The action-packed Hyderabad municipal election has ended on a cliffhanger, as counting of votes concluded on Friday evening. Of the 150 wards that went to polls earlier this week, the TRS (Telangana Rashtra Samithi) has won the highest numbers of seats at 55, a considerable fall from the previous 2016 GHMC election where the ruling party in Telangana had won 99 seats. The BJP, on the other hand, has made substantial gains, from a mere four seats in 2016 to 48 seats this year. The AIMIM(All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen) has mostly retained its stronghold, winning in 44 wards (results for one ward have been withheld). However, none of these major parties have managed to attain the absolute majority of 98 wards (including those of ex-officio members including MLAs and MLCs of their party), required to vote their party candidate as the Mayor.
With 150 elected members and 45 ex-officio members (eligible to vote this time), the total strength of the GHMC council is 195. For a party to win with a simple majority, it needs 98 votes. The TRS has 31 ex-officio members, but since it won in only 55 wards, it cannot still elect a Mayor alone. The TRS has two options in front of them, to ally with either the AIMIM or the BJP — the latter seems unlikely at this point.
While the TRS and AIMIM are known to be on ‘friendly terms’, the two parties have been very adamant that there is no alliance between the two parties when it comes to the GHMC polls. The TRS had fielded its candidates in all 150 wards, including those that are in the AIMIM’s bastion.
In the lead up to the elections, TRS Working President and state Minister for Municipal Administration and Urban Development K T Rama Rao had assertively claimed that this year, the TRS would take over some of the AIMIM’s divisions too. KTR had claimed that a TRS woman corporator will be made Mayor, rejecting the speculations about offering the Mayor post to AIMIM, in case of a fractured verdict.
Now, in the absence of an absolute majority, if the TRS chooses to partner with the AIMIM, it may have to concede to demands for an AIMIM candidate to be made Mayor or Deputy Mayor, or perhaps even split the Mayor’s terms between two candidates from each party.
The TRS will most likely pick this easier option and thrash out terms with Owaisi, who shares a cordial relationship with KCR. However, in light of the rising popularity of the BJP in the state, as evidenced by the Dubbaka bye-poll victory and the gains made in the GHMC election, the TRS will be forced to mull over the long-term effect of an open alliance with the AIMIM. The BJP in its aggressive, polarising campaign, had made several remarks against Muslims, in a direct and not so direct manner. Part of this communal strategy was to question the “unholy alliance” between TRS and AIMIM, which is a Muslim party. A few observers have noted that while this is not a new strategy for the BJP, it seems to have been more effective this year, and is likely to have impacted voting.
Though allying with the BJP is an option for the TRS, it would also be extremely difficult for the party to go back on the strong stance that Chief Minister and TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao has repeatedly taken against the BJP and the Narendra Modi-led NDA government. Through the intense GHMC poll campaign, the TRS has been vocal in condemning the BJP’s polarising, anti-Muslim narrative. Moreover, KCR has been trying to position himself as a third front leader, supporting federalism.
Days ahead of the GHMC polls, CM KCR had launched a scathing attack on the BJP, and called for a meeting of leaders of non-NDA parties to give shape to an anti-BJP platform. KCR has also consistently stressed on upholding the spirit of federalism, while opposing various decisions of the Union government. Partnering with the BJP now would be an unlikely, difficult and awkward decision for the TRS.