"It is a battle between nationalists and anti-nationals in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections," said BJP Telangana chief Bandi Sanjay. A few days later, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao hit back. Alleging that the BJP was anti-people and anti-farmer and accusing them of spreading lies, KCR on Wednesday asked the people of Hyderabad to decide between "peace and development" or communal clashes. "Do people want to see Hyderabad filled with peace and communal harmony? Or the city burning with communal clashes? Do they want a Hyderabad where people of all the faiths and regions live like brothers?" he asked.
The charged statements came amidst the political bugle being sounded in the state capital after the State Election Commission (SEC) issued a notification for elections in 150 divisions of the Hyderabad civic body. The GHMC polls, scheduled to be held on December 1, with such short notice, comes in the backdrop of BJP winning the Dubbaka Assembly bye-poll. The BJP's win in KCR's home district has certainly given the ruling party a jolt, as neither he, nor TRS Working President K Tarakarama Rao (KTR) bothered to campaign for the election. In line with the predictions of analysts, BJP is vociferously trying to win in Hyderabad by positioning itself as an alternative to the TRS, by sidelining the Congress.
It is also visible on the ground that the TRS has left nothing to chance and has accepted the BJP as its main contender. Both the parties are already fighting it out on social media over Hyderabad. For both the TRS and BJP, winning the elections is crucial. In 2016, BJP and TDP had contested the GHMC elections in an alliance against the TRS, but were confined to single digit numbers.
However, in four years, a lot has changed for BJP in the state. It was able to increase its MP count to four from one in Telangana. The party despite losing six seats in the 2018 Assembly Elections, and seeing debacles in local body and municipality elections besides the Huzurnagar bye-election, has emerged as a considerably strong force by changing its political tone.
Meanwhile, the current GHMC elections is a litmus test for the TRS as it is being held two years into its second tenure. The party is banking on welfare schemes and infrastructure development, but the recent devastating floods have become a bane to the TRS as the opposition, including the BJP, have accused it of misgovernance and lack of urban planning.
Either way, the polls are crucial for both parties. If TRS manages to reemerge as the strong force, it will perhaps serve as a morale booster to cadres who have been dejected with the recent Dubbaka results. Moreover, this will further KCR's promise of a ‚Äėbangaru Telangana‚Äô (golden Telangana).
With BJP claiming that the fight is between ‚Äúnationalists and anti-nationalists‚ÄĚ, KCR too, has upped the ante. Targeting BJP for its "anti-farmer" laws and its steps to privatise public sector institutions and organisations, KCR also restarted his pitch to convene an anti-BJP front at the national level, though observers say that this seems to be primarily aimed at capturing the GHMC.
"I will call the parties in December second week. KCR is going to start the battle in Hyderabad. TRS will put its all energies to fight against Modi government's anti-public sector policies and anti-farmer activities," the CM said.
Taking a jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, KCR said, ‚ÄúGod knows where the chaiwala has gone. The same man who claimed that he sold tea in a railway station is selling Railways today. It is our responsibility to take the lead to fight against BJP. I will bring all non-BJP parties onto a single platform."
There is a lot at stake, and a result that disappoints TRS, would end up having political repercussions beyond Hyderabad city, ahead of the 2023 Assembly polls in the state.