. Even in case of Bihar and other States, BJP came to power because of the personality of ‘NAMO.’ Here also when we see, there are no such strong leaders in Telangana State. However, seeing the face of Modiji, people may vote,” observes an activist.
Taking on one another and bitter criticism of the other party’s policies and manifesto promises is common in any election. But use of such extreme barbs like “You want to win the election using the illegal votes of intruders” is against the interest of the country. “We will throw them all out once we elect a BJP Mayor for Hyderabad,” a BJP state leader thundered. Intruders was a reference to illegal Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and Rohingyas who allegedly live in the Old City.
It is not a good message to the voters and it a blatant attempt to spread communalism and divide the voters into religious halves. And such jingoism right from the start to finish of the campaign is not a good thing and it just reveals the BJP’s Hindutva face.
The campaign has closed on Sunday evening and we need to wait and watch as to who will win in the GHMC. The results will be out on December 4 and if BJP manages to garner double-digit numbers to flourish in the GHMC, then it will be a big victory and they can soon start their “Big Mission” to capture power in Telangana.
Leave aside as to what happened in the last Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, BJP is in full gear now to spread its wings to entire Telangana and get its agenda accomplished. The BJP wants to open its account as a major alternative force in Telangana, after its success in Karnataka, as it will be the gateway to the entire South.
There are two famous personalities, who can potentially challenge the BJP prospects in the next general elections. Last time too, KCR was on the verge of forming Federal Front and now, with next few years in his hand and many election verdicts in his favor, he can form a Federal Front of all anti-BJP parties to take on BJP and other NDA constituents as anti-incumbency develops after 10- year rule of BJP.
In Telangana, even after Dubbak win, there are only two members of BJP in the 119-member assembly and one BJP member in the Legislative Council from graduates’ constituency where elections are due in few months from now. In Bihar elections, whether or not AIMIM has divided the secular votes or helped BJP gain or the Congress to lose, it has expanded its presence.
And from one MP to two MPs in Lok Sabha and 16 legislators in three States, AIMIM has spread its footprint. Asaduddin Owaisi got the power to take the BJP to task in Lok Sabha for its anti-minority moves like NRC, Triple Talaq bill and Uniform Civil Code etc. It makes sense for BJP to take on AIMIM in its own stronghold and this is what is happening in GHMC polls.
Fatima Hasan is a Hyderabad based journalist