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Hyderabad municipal poll results show BJP, a primarily north Indian party, has rammed into Telangana

Telangana Rashtra Samiti under K Chandrasekhar Rao has been in power since 2014 when the state was formed but now has its task cut out to check the BJP’s rise.

December 05, 2020 / 12:38 PM IST

Although the campaign and coverage have been extremely high profile, bringing in national leaders and national media from Delhi to cover the municipal polls in Hyderabad, the results were not what the public perception was. But it was not surprising.

The electorate gave the thumbs -up to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), but challenger BJP was not disappointed. BJP, seen primarily as a north Indian party, rammed into Telangana, capitalising on the collapse of the Congress party and getting a sizeable number of seats. With the Telangana assembly polls slated for 2023, the BJP has now time to rev up and challenge the TRS that has been in power since 2014 when the state was formed.

If TRS had done better and substantially so, the BJP would have been more circumspect in challenging the TRS in the 2023 polls. The BJP campaigners were led by home minister Amit Shah and included party president J P Nadda and other high-profile campaigners like UP chief minister J P Nadda making it look like a general election.

Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao was elected to power for the first time in 2014 on the separate Telangana card although the creation of the state was more due to Congress president and UPA chairman Sonia Gandhi. The TRS and Congress were then together but once the new state was created KCR smartly jettisoned the grand old party. He won the polls as the electorate was happy at the creation of the new state and reposed their faith whole heartedly in KCR and his party.

But soon K Chandrasekhar Rao converted the state into (what seemed) his personal estate. He built a new palatial chief minister’s mansion next to the existing chief minister’s house apparently at the suggestion of his astrologer and also ordered the demolition of the state secretariat for the same reason. Though he took a number of populist measures he promised more that could be delivered to the poor (as he promised). This included double bed room houses for the population.

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KCR also gave impetus to family rule with his son K T Rama Rao who became the number 2 in the TRS. His daughter K Kavitha became an MP (and after losing the polls became an MLC) while nephew Harish Rao became a minister. KCR also spent a lot of time in her farm house outside Hyderabad not accessible even to his ministers and top bureaucrats.

In recent months, son KT Rama Rao is seen as running the government and the popular belief is that he will soon become the chief minister.

Father KCR will then settle for a bigger role: this would mean allying with like -minded parties to form a national front to oppose the BJP. It is believed that MIM – which has a strong hold in Hyderabad city and contested the municipal poll, could also be an ally of the TRS for the national front.

The TRS however won the second election in Telangana in 2019 even as the powers- that- be were seen as becoming more whimsical. Huge floods in Hyderabad just three weeks ago showed up the maladministration in the state. Though the floods followed heavy rains the situation went out of control because water piled up in the city and created floods affecting large sections of the people.

The connections between numerous lakes in the city which drained off the water had been blocked by builders with their numerous schemes of breaking down and building structures leading to water collection at random places. This affected the people who did not forget how builders were having a field day under the TRS which promised a brand new expanded city for Hyderabad.

The municipal polls have given TRS 61 seats (which is much less than the 99 it won last time). The BJP which won 4 seats in the last elections is now up to 49. The TRS now does have enough strength to elect a city mayor.

What is worrisome for the TRS is that the BJP could well use its core campaign revolving around Hindu interests to battle it out in Telangana in the coming months. Muslims comprise 40 per cent of the electorate of Hyderabad: and BJP’s reference to Bhagyanagar said to be the old name of Hyderabad and the Bhagyalakshmi temple that stands on the edge of the Charminar saw a lot of bitterness among them.

What the BJP will do in coming months is clear: they will intensify their activities in Hyderabad and other parts of Telangana even as they raise their campaign. But will TRS do to halt the BJP in its track?

This is not clear but analysts say that TRS  might – secretly – try to rebuild the Congress party so that it could be used as a third force to keep the BJP under check. Whether this strategy will work or not, remains to be seen.
Kingshuk Nag is a senior journalist based in Hyderabad.
first published: Dec 5, 2020 12:38 pm

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