The elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, the first since Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh, has become a new battleground for the chief ministers of the two states and their respective parties. It is also the first poll since 2009, with the 2014 elections postponed for various reasons.
Besides the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and the TDP, the other players are the Congress and Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM, both of which have taken up Dalit student Rohit Vemula’s suicide as an issue against TDP ally the BJP. The TRS is contesting alone but it is not improbable that it can seek the support of AIMIM after the results, while the TDP-BJP combine has shared the seats and the Congress is contesting alone.
The elections will be held Tuesday, with counting on February 5. There are 150 wards in five zones. Any party requires 106 seats to seat a mayor and deputy mayor.
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It’s the battle between chief ministers K Chandrasekhar Rao (Telangana) and N Chandrababu Naidu that is the most audible at the moment. “Why vote for Naidu? He is CM of Andhra Pradesh, what can he do alone here in Hyderabad?’’ KCR said at a public meeting Saturday night.
While the TDP-BJP combine has some support in the city, where 30 per cent of voters hail from Coastal Andhra region, Rohith’s suicide can potentially work against the BJP. Candidates of the BJP were chased away from Dalit colonies in 65 wards last week. “It was a temporary phenomenon as emotions were running high after the unfortunate incident. It will not have any effect on the chances of our candidates,” Telangana BJP president G Kishan Reddy said.
For the TRS, KCR has campaigned intensely with promises of peace and development. KCR’s and Naidu’s sons, K T Rama Rao and N Lokesh Naidu respectively, have joined the CMs in the campaign, wooing young voters. Like Naidu, KCR and his son too have reached out to Andhra Pradesh-origin voters, telling them that the TRS has worked for their welfare while the TDP is not a local party anymore.
“The TRS is the ruling party at the state level but if another party comes to power at GHMC, it will create difficulties. TRS is for Hyderabad. In the last 19 months we have ensured peace, safety and security of everyone living here,’’ KCR said, referring to fears of safety expressed by Coastal Andhra people when the state was bifurcated.
Naidu, on the other hand, played on linguistic identity. “Wherever there are Telugu people, the TDP will always be there and work for their welfare. No one has the right to ask what role the TDP has in Hyderabad in Telangana. Hyderabad, especially, belongs to all and it needs progress,’’ Naidu said.
KCR countered Naidu by reminding him that Naidu has a job to do in his own state where he is struggling to raise funds for the new capital city, Amaravati. “There are so many cities in Andhra Pradesh like Tirupati, Vizag, Vijayawada to develop but Naidu wants to concentrate on Hyderabad… You concentrate on your own cities,’’ KCR said.
For the TDP, it is a prestige issue as it has six MLAs in Hyderabad city region who were elected in the 2014 polls. The TDP also has one MP — from Malkajgiri where a large number of people hail from Andhra Pradesh. The BJP’s Bandaru Dattatreya, Union MoS for Labour and Employment, is MP from Secunderabad.
The contest between the TDP and the TRS will primarily be in the peripheral wards, populated by a large number of AP-origin voters. In the old city areas, the contest is likely to be triangular among the AIMIM, the TRS and the Congress, Telangana Congress president N Uttam Kumar Reddy said the Congress will gain because people have turned against the TRS for not fulfilling poll promises such as building houses for the poor, and improving water supply system. “My assessment is we will win at least 45 to 50 seats,’’ he said. “In the old city areas, we will give a tough fight to the AIMIM because Muslims are unhappy with the AIMIM,” he said.
The AIMIM has been tying to bring Dalits and backward classes under its umbrella. Owaisi, the Hyderabad MP, visited the Hyderabad Central University campus twice to express solidarity with students protesting after Rohith’s suicide; Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi too visited twice.