HYDERABAD — The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is invoking the legacy of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Telangana to build a strong narrative for the next year’s Assembly elections.
The saffron party is working aggressively to highlight the key role played by India’s first home minister in erstwhile Hyderabad State’s accession with the Indian Union.
The BJP-led government at the Centre officially organised ‘Hyderabad Liberation Day’ celebrations in Hyderabad on September 17. Union Home Minister Amit Shah, whom the BJP describes as ‘Abhinav Sardar’, hoisted the national flag and took the salute from the central police forces at the parade organised by the Union ministry of culture.
Hyderabad State, which comprised Telangana and some districts of present day Maharashtra and Karnataka, became part of India on September 17, 1948, following India’s military action ‘Operation Polo’, popularly known as ‘police action’.
The Centre had invited chief ministers of all the three states to the main official function. The move was clearly aimed at embarrassing the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government, which has been rejecting the BJP’s demand for officially celebrating the day.
The parade was attended by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde while Karnataka was represented by a Cabinet minister.
In what is seen as a political masterstroke to checkmate BJP, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) hoisted the Tricolour at parallel ‘Telangana National Integration Day’ celebrations organised by the state government.
While staying away from the celebrations organised by the Centre in tune with the BJP’s ideology, the KCR’s government organised its own celebrations to counter the saffron party.
Alleging that the BJP stands for dividing the people in the name of celebrations, KCR claimed that TRS wants to unite people.
The BJP still claimed victory in its sustained campaign as this was the first time that official celebrations were organised on September 17.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), a friendly party of TRS, also celebrated September 17 as the national integration day.
The development was significant as the BJP had been targeting KCR for not officially celebrating the day due to pressure from the AIMIM.
The party led by Asaduddin Owaisi had always maintained that there is only one Independence Day for the entire country and hence there is no need for separate celebrations in Telangana.
The BJP has been demanding for the last two decades that the day should be officially celebrated like in some districts of Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Like the previous governments of Congress and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in undivided Andhra Pradesh, the TRS government in Telangana had rejected demands for officially celebrating the day in view of the reservations by AIMIM and other Muslim groups.
Being an emotive issue with the potential communal polarisation, the BJP has been aggressively pushing for official celebrations. At every public meeting, Amit Shah and other central leaders of BJP have been attacking KCR for not celebrating September 17 officially due to fear of AIMIM and promising that if voted to power in 2023, BJP will celebrate the liberation day in a befitting manner.
“Bring BJP to power in Telangana, we will celebrate the day officially in a grand manner,” Shah had told a public meeting in Munugode in August.
The BJP leaders, during their speeches, also make special mention of Sardar Patel and claim that Hyderabad State became part of India thanks to the firm stand taken by the ‘iron man’.
“If not for Sardar Patel, Hyderabad would have taken more years to get liberated. Sardar Patel knew that as long as Nizam’s Razakars could not be defeated, the dream of Akhand Bharat will not be fulfilled,” Amit Shah had stated at the celebrations last month.
He praised Sardar Patel for launching Operation Polo against Nizam’s army and Razakars to make Hyderabad a part of India. Shah recalled that even after India became independent, there were no celebrations in the then Hyderabad State and for 13 months people were subjected to repression by Razakars.
Taking a dig at TRS, the Union home minister remarked that some political parties feel ashamed to call September 17 as Hyderabad Liberation Day since they still have fear of Razakars in their mind.
The Union Home Minister said unfortunately those who were in power for 75 years did not dare to celebrate Liberation Day because of vote bank politics.
Razakars were a band of militia formed by Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) leader Syed Qasim Razvi and they indulged in atrocities on those who wanted Hyderabad State’s accession to India.
Political parties in the post-1948 Hyderabad State and later in united Andhra Pradesh never organised any official celebrations to avoid any controversy in view of the reservations from the Muslim community due to the massacre of Muslims in the aftermath of ‘police action’.
The Sunderlal Committee, appointed by the Government of India to report on the situation after the merger of Hyderabad, found that mass violence was committed against common Muslims. According to the report, 27,000 to 40,000 Muslims were massacred.
This time in a strategic move to counter the BJP, AIMIM organised national integration day to highlight the fact that Hindus and Muslims were advocates of a united India under a democratic and secular government as reflected in the Sunderlal Committee report.
The TRS also used the occasion to launch a counter attack on the BJP for pushing its divisive agenda for its narrow political interests. The TRS leaders slammed the saffron party for giving a communal colour to September 17 to divide people.
When Amit Shah hoisted the national flag in Hyderabad to mark Hyderabad Liberation Day, TRS working president K.T. Rama Rao alleged that he came to divide people while Sardar Patel had united them.
“74 years ago, a Union Home Minister came to unite and integrate the people of Telangana into the Indian union. Today a union home minister has come to divide and bully the people of Telangana and their state government,” the TRS leader had tweeted. — IANS