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Friday, November 27, 2020

Hyderabad civic polls: What is at stake for the TRS and BJP?

There are 150 wards in all in the corporation, and the mayor’s post is reserved for a woman this time.

Written by Sreenivas Janyala , Edited by Explained Desk | Hyderabad | Updated: November 27, 2020 8:26:03 am
Workers prepare a campaign vehicle for the BJP, ahead of the GHMC elections, in Hyderabad. (PTI Photo)

Elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation will be held on December 1. The civic polls are crucial for the ruling Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS), Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.

There are 150 wards in all in the corporation, and the mayor’s post is reserved for a woman this time.

Greater Hyderabad civic polls: What is at stake for TRS?

While the TRS swept the Assembly elections held in December 2018, in the parliamentary elections held in April 2019, the ruling party lost four crucial Lok Sabha seats to the BJP, and another stronghold, Malkajgiri, to the Congress, which won two other seats also. On November 10, in the Dubbaka Assembly by-election, the ruling party, which had won the seat in 2018 by a huge margin, lost to the BJP. Unnerved by the loss in Dubbaka, the TRS advanced the GHMC election, which was to be held in January, hoping to catch its rivals off guard.

Meanwhile, the party is also facing a lot of criticism for its handling of the situation after heavy rains on October 13-14 flooded large parts of the areas under GHMC. People are blaming the municipal administration and the government for reacting late, and when they did, it was said to be lackadaisical and inadequate. Several residential colonies remained inundated for several days and devoid of essential supplies and drinking water as officials could not find enough pumps to take out the water.

In 2016, the TRS had swept the GHMC elections winning 88 of the 150 seats, and its municipal councillors faced the wrath of citizens stranded in the flood waters. On October 19, the government announced a cash handout of Rs 10,000 to the affected families as immediate relief. But the cash distribution was chaotic, and TRS corporators and leaders were accused of handing out compensation as if it were a gift from the party. After Opposition parties accused the government of irregularities in the cash distribution, including giving the compensation to TRS sympathisers and unaffected persons, the government decided to credit the money in bank accounts of beneficiaries who had to register themselves at Mee Seva Centres. That became even more chaotic owing to technical glitches at the centres and staff were overwhelmed by the rush of people. With the announcement of elections on November 17, the model code of conduct came into force, forcing the government to stop the distribution of compensation leaving thousands of people angry and disappointed.📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram

What opportunity does BJP see in Hyderabad?

For the BJP, which now has two MLAs and four MPs, the civic election is an opportunity to increase its presence in Hyderabad and gain more ground in the hinterland of Telangana. Party leaders also want to prove that it is not the Congress but the BJP which is now the main rival to TRS.

Apart from Karnataka, the BJP does not have much presence in the four southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, where regional parties have a tight grip. By winning four Lok Sabha and two Assembly seats, the BJP sees an opening in Telangana. This is the reason the party has deputed Bihar election in-charge Bhupender Yadav, who helped the party win 72 seats there, to Hyderabad to chalk out a plan for the GHMC election. BJP leaders are much optimistic that the party has replaced the Congress as the arch rival of TRS, and is set to become the top contender in the near future. The party intends to break the TRS-AIMIM alliance across the state by positioning itself as a reliable and a development-oriented alternative, and GHMC election provides the opportunity to test that strategy and strength.

Party leaders point out that the victory in Dubbaka by-elections was not a fluke, and that disgruntled citizens were looking for an option other than the Congress.

READ | GHMC polls: Citizens remind parties of unkept promises

How BJP has increased its vote share in Telangana between two Assembly polls

In the 2014 elections, the BJP had won five Assembly seats in Telangana. However, in the December 2018 Assembly elections, the TRS wrested four seats and only T Raja Singh retained his seat. However, within four months, the BJP clawed back by winning three Lok Sabha seats and retaining Secunderabad. The party increased its vote share from 7.1 per cent in the Assembly to elections to 19.45 in the Lok Sabha elections. Party leaders attribute the increase in its vote share to the disenchantment with the TRS and increase in popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The party has also adopted an aggressive door-to-door campaign to highlight central schemes. The TRS’ alliance with AIMIM, which ensured that the minorities votes were in its kitty, has also alienated a section of the Hindu voters who turned to the BJP.

The Dubbaka bypoll loss for TRS and its context in GHMC polls

The loss in Dubbaka assembly seat forced the ruling TRS to advance the GHMC polls. The party wants to gauge the public mood half way into its second term, and depending on the GHMC results, it will do course correction. In December 2018 Assembly elections Solipeta Ramalinga Reddy of the TRS won the Dubbaka seat with 89,999 votes while his Congress and BJP rivals got 26,799 and 22,595 votes, respectively. Reddy got 54.36 per cent votes. He passed away on August 6 this year. The TRS nominated his wife Sujatha Reddy for the by-election. However, the BJP which nominated M Raghunandan Rao who had lost twice, conducted an aggressive campaign, promising development and better implementation of schemes. Rao won by polling 63,352 votes, increasing his vote share from a mere 13.75 per cent in December 2018 to 38.47 per cent. Although he won by a margin of just 1,079 votes, it is this change in vote share that has forced the TRS to call for early GHMC elections to assess the government’s performance as well as its popularity.

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