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TRS Operation Hyderabad in full spate

TRS Operation Hyderabad in full spate
Highlights

Enthused by its unprecedented electoral success in Warangal by-elections, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is moving heaven and earth to capture the state capital. Though the capital was always the scene of major actions during the Telangana movement, the sentiment was mixed in the city given its demographic composition.

Hyderabad was always a difficult nut to crack for the TRS which even stayed away from last civic polls. Even 2014 General Elections did not pay rich dividends. Though, the city polity is highly fractured and fragmented with many players competing fiercely for the city political cake, religious polarisation and patronisation by the ruling party helped the MIM stay the dominant force in the city.

Now, the TRS has stepped into the shoes of Congress and reached out to the MIM. It is pursuing the dual strategy of development politics and defections in the rest of the city. Bringing to the fore its cosmopolitan face, KTR, it is wooing the denizens with a slew of big infrastructure projects and welfare schemes.

While attracting potential leaders from other parties, it is also likely to field Seemandhra people in pockets of their influence. With KTR spearheading the campaign, the party may be hoping the positive results will set at rest any speculations over succession in the party

Enthused by its unprecedented electoral success in Warangal by-elections, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is moving heaven and earth to capture the state capital. Though the capital was always the scene of major actions during the Telangana movement, the sentiment was mixed in the city given its demographic composition.

There was a time when the TRS, fearing a total humiliation, refrained from contesting the municipal polls in Hyderabad in a bid to put up a brave face. Even the 2014 General Elections did not give rich electoral dividends for the party in the city. Thus, Hyderabad was always a difficult nut to crack for the TRS. On the other hand, the city polity is highly fractured and fragmented with many players competing fiercely for the city political cake.

The city politics always saw religious polarisation at least in certain areas. Thus the Muslim-dominated areas of the city remain an impregnable stronghold of MIM. The emergence of the MBT could not make a significant dent in MIM’s popularity in the city as the former largely confines to a sect within the community. The MIM thus never had serious contenders for Muslim vote in the city.

The so-called secular parties always had a strategic understanding with the MIM, further bolstering the latter’s popularity. Independent of the political changes including the bifurcation of the State and the electoral landscape witnessing far-reaching changes, the MIM more or less kept its sway over its captive electorate. Even at the height of the Telangana movement, the MIM stood for the united Andhra Pradesh and preferred Rayal Telangana in case of bifurcation.

Swimming against the tide in Telangana, the MIM could preserve its grip on the city electorate due to politico-religious mobilisation. The MIM is making a frantic bid to expand into the other parts of the two States and even outside the united Andhra Pradesh. Its attempts received some encouraging response in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, only to remain feeble in Bihar.

The party faces the accusations of being an electoral Trojan Horse. But, its attempts to emerge as a pan-Indian political force have further added to the party’s image among its support base. The MIM and the Congress, while in power, always forged a win-win political understanding.

The Congress covertly used the MIM in many constituencies where there is a sizable population of Muslim voters. On the other hand, the MIM desperately needed the support of the ruling party to ensure that its writ runs large over the Old City. State patronage is critical to sustain its kingdom in the old city.

The TRS was quick to exploit this political character of MIM. Much before there was even a talk of municipal polls, the TRS leadership reached out to the MIM. Thus the ruling TRS has stepped into the then ruling Congress shoes. The strategic alliance with MIM covertly or overtly created a ground for the TRS to fight in the city which otherwise looked an alien field for the party.

The demographic features of Hyderabad present mixed fortunes for the TRS. Having been the capital of united Andhra Pradesh for over five decades, the city witnessed a large influx of people from different party of the then undivided State. A large presence of non-Telangana population, especially Seemandhra voters, obviously forms a strong anti-TRS vote bank.

The TRS unsavory comments on Seemandhra people often invited a sharp response. The belligerent posturing of Telangana government towards Andhra Pradesh on a host of issues have further alienated these sections from TRS. The Seemandhra population in Hyderabad obviously did not favour the division of the State and their aversion to the TRS is congenital. This reflected in 2014 elections. The TDP-BJP combine could more or less consolidate the Seemandhra vote in the city in its favour. The significant electoral gains of this alliance indicate this. The unwanted controversy over the nativity, the apprehension created by survey etc., only helped widen the gap between the TRS and the people settled in Hyderabad, coming from regions other than the Telangana districts.

The TDP–BJP combine feels that it is formidable in the city due to this demographic character and the sentiments triggered during and after the bifurcation of the State. But, TRS hopes to fight back on this count by hatching electoral strategies.

The TRS hopes that the voters in the city who came from Seemandhra districts have reconciled to the fact that Telangana State is a reality and may not be swayed away by the sentiment any longer. The party is expected to field some of the candidates from this background, too, at least in areas where they form a numerical majority.

The Telangana government and the party have cleverly brushed many of the controversial issues under the carpet. The significant among them is the controversy over nativity and the fee waiver scheme. The TRS is also hoping to gain from the recent goodwill gestures exchanged by both the Chief Ministers of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. However, the TRS circles feel that demographic composition of the Hyderabad electorate is still a challenge to the party.

However, the last few decades have also witnessed migration of a large number of people from the remaining Telangana districts to Hyderabad. This is evident from the significant vote share obtained by TRS in the 2014 General Elections, though the party may not have achieved sizable successes. But, this large vote share would certainly show a positive impact in municipal polls, given the lesser size of the municipal constituencies.

The party‘s victory in Secunderabad Cantonment Board elections gave the TRS new hope and confidence to face the city polls. The TRS has pressed into action a dual strategy of development and defections to win the Hyderabad. The party could successfully lure senior leaders of TDP and even gave a ministerial berth. Apart from attracting legislators and former legislators in the city, the TRS continues to mobilise grassroots activist and leaders from rival parties. This is aimed at ensuring double advantage of weakening the rivals and strengthening the party. Now, the TRS is all set to attract a sizable number of sitting corporators from different parties and is likely to field several of them on its banner.

Big infrastructural and development push is aimed at further consolidating its base. The speed with which the government is acting on bringing Godavari waters to city, the recent forward movement on Hyderabad Metro, the talk of sky ways, the refurbishing of IT sector through incubation hubs etc. are the illustration of the ruling party’s development politics. The party hopes to attract the city poor through a slew of welfare measures like pensions, housing etc.

Thus, the grand plan of Operation Hyderabad of TRS has multiple facets. The cosmopolitan face of TRS, KTR, is given the responsibility to lead the party’s campaign and strategy in the city. The TRS leadership may be hoping that the positive results in the city would perhaps lay to rest the speculation over succession in the party, too.

By:Prof K Nageshwar
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