Hyderabad: Two Nizamians, who are rising stars in Indian politics are Asaduddin Owaisi, President of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and K T Rama Rao (KTR), Minister of Information Technology (IT) and Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MAUD), Telangana State.
Separated by close to a decade in College and in political career too, the two powerful speakers are seemingly pitted against each other in the ensuing elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC). But, most political, observers feel they are in a tacit understanding.
KTR, the Working President of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), led a spirited campaign in 2016, to lead the Party to an impressive win bagging 99 of the 150 seats in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, which has high revenues and plays an important role in urban development.
In the new Telangana State, control of Hyderabad is a must for the ruling Political Party, both in political terms and also in image as Hyderabad contributes maximum revenues to the State. Hence, the elections have assumed huge significance and right from the Union Home Minister Amit Shah to many national leaders have descended to campaign.
Asaduddin did his BA from Nizam College (1986-89). He was a good cricket player who represented the Osmania University in the Vizzy team as well as South India. Later he went to UK and did a degree in Law. His entry into full fledged politics happened in 1994 when he got elected to the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly from the Charminar constituency. His father, Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi popularly known as Salar, was at his peak leading the AIMIM.
The AIMIM, under the elder Owaisi faced tough competition from the BJP, which had strong leaders like A. Narendra, Baddam Bal Reddy and Bandaru Dattatreya challenging them in the Old City. Occasional communal clashes were the norm, especially before elections and festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi, Moharram, Bakrid.
However, the TDP, under, N T Rama Rao and later Chandrababu Naidu, managed the political equations to the extent of reducing communal problems.
However, Asaduddin burst onto the national scene in 2004, when he replaced his father in the Lok Sabha election and got elected with an impressive margin. His communication abilities tuned well to target audience’s won him a good image. He honed skills well to speak to the gallery, whether in the Old City or the Parliament and gain public backing.
The MIM grew in strength with Asaduddin as the public face, winning the middle class and the civil society in discussions and debates through well honed skills of repartee, response and tailored made presentations. His brother, Akbaruddin, a medical drop out took on the burden of building the cadre and opposing the BJP with his aggressive and sometimes abrasive style of speech.
The recent victory of 5 seats in the Bihar Assembly has catapulted the MIM onto the national scene and Asaduddin as the most prominent face of Indian Muslims in the political arena. The GHMC elections will be a test, if his magic works and the MIM can emerge as the single largest party. He has forged a strong bond with K. Chandrasekhar Rao, Chief Minister of Telangana at the State and National level.
In contrast, KTR, is a late entrant into Politics. He returned from the US to join KCR and the TRS in 2006. A B Sc graduate from Nizam College (1994-96), he was more into career building. Hence, moved to the US for higher studies and then worked. The growing Telangana movement, the fluctuating fortunes of the TRS, drew him back.
His political career began with a victory in 2009 from Sircilla Assembly constituency. His communication skills, youthful energy and articulation won him the attention of the national media. Post the formation of Telangana State in 2014, he got the Ministry of IT, which was the right fit as he connected well with the youth force in the industry. The already booming IT and new economy industries, which attracted foreign investments found in KTR a catalyst. However, in his other responsibility as Municipal Administration, he did not impress at all.
Even since, the graph of KTR has been on the rise. His leadership in the TRS scoring a thumping win in the GHMC bolstered his image. KCR made him the Party Working President before the 2018, Assembly Elections. Though, Harish Rao, (a nephew of KCR) did most of the grassroots level party building, KCR’s clear preference for the son, KTR pitchforked him into the number 2 position and put him in line to succeed KCR.
The 2020 GHMC elections are witnessing a contest of words, charges and political skills between the two Nizamians—Asaduddin and KTR. The MIM & TRS are going all out for practical purposes trading charges, though, political analysts say there is an underlying understanding. Will KTR steer his TRS again to power, with an undercurrent of opposition due to the recent heavy rains and/COVID19 denting the Party image and the BJP launching a blistering campaign, is a big question.
As for Asaduddin and the MIM, most political experts predict a consolidation though there is simmering discontent, the way the elections are being fought, might help it hold onto its strength.
Somasekhar Mulugu, former Associate Editor & Chief of Bureau of The Hindu BusinessLine, is a well-known political, business and science writer and analyst based in Hyderabad.