GHMC Election Results: 4 Major Trends For Telangana Politics
Nearly two-thirds of BJP’s wards have come from LB Nagar and Secunderabad zones.
With Telangana Congress president Uttam Kumar Reddy resigning from his position and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) leader KT Rama Rao saying that the "results aren't up to the mark", it is clear that the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation election results could end up altering political equations in the state.
There are five big stories emerging from these elections, that need to be dissected a bit.
BJP is Gaining, Important Question is Where?
The biggest story of these elections is, without doubt, the sudden rise of the BJP from winning 4 wards in 2016 to over 48, becoming the second largest party in the GHMC.
But the important question is: where are these gains coming from?
There are two zones where BJP has done exceptionally well – LB Nagar and Secunderabad – which account for nearly two-thirds of the total number of wards won by the party.
While BJP has been traditionally strong in parts of Secunderabad and Khairatabad and areas in the Old City like Begum Bazar, the most significant aspect was its sweep of LB Nagar in the South Eastern part of GHMC.
The RSS is extremely strong in the area – this is where there was a massive RSS march in December last year during the visit of Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat.
It was also badly affected by the floods, which contributed to the anger against the TRS.
One factor which worked in BJP's favour, not just in LB Nagar but other parts of the city as well, was the weakening of Congress and Telugu Desam Party. This enabled it to capture much of the anti-TRS votes.
The support of Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party helped BJP win the support of Kapu settlers from Coastal Andhra.
But the BJP’s gains also came from upper middle class and professional Hindu voters.
TRS Honeymoon Over?
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi has dominated Telangana's politics since the formation of the state. Having captured power as a result of a powerful social movement for Telangana's statehood, the TRS established its dominance on the state.
Now, after over six years of the state's formation, its hold finally seems to be weakening. Its tally fell from 99 wards in 2016 to under 60 and much of these gains went to the BJP.
But its weakening isn't uniformly spread out.
It needs to be understood that Hyderabad was never a stronghold of the TRS and it was especially weak among migrants from Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra as well as Hindi and Urdu speaking voters.
However, it gained among these sections after coming to power in 2014. This period also saw the marginalisation of Seemandhra parties TDP and YSRCP in Telangana politics, to the TRS's advantage.
In this election, however, a major part of non-Telangana voters may have shifted to the BJP.
But the BJP seems to have had better luck at winning over former TDP voters than YSRCP voters. For instance, in Kukatpally, which is dominated by YSRCP-leaning Rayalaseema migrants, the TRS has done exceptionally well.
The TRS also seems to have done much better among poorer and lower middle class voters and in places where poorer migrants from rural Telangana reside.
The TRS is partly to blame for its own plight. Had it not ruthlessly demolished the Congress and TDP through defections, it wouldn't have left such a vacuum for the BJP to fill.
Its ambiguous relationship with the BJP – supporting it on several issues at the Centre – has also not helped.
AIMIM Holds Ground
While the BJP may have succeeded in making major inroads in wards held by the TRS, it couldn't penetrate the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen's strongholds in the Old City and nearby areas like Nampally, Vijaynagar and parts of Khairatabad.
The AIMIM managed to maintain its 2016 tally of 44, despite contesting in lesser number of places. The AIMIM’s strike rate was an impressive 85 percent. This is despite the BJP attacking the AIMIM constantly during the campaign. It is possible that the BJP's attacks may have compelled even some disgruntled voters to rally behind the AIMIM.
A major aspect of the AIMIM's performance was the victory of a few of its Hindu candidates such as K Thara Bai from Falaknuma, Swamy Yadav from Karwan and Raj Mohan from Puranapul.
With the TRS falling short of a majority, even after factoring in the electoral college comprising MPs and MLAs from Hyderabad, the AIMIM could well become kingmaker.
However, a flipside for AIMIM was that in some places the party's margin of victory was reduced compared to 2016 mainly due to low turnout and increase in BJP's vote share.
The party has been trying to expand into the Rajendranagar area but the GHMC results indicate that in the future, the BJP is likely to become a major player in there.
Congress and TDP Decimated
The Congress could manage to win only two wards and the TDP couldn't open its account, confirming their marginal status in Hyderabad's politics.
It appears that there is a sentiment among voters that a vote for either of these parties is a waste as they may end up defecting to the TRS anyway and that only the BJP can stand up to the TRS.
The Congress' loss is despite the fact that it had won from the Malkajgiri seat in the Lok Sabha elections. Five out of seven segments in the seat are part of the GHMC.
The only two wards Congress won were in LB Nagar, that comes under the Malkajgiri seat.
The TDP had chosen to lead a low profile campaign in the elections and this helped the BJP win over much of its support base. The BJP's gains in areas like LB Nagar and Kukatpally may have been due to the shift of TDP voters.
Impact on Telangana Politics
The most immediate outcome of the result is that that TRS is slightly short of numbers to get its mayor elected. It would probably need the help of the AIMIM or BJP.
Since AIMIM has been supportive of TRS in the past, it is likely that the party may bail it out. However, this would give BJP a chance to allege a nexus between the two. Its success would also embolden the BJP to play the Hindutva card as it did during the polls.
As many as 24 seats of the 119-member Telangana Assembly fall under the GHMC boundaries, which is about 20 percent. So BJP's performance may make it well positioned in about 7-8 seats and become the main Opposition in many others.
But the GHMC's impact won't be restricted to these 24 seats. Hyderabad is home to lakhs of migrants from other districts in Telangana. And the results here could be reflective of the mood there as well. The BJP has already made inroads into Northern Telangana, winning Adilabad, Karimnagar and Nizamabad in the Lok Sabha elections.
The LB Nagar win, however, could be indicative of a broader expansion. The area is home to several migrants from Nalgonda district in Southern Telangana. The district is a Congress bastion and represented by Uttam Kumar Reddy, who has just resigned as the state unit chief.
Also, the shift of the TDP vote to the BJP could also lead to more defections from the former to the latter.
However, in case the Congress doesn't take steps to step the tide, its base could also be in danger.
Telangana has become like West Bengal and Odisha where the Congress' weakness against a dominant regional party has opened up space for the BJP. With its massive resources, RSS support and hunger, the BJP seems a more appealing option for those opposed to the regional party in power, be it the TRS, TMC or BJD.
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