GHMC Elections: For the first time Hyderabad witnesses communally charged campaign

Those who have closely observed Hyderabad politics say that while communally charged politics is not new in the city but these elections have witnessed it in a new level.
BJP Telangana Chief Bandi Sanjay and Nizamabad MP Arvind Dharmpauri
BJP Telangana Chief Bandi Sanjay and Nizamabad MP Arvind Dharmpauri
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"Once a BJP candidate wins the Mayor post in these elections, there will be a surgical strike on patha basti (Old City). It’s the BJP’s responsibility to kick out these Rohingyas and filthy sons of Pakistan," said Telangana BJP Chief Bandi Sanjay stirring up the 'communal clamoring' ahead of the Hyderabad local body polls. It was part of a series of comments that has completely communalised the GHMC polls campaigning. 

Earlier Bandi Sanjay had accused CM KCR of having links with terrorists and labelled him as not a "true Hindu". Another BJP leader, Nizamabad MP Dharmapuri Arvind had said that he will crush Owaisi brothers under his shoes once BJP forms the government. In another statement he said the Kalvakuntla family (KCR) has lost the ‘masculinity’ to stop the "misdeeds" of  the Asasuddin Owaisi led All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM)

The TRS working president, KTR lashed out at BJP for the surgical strike comments calling them ‘divisive’ and as attempts to breach peace in the city. Telangana Chief Minister KCR  in a high level law and order review meeting with state police officials said that certain anarchic forces are trying to create clashes and communal tensions in the state out of despair and disappointment.

CM KCR said "During the GHMC polls, certain leaders are trying to get political mileage through several conspiracies. At first, they used social media to spread fake news. They tried to divert people with morphed photos. Later they have indulged in provocation through their utterances."

Those who have closely observed Hyderabad politics are of the opinion that the current scenario which is so charged, while not new to the city's political landscape, has escalated to a new and dangerous level.

MIM Member of Legislative Council (MLC) and senior journalist Syed Aminul Jafri who has worked in Hyderabad for over 40 years seeing different elections-- from local bodies to parliament-- said that this time BJP is completely banking on hate mongering and Hindutva. He said "They also used to talk about infrastructure, civic issues as well but this kind of aggressive planking on Hindutva polarization has never happened."

Jafri said that the BJP is trying to "communalize just for the sake of scoring a few seats". Initially it was the BJP which started making communal speeches, even TRS working president KTR questioned Bandi Sanjay about his motive for going to a temple near Charminar amid elections though there are a number of other temples in the city. 

Mir Ayoob Ali Khan, senior journalist and Editor of said, "In this GHMC elections, BJP is trying to create heat in the area by using communal language and incidentally Majlis (MIM) is not responding which itself is a very good sign."

Khan, however, felt that only a section of BJP leaders are displaying this belligerent behavior, not all. Khan, when asked if this dangerous trend of communalising the municipal corporation elections would alter the political discourse in the city permanently, said "any attempts to bring the communal divide by any party in the state will not be successful."

In the recent past MIM leaders Akbaruddin Owasi and his late father Salahuddin Owasi have also been booked for giving hate speeches. But this time around, many observers see a much restrained MIM despite multiple provocations by the BJP, not responding in kind. 

Sangishetty Srinivas, a senior journalist, social-cultural historian said that the kind of campaign that Hyderabad elections is witnessing is just part of BJP’s attempt to make inroads into south India.

Sangishetty observed, "Perhaps BJP is thinking that Hyderabad can be an instrument to bridge its political gulf of South and North India. While they are making a foray to expand in the south, not just the language but even many gestures are communally loaded.”

Observers are also pointing to a subtle change in the state leadership of the BJP and a sudden rise in the parliament elections with four seats too giving a boost. 

However, while the BJP seems to be making the most noise during the campaigning by attacking the MIM primarily, the fact that MIM is not even contesting all the seats in Hyderabad is significant. The TRS too seems to be mostly in a reactionary mode, while trying hard to not respond to communal charges but at the same time, focussing disproportionately on a party with the least grassroot presence in Hyderabad.

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