Hyderabad: The big news coming out of the Telangana capital Friday, as the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) election results were announced, was the emergence of the BJP as the second-largest player on a turf where it was considered a negligible force until recently.
According to the final results, which came in Friday evening, the BJP has won 48 of the GHMC’s 150 wards, against 55 for the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and 44 for the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). The Congress was left with two seats, the same as its tally in the last GHMC polls.
In the 2016 GHMC elections, the BJP had won four divisions, or one-twelfth its fresh tally. Its campaign in the polls was led by such big-ticket leaders as Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Bengaluru MP Tejasvi Surya. The GHMC performance comes close on the heels of the BJP’s victory in the crucial Dubbaka assembly bypoll.
Meanwhile, the TRS failed to even touch the halfway mark, against a tally of 99 in 2016. The ruling party also lost the Gandhi Nagar division, where the campaign was spearheaded by Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao’s daughter K. Kavitha, a former MP.
Weighing in on the results, political analysts said the BJP’s performance may have been bolstered by the communal overtones of its campaign, as well as resentment against the TRS for the flooding caused by heavy rains in October.
According to them, the BJP has also managed to project itself as an alternative opposition by occupying the political vacuum created by the Congress’ “lacklustre performance”.
Many a factor at play
Political analyst Telakapali Ravi attributed the BJP’s performance to the Congress’ waning sheen in the state and “a shift in Telugu Desam Party (TDP) votes.
The Congress won 19 of the state assembly’s 119 seats — a distant second to the TRS — in the 2018 elections, but has since seen its presence dwindle to six amid mass defections.
At the time of the last GHMC election, the TDP and the BJP were allies under the NDA, but the former split ranks in 2018. Led by former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, the TDP has failed to score even one division in the GHMC polls. In 2016, its voteshare stood at 13.11 per cent, while the BJP’s was 10.34 per cent.
“Congress performance is lacklustre — so when people wanted to vote for a party other than the TRS, they were able to look at the BJP for that, the party positioned itself like that,” said Ravi.
“So, the anti-incumbency factor in some pockets of the city worked well for the BJP. Also, votes of Naidu’s TDP shifted to the BJP,” he added.
The BJP’s campaign for the GHMC polls invoked matters aimed at polarising the electorate. From calls to change Hyderabad’s name to Bhagyanagar, to alleging that MP Asaduddin Owaisi of the AIMIM spreads “rabid Islamism” and has allowed Rohingyas to settle in the old city.
Telangana BJP president Bandi Sanjay had also said the party, if elected, would conduct a surgical strike in Old City “to pull out Rohingyas and Pakistanis”.
“It (the BJP’s performance) shows that the BJP has been successful in taking its Hindutva politics to the streets of the city and KCR must realise that,” said political analyst Prof. Nageshwar Rao.
“This friction between the TRS and the BJP will continue till 2023 (when the next assembly election will be held) and also till the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Had the ruling party kept questioning the BJP’s moves all through the five years, the party would not have grown this much,” he added.
“KCR only criticises the BJP or the central leadership before elections — that is not how it works. He talks about the Federal Front (a proposed non-BJP, non-Congress alliance of regional parties) only before polls — and later nothing.”
Rao also said that KCR’s “softness towards AIMIM, while calling BJP a communal party, will not be acceptable to people”.
“If you’re fighting against fundamentalist kind of politics — then you have to fight against both. For the sake of Muslim appeasement, if KCR keeps quiet — then that is not done.”
‘Answer to family politics’
In a statement issued Friday evening, junior Home Minister Kishan Reddy said the BJP’s performance “is an answer to KCR’s family politics, his father-son kind of politics”.
“Had there been a fair election — if the election was held after the term of the GHMC ended in February — the BJP would have bagged the mayor’s post. This mandate gives us confidence for the 2023 polls — BJP will form the government,” he added.
Telangana Municipal Administration Minister K.T. Rama Rao, the son of KCR, said the “result was not as we expected…we expected 25 more seats than what we got now”.
“In some areas, we lost by a very few votes, as low as 18 votes in BN Reddy Nagar. In this way, we lost almost 12 seats. People have chosen us as the single-largest party. We will look at why we could not attain the desired result,” added Rao, who was at the forefront of the TRS campaign.
Meanwhile, the Congress has vowed to fight back. “We will build the party organisation to fight the communal & corrupt parties. Tomorrow’s ours,” All India Congress Committee in-charge for Telangana Manickam Tagore tweeted.
With the TRS failing to attain a majority by itself , it will have to forge an alliance — likely with “friendly party” AIMIM — to grab the mayor and deputy mayor’s post.