Civic mismanagement, as much as communalisation, led to the BJP’s gains in the Hyderabad polls

24 December 2020
Poll material and ballot boxes being handed over to concerned officials, at Nizam College grounds for the GHMC election in Hyderabad, on 30 November. The BJP’s gains in the polls could have more to do with the TRS’s civic-mismanagement and centralisation, than the BJP’s own communally polarising campaign.
ANI Photo
Poll material and ballot boxes being handed over to concerned officials, at Nizam College grounds for the GHMC election in Hyderabad, on 30 November. The BJP’s gains in the polls could have more to do with the TRS’s civic-mismanagement and centralisation, than the BJP’s own communally polarising campaign.
ANI Photo

On 18 December, the Deccan Chronicle reported that the Telangana Rasthra Samithi was set to elect the mayor and deputy mayor of Hyderabad without the support of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen. The elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, or GHMC, which were held on 1 December, saw major gains by the Bharatiya Janata Party and considerable losses for the TRS. Of the 150 wards, the BJP, which previously controlled only four wards, won 48. The ruling TRS’s tally came down from 99 in the previous body to 56, while the AIMIM retained its tally of 44 wards. The Congress, once a dominant force in the city and state, was reduced to two seats.

Senior TRS officials have claimed, in multiple interviews, that their losses were due to the BJP running a highly communal campaign. Their eschewing of AIMIM support for the mayoral election follows the claim that the latter is communal too. Several experts told me that the TRS is reluctant to seek the AIMIM’s support because it would present an opportunity to the BJP for further polarisation on communal lines. However, several analysts and residents I spoke to said that the TRS’s loss was also because of the party’s failures to address civic-issues, along with a centralisation of power within the TRS. This gutted the efficiency of the local government and led to the BJP’s emergence as the primary opposition, even as the TRS had defanged the existing opposition by engineering mass defections.

The 2020 urban-body polls in Hyderabad were among the most communal in its history. The BJP’s campaign was deeply Islamophobic, including several speeches by their state and national leaders which openly alluded to violence against Hyderabad’s large Muslim population. During the campaign, Bandi Sanjay, Telangana’s BJP chief, called for a “surgical strike” on the old city—a Muslim-majority part of Hyderabad—ostensibly to root out Rohingya refugees, some of whom stay there. Ajay Singh Bisht, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh commonly referred to as Yogi Adityanath, campaigned in the city, too, and asked for Hyderabad to be renamed “Bhagyanagar.”

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    Tushar Dhara is a reporting fellow with The Caravan. He has previously worked with Bloomberg News, Indian Express and Firstpost and as a mazdoor with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan in Rajasthan.

    Keywords: Hyderabad BJP TRS AIMIM Telangana
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