Saffron party’s fortitude in the elections a clarion call for AIMIM and KCR’s party
Syed Khaled Shahbaaz | Clarion India
HYDERABAD — The results of the 2020 municipal elections that stirred a political storm in the politically peaceful Hyderabad proved the failure of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s high-pitched efforts in capturing Telangana’s historical capital but the saffron party did achieve a significant breakthrough by securing 47 of the 149 seats it contested.
It’s a muck-or-nettles situation for the southern state’s ruling party, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which secured 56, the maximum number of seats by a single party, albeit a third less of its own previous score, while the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) secured 43, with the Indian National Congress (INC) securing just two. (The exact number of seats for each party couldn’t be ascertained as counting of votes continued when this report was posted). The president of the Congress’s Telangana unit Uttam Kumar Reddy resigned after the party’s debacle in the civic polls.
The elections and its results inherently assumed pivotal importance in the Telangana politics as they proved that the saffron party had silently been working at the grassroots level to make not just inroads in Telangana but indent TRS. It openly challenged both TRS and Asaduddin Owaisi’s party AIMIM, its ally in Legislative Assembly, and resorted to communal speeches, including changing the name of Hyderabad to Bhagyanagar, in a campaign led by party’s key players in the national politics.
Surprisingly, counting from the postal ballots, which are used mostly for those employed in government services, hinted at their shifting mindsets, as early trends projected an 80% lead for BJP, despite Chief Minister KCR’s provision of manifold schemes for their welfare.
With controversies about tampering of now-commonplace Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), the state government conducted the elections using ballot papers for votes instead of EVMs.
The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) administration is spread across four districts, including Hyderabad, Medchal, Ranga Reddy and Sangareddy, covering 30 circles and 150 wards. BJP fielded its candidates on 149 wards, MIM on 51, TRS on 150 and the Congress on 146 with a total of 1,122 candidates in the fray besides independents.
As the first Chief Minister of India’s youngest state and re-elected for the second term, KCR’s government spared no effort in transforming Hyderabad into a model city. It pleased all–the police, the government employees, and the general public, including the minorities and the weaker sections.
It increased the retirement age from 58 to 60 years for public servants, offered incremented remunerations to government staff, introduced nearly a dozen schemes for the poor, built new infrastructure, including state-of-the-art residential schools and modern police stations, a central command and control centre for the police in the form of twin towers and even upgraded automobiles for the police force after the formation of the state in 2014–activities that could have made the beneficiaries tilt the scales in favour of TRS in the polls.
But, all that seemed too little to prevent their political drift, thanks to BJP’s power-packed campaigns. The disaster caused by the recent floods, even if blamed on the negligence of successive governments, did leave a mark on TRS report card.
It is believed that Congress workers, who predicted their disappointment in the elections after gradually being reduced to a minority in state politics, indirectly and inadvertently supported the BJP (Clarion doesn’t endorse the veracity of such claims). While Chief Minister’s son K. Taraka Rama Rao (KTR) exerted his best efforts in combating the claims and communal rants of BJP while securing the party’s victory, some blame the lack of a personal interaction between the Chief Minister and his party leaders for the set-back.
While the TRS party has announced Sindhu Aadarsh Reddy–a woman corporator from the Bharathi Nagar division as its mayoral candidate, Owaisi’s party may claim the position of Deputy Mayor. With BJP having secured a sizeable number of seats in the corporation, implementing policies and operations of the municipal administration won’t be easy for TRS with a fortified and invigorated Centre-led BJP ast the opposition.
It is likely that the electoral response may leave a long-lasting bitter taste for TRS chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao who may, driven by current trends, tend to align the party’s policies towards soft Hindutva to prevent BJP from eating into its non-Muslim voter base.
In such a situation, TRS would lose the support of the Muslim voter base in the state, while AIMIM may continue to hold its appeal, gradually rupturing their political alliance. However, AIMIM must be wary of declining polling percentage, especially after suffering a damage that can be repaired with a little more effort in the next elections, and provided its work at both the micro and the macro levels reflects and is recognised for development, and solving civic issues while gaining public trust in consequence.
Regardless, BJP’s investment of roping in national leaders for a civic body election paid off, and lays the foundation for the party’s build-up for 2023 elections. As for both the TRS and AIMIM, the election outcome is a clarion call, a silent pointer to fortify their coalition failing which the BJP which is behind the TRS by just a few seats, may entice corporators to defect TRS and join them. This could venomously turn the tables over TRS as BJP will wield enough command with defected TRS leaders to head the corporation.
(Statistics showing the party seats and tallies are updated as of 20:05pm IST; vote counting and consolidation remained in progress in several centres when this report was posted)
Syed Khaled Shahbaaz is an IT-engineer-turned-journalist. He may be reached at [email protected]