The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) office in Hyderabad's Darussalam area wears a deserted look at around 10:30 am on aThursday. Within the next one hour, the place easily has over two hundred people pouring out their grievances to elected representatives of the party.
Since the 1960s, every MLA and MLC of the AIMIM, which was formed in 1927, assemble at the party headquarters everyday, except on Fridays, for a 'durbar'.
Even party president and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi makes an appearance if he is in the city, so does his younger brother and MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi.
The word 'durbar' comes from Persia and was the court of the nobles where the ruler held all discussions regarding the state. The concept later moved to India where it was held in the princely state of British-ruled India.
"We have been doing this since the time of Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi (father of the Owaisi brothers) and we only take an off on Fridays. We usually get a larger crowd on Saturday and Sunday because people have holidays," says Ahmed Bin Abdullah, the MLA from the Malakpet constituency.
(Abdullah with residents of his constituency)
The party members say that most of the complaints are regarding basic amenities like water, roads and electricity besides people getting stuck in bureaucratic limbo for various identity cards and welfare schemes.
"We're seeing a bigger crowd because the 2BHK scheme was announced and each MLA has been allotted a certain number of houses to give away," Abdullah adds.
As part of its initiative to make Hyderabad a slum free city, the Telangana state government plans to construct 1.08 lakh double-bedroom houses in 1,450 slums in a phased manner.
An entire truckload of people soon arrives and makes itself comfortable outside the office, as they wait for the politicians to arrive.
"We are all residents of Lal Darwa in Old City. We came here because the police tore down our sangham (community hall) which we had built and which was there for almost 25 years. They said that it was government land and broke the whole place down. They even manhandled a few of us when we tried to protest, including women," says N Saroopa, a 40-year-old woman from the crowd.
The people come armed with evidence of what happened with photographs and video recordings and the entire group - men, women, teenagers and children, are hopeful of getting justice.
Mohammed Miraj, a 50-year-old visitor who owns a private business, is here for the second time. "You may have to come two or three times, but they do get the work done. This is also much more convenient, if you consider the alternate options," he says.
Many assembled at the office seem to agree that this was the easiest way to talk to their elected representative as it saved them the hassle of visiting the secretariat and crowding around a tiny office for hours, without results.
The city is preparing for the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections as 3,04,677 voters have been enrolled, with as many as 7,750 polling stations across the 150 wards.
The durbar is one of the main reasons the GHMC area remains a stronghold for the party as even MLCs and Corporators participate in the durbar to hear peoples woes.
A report in Deccan Chronicle adds:
The party MLAs said that the MIM is prepared to face the elections and this time too, it is confident of living up to its slogan, “Shaher hamara, mayor hamara”. The party has decided to use the social media as a publicity tool for its election campaign. The MIM won 43 wards in the last elections and is expecting to better its performance to 55 seats and emerge as the single largest party in the GHMC.
"It is our open secret. This is why people trust us and vote for us. It's because they can talk to us directly without a middleman or anyone else. Besides being available personally in the office everyday, we make sure that we are accessible by phone 24x7," says another party member, as he rushes to handle the crowd gathered around the legislators.
Though the majority of the people who visit are Muslims, the durbar is open for all residents in their constituencies.