GHMC results: How TRS created space for BJP to grow in Telangana

During the GHMC poll campaign, the BJP used its Bihar strategy with a target of around 30 seats, along with the prestigious Mayor post.

By Tejaswini Pagadala  Published on  4 Dec 2020 2:06 PM GMT
GHMC results: How TRS created space for BJP to grow in Telangana

Hyderabad: Though the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has retained its position in the lead in the GHMC elections, the results of such a high-voltage affair are a clear indication that the BJP is targeting Telangana's 2023 Assembly polls.

With the 2018 Assembly elections and the subsequent Lok Sabha elections in 2019, the BJP opened its account in Telangana (with two Assembly seats and four Lok Sabha seats). During this time, its vote share increased from seven per cent in the Assembly elections to around 20 per cent in the Lok Sabha elections, clearly indicating its growth in the state. With the recent win in the Dubbaka by-polls, the BJP has established itself as the main opposition in Telangana.

During the GHMC poll campaign, the BJP used its Bihar strategy with a target of around 30 seats, along with the prestigious Mayor post. Their point of target was the TRS-AIMIM alliance and their message was: "If Muslims in Bihar have voted for AIMIM, then Hindus in Hyderabad can vote for BJP." Its aim was to be the AIMIM of Hyderabad and it has breached its expected number, equalling its strength to that of AIMIM. This means that their strategy of Hindus Vs. Muslims for Hyderabad definitely worked.

The civic polls also proved that religion has a stronger voter affinity than regional sentiment. During the poll campaign, AIMIM's Akbaruddin Owaisi made a statement, hurting the sentiments of the Telugu people by taking a dig at former Prime Minister P.V Narasimha Rao and former AP Chief Minister Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao.

In retaliation, the BJP brought up the surgical strike statement against Rohingyas in Hyderabad and warned the AIMIM. Until then, the election looked like a mere civic poll. But after these statements, the whole narrative changed to religious propaganda and provocation.

Cashing in on this, the TRS began selling its message showing AIMIM and BJP being hand-in-glove and as a threat to the peace and security of the state. However, despite BJP's promises being totally absurd — either on paying challans of youngsters or giving anything a family lost during the floods - that did not have much effect on the voters. All the religious propaganda on the whole actually benefitted the party.

Finishing off the Opposition

By creating an image of the TDP and the Congress as anti-Telangana parties, TRS successfully managed to end these parties' dominance post bifurcation.

The fact that there are hardly any seats for the TDP or the Congress currently is an indication that there was space for an alternative that could emerge as an Opposition to TRS. If the TRS had let TDP and Congress fight it out and if the fight had remained between the three parties, the BJP wouldn't have had so much space to conquer as it does right now.

Moreover, by attracting defecting MLAs from both these parties and its friendship with AIMIM and favouring the Muslim community openly through its 12 per cent reservations and 100 per cent subsidy schemes for minorities, the TRS has created a space for the BJP to bring in religion in a land that has simmered with regional sentiment.

The anti-incumbency in a way benefitted BJP to an extent while AIMIM retained its ground by giving an equal fight. However, TDP and Congress mostly remain irrelevant due to lack of leadership motivation to its cadre.

This election clearly has boosted BJP's confidence in the south where it is looking to make an entry in the other South Indian States barring Karnataka. The TRS needs to learn from its mistakes and focus on fulfilling its promises given that it still has three years before the next Assembly elections.

On the other hand, the BJP needs to understand that it cannot sell religion for long in the south, which is comparatively progressive than other regions of India. So, the saffron party too needs to focus on a development-driven agenda and not just provocative politics.

What is happening in Telangana is a clear warning sign for Andhra Pradesh. The YSRCP is doing a similar stunt with the Opposition and with conversions rampant in the neighbouring state, the BJP will use both these reasons as an ample opportunity to enter AP.

With temple attack incidents already rocking Andhra Pradesh and putting the current government in a bad light, YSRCP needs to be aware of the dangers of the BJP's entry while it continues to belittle TDP and weaken it.

Going by the BJP's agenda, it is clear that the saffron party uses its allies which win an absolute majority in states and then slowly enters the state as the Opposition is already weak in these respective states. This way it can fulfill its Akhand Bharat goal.

Currently, BJP is already targeting Bengal and Tamil Nadu in 2021. And come 2023 and 2024, Telugu states will surely be on the BJP's saffronisation agenda. This dangerous trend is not only an indication that cooperative federalism may not survive in the future but is also a death knell for regional parties.

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