BJP’s ‘Battle’ for Hyderabad: Here’s Why Local Muslims Are Anxious

As BJP ups the ante in Hyderabad, conflict between AIMIM – which represent Muslims – and BJP may increase. 

Updated
Opinion
4 min read
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When voting ended for the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) on Tuesday, 1 December, common citizens heaved a sigh of relief. Reason: the locals feel COVID was intensifying due to the high decibel campaigning by all parties, and it would have been better if there were no polls.

The campaigning saw top BJP leaders led by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP National President JP Nadda fighting for – what seemed – the soul of Hyderabad. Opposing them was the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) which has ruled Telangana ever since it became a state in 2014, and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) that represents Muslims. Muslims comprise 40 percent of Hyderabad’s population.

BJP’s Entry into Telangana Coincides With Congress’s ‘Collapse’

Although BJP had started its campaign by focusing on the ‘misrule’ of the TRS, matters acquired a sharp edge when the saffron party began focusing on the Bhagyalakshmi temple. This temple, standing at the edge of the Charminar, is supposed to have preceded the latter – but this is disputed by many. Though Amit Shah did not say so, his colleague, UP Chief Minister Adityanath (who came campaigning), wanted to rename the city as Bhagyanagar. This is supposedly the ‘original’ name for Hyderabad, and whose ruling deity is Bhagyalakshmi. The campaign, however, left Hyderabad’s Muslims somewhat nervous.

This was BJP’s first foray – in a real sense – in Telangana, even though Amit Shah has been periodically making trips to Hyderabad. Ironically, BJP’s zealous entry into Telangana coincides with the ‘collapse’ of the Congress party nationally.

The Congress used to be a force in Telangana earlier. When Telangana became a state in June 2014, it happened due to the decision of Congress boss Sonia Gandhi, whose party was aligned with the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) at that time. But once Telangana became a reality, TRS boss K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), who used to touch the feet of Sonia and call her ‘Amma’, dis-aligned from her. TRS fought the elections on its own, and won and established the state government.

Over the years it gradually destroyed the Congress party and other Opposition such that it won the 2019 elections as well. Of course this was also due to the munificence of voters who saw in TRS a party which swore by Telangana.

TRS’s Declining Popularity Is BJP’s Gain

The voters, however, realised that over the years, the TRS ruling establishment became feudal, with the Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, promoting his son K Taraka Ramarao (KTR) as his successor. KCR also converted the chief minister’s official bungalow into a palatial building and did not operate from the secretariat.

However, the state secretariat has been demolished to make way for a new building. All this has led to the loss of popularity for the TRS which has now been in power for six years.

It is this loss that BJP now wants to capitalise on. At the beginning of the campaign, some BJP worthies (who do not want to be named) had told this writer that the saffron party’s aim was to mark its presence in Hyderabad in the municipal polls, so that the party could give TRS a run for its money in the next assembly elections slated for 2024.

But with the BJP now expected to perform better than what it seemed to at the beginning of the campaigning, a shrill voice from the saffron party is also demanding that the TRS government be dismissed.

Hyderabad’s History – And Why the ‘Battle’ for the City Will Be Interesting

Because of Hyderabad’s history, the battle for the city will be interesting: Hyderabad’s Muslim population – at 40 percent – is larger than any of the metros in the country, and this has happened due to the fact that the city and the princely state (also called Hyderabad) was under the Nizam’s rule from the very beginning.

When India became independent, the Nizam toyed with the idea of joining Pakistan. But he was forced to join India in September 1948 after what is called Police Action (but was actually Military Action) that saw the Indian Army zeroing in on Hyderabad from all sides.

Over a period of few years, Hyderabad state was also dismantled: and the Marathi speaking areas (that extended to Aurangabad) and the Kannada-speaking areas (including sizeable parts of Karnataka now) were de-merged.

In place of these demerged areas came Andhra that was the Telugu-speaking area of the earlier Madras Presidency (established by the British). Andhra and the Hyderabad state (which was also Telugu speaking) were then merged to form Andhra Pradesh.

Will the Coming Months See Tension Between AIMIM & BJP?

In this process of demerger and merger, the Muslims were left without an anchor. Many of them crossed over to Pakistan and others to Canada, USA and other countries. Left behind were the less fortunate Muslims (most of them concentrated in Hyderabad city and that too in the old city). The AIMIM represents them politically. The party has now become politically ambitious, and contested the recent polls in Bihar (and earlier fought in Maharashtra). But AIMIM is now feeling the heat in Hyderabad with the BJP’s entry.

AIMIM was earlier in tacit alliance with the Congress and then with the TRS. But in the municipal polls, the TRS started attacking the AIMIM saying that it had nothing to do with them.

This was with the idea of saving itself from BJP’s attack. In the coming months, even as the BJP ups the ante for the next assembly polls, analysts perceive that the conflict between AIMIM and BJP will intensify. This is scaring the locals with the prospects of communal trouble.

(The writer is the former Resident Editor of the Ahmedabad and later Hyderabad editions of the Times of India. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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