For the first time in 40 years,Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency is going to witness a keen contest. Considered the undisputed bastion of the All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM),which won the seat the last six times,the party cannot take things for granted any more.
MIMs ratings have dipped in the last two years. Muslims,who account for 70 per cent of the population here,have become cynical about the party and its divisive policies. Besides,both the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) have fielded Muslim candidates with good reputations,capable of taking the fight to the MIM camp.
On the other hand,the BJP has a strong presence in the Hindu-dominated segments of the constituency. In fact,since 1991,the MIMs main rival has been the BJP.
The historic city that was once proudly bound by the legacy of the Nizams is now disillusioned and fragmented. The twin blasts at Lumbini Park and Gokul Chat House,and the Mecca Masjid blast have left their scars. Even educated and religious Muslims now want a change in Hyderabad. Instead of voting on religious sentiments,they want to vote for a party that not only talks but delivers economic and social development. Large swathes of the Muslim population are unhappy with MIM right now, says I M Venkat Rao,a political analyst.
The MIM has also lately acquired the image of becoming an intolerant,violent party and is being accused by Muslims themselves of resorting to divisive politics to retain its hold on the minority population. MIMs second-rung leaders and workers are also being accused of land-grabbing and extortion in the name of protection money,especially in Charminar,Chandrayangutta and Karwan areas their strongholds.
The old city is also hoping for a change. In Charminar,the heart of the city,residents are peeved at the congested,pot-holed roads,lack of basic civic infrastructure,filth and squalor in the streets,and overflowing gutters. The old city hasnt changed much in the last 20-30 years. Many residents realise the difference when they go to new city areas where you have excellent civic infrastructure,parks and gardens, complains Mohammed Afzal,a wholesale agent who deals in pearls.
Latif Khan,general secretary of the Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee,feels MIM strongholds have gone from bad to worse. They have voted for MIM six times consecutively in Lok Sabha and Assembly elections,but they dont see any development taking place, Khan says.
Voting blindly under the influence of MIM is out of the question now. Educated youth among us are talking to women in the area to vote for change and economic and social development, says Rafat,a student of Hyderabad University.
In Chandrayangutta,another MIM stronghold,sitting party MLA Ahmed Pasha Quadri is facing an irate public,asking uncomfortable questions when he goes for campaigning. Where are the roads and drainage lines he promised? asks Noora Qureshi,a cybercafé owner.
After delimitation,Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency comprises the Assembly segments of Charminar,Malakpet,Karwan,Goshamahal,Chandrayangutta,Yakutpura and Bhadurpura. In 2004,MIM had won in five constituencies Charminar (Syed Ahmed Pasha Quadri),Asifnagar (Moazam Khan),Yakutpura (Mumtaz Ahmed Khan),Karwan (Muktada Khan alias Afsar Khan) and Chandrayangutta (Akbaruddin Owaisi). The five MIM MLAs have two dozen cases against them that include rioting,inciting mobs,causing hurt,damage to property and intimidation.
When leading Urdu daily Siasat published articles against MIMs deteriorating conduct,its editor,Zahid Ali Khan,was beaten up by MIM goons led by MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi,brother of Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi. In defiance,Khan has decided to contest against Asaduddin Owaisi this time. He is the TDP candidate. My fight is against MIM and its divisive and communal politics. I want to restore the old glory of Hyderabad city which has been ruined by communal forces with their divisive politics, says Khan.
The PRP has fielded a Muslim woman candidate Fathima Begum an advocate,the BJP candidate is Satish Agarwal,and Congress has fielded Lakshmana Goud.
Latif Khan says Muslims in Hyderabad now have an alternative to MIM. For 40 years,the community voted for MIM because they had no other option. Their religious sentiments were exploited by MIM during every election but the community has not got back anything in return. It is going to be a close fight this election, he says, adding that people are also angry with the party for not taking any action when Muslim youths were picked randomly by police after the blasts in the city. MIM only gave inflammatory statements. The court finally ordered the release of all the youth, he says.
Recently,hundreds of disgruntled MIM workers joined the PRP,which feels that a woman Muslim candidate could turn out to be its trump card.
Dr G Sridhar,a political analyst,says anti-MIM votes may go to the TDP. MIM may still scrape through because they have strong influence in three of the seven Assembly segments. However,it also depends on how BJPs Satish Agarwal performs, he says.
Zahid Ali Khan,TDP alliance
2004 Asaduddin Owaisi,MIM
1999 Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi,MIM
1998 Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi,MIM
1996 Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi,MIM
1991 Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi,MIM