Hyderabad: A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Bharat Biotech facility in Hyderabad to take stock of the Covaxin progress, Telangana Municipal minister K.T. Rama Rao, or KTR as he is known, Sunday said the Covid-19 vaccine takes “centre-stage” for the BJP every time there is an election.
The Prime Minister’s visit to Hyderabad comes just ahead of the Greater Municipal Hyderabad Corporation (GMHC) elections, where 150 seats are up for grabs in the local civic body poll. The BJP has rolled out big guns such as Home Minister Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to campaign for the elections.
“The vaccine seems to come to the fore whenever there is an election,” KTR told ThePrint in an exclusive interview. “In Bihar, it was their poll promise and in Hyderabad – now that there is an election, there is talk about vaccine dispensation, strangely. It is coming to the centre-stage at the time of election. I leave it to the people to understand.”
The Prime Minister visited the Bharat Biotech facility at Genome Valley, in the outskirts of Hyderabad Saturday. The company’s Covaxin is undergoing Phase 3 trials.
Political leaders, including Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, were kept out of the event, with the BJP insisting that it was no political meeting.
“Chief Minister and Prime Minister are both institutions and not individuals. It would have been nice and sent a message that two important leaders are to be seen together, despite elections,” KTR told ThePrint. “Our CM was ready to welcome the PM and even accompany him to Bharat Biotech – but they did not want it that way.”
The minister had also said that when he met the management of Bharat Biotech three months ago, they had been lamenting about how they did not get regulatory approvals expeditiously and were worried that the Modi government does not seem to have a strategy.
KTR added that it would be a “gigantic exercise” to provide a vaccine to 1.3 billion people and would easily take a year and a half time. Parties asking for votes by promising vaccines are just fooling people, he said.
A high-pitched poll battle
Modi’s three-city vaccine tour Saturday, which also included Hyderabad, comes amid high-decibel local body polls preparation in the city. Both the BJP and ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which are at loggerheads, have been campaigning aggressively for the municipal polls.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah campaigned in Hyderabad Sunday, starting off his tour by visiting the ‘Bhagyalakshmi temple’ in the old city – which also became one of the favourite spots of BJP leaders.
“The way I was welcomed today on Hyderabad roads- there was not an inch of space left between people,” Shah said. “After looking at all the people on the roads, I believe that BJP is not fighting here to merely increase its seats but to win and have a Mayor from the party.”
Shah also said that the BJP has occupied the place of a principal opposition in this state and will form the government next time.
The BJP’s campaign has increasingly taken on a communal colour, with the party attacking the friendship between the ruling TRS and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM party.
There have been provocative remarks from BJP MP Tejasvi Surya, who accused Owaisi of spreading ‘rabid Islamism’ and giving shelter to Rohingya Muslims, and state BJP President Bandi Sanjay who said that BJP would conduct a “surgical strike” in the old city if elected to power in the municipal polls.
AIMIM MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi, Asaduddin’s brother, made his share of provocative remarks, saying his party would rename P.V. Narasimha Rao Ghat and NTR ghat near Hussainsagar. BJP President Sanjay responded to it with another provocative remark. Cases have been booked against both in the local police station.
KTR told ThePrint that neither Akbaruddin Owaisi nor Bandi Sanjay would be spared if they tried to disturb communal harmony. Even a TRS leader will not be spared, the minister said.
“This is Hyderabad, not Ahmedabad to get carried away with such statements of Hindu-Muslim or whatever,” KTR said. “With respect to Hyderabad, I can only say one thing — there is one religion fanatic Akbaruddin Owaisi and his gang and another religion fanatic is Bandi Sanjay. I am only appealing to people that don’t give away the city to such people.”
Calling it just an ‘issue-based support,’ the minister denied any alliance between TRS-AIMIM, adding that in fact the AIMIM is the TRS’ ‘principal opponent’ for the upcoming civic polls. TRS had won 99 divisions and MIM 44 in 2016 GHMC polls, leaving only seven for the rest of the parties.
BJP campaign shriller: KTR
KTR also pointed out that the BJP’s campaign is shriller, adding that the party is “pushing their Hindutva agenda more strongly”.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who also campaigned Saturday, had spoken about the need to change Hyderabad’s name to ‘Bhagyanagar’ – which is also one of BJP’s campaign pitches.
Reacting to the remarks, KTR said Adityanath should look into the law and order of his own state before giving sermons to others.
“They said they wanted to change Ahmedabad – what happened? What is the point of changing the name? It does not make any difference if you change name or do any better,” he said. “Allahabad became Prayagraj, Faizabad became Ayodhya — how did it help them? What happened in Hathras? — a brutal rape. UP is the worst state in maintaining law and order in the entire country and Yogi is lecturing us here. Look at your own state first. We have a better government here, don’t need to learn it from Yogi.”