Rarely has one seen a battery of national leaders swooping down for a municipal election and making it a prestige battle. So what makes Hyderabad different? Why has Union Home minister Amit Shah, BJP president JP Nadda and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath made such efforts for a party that has miniscule presence in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation?
In the last GHMC election in 2016, the TRS won 99 seats and ally AIMIM 44. Together, they captured 143 seats in the 150-member corporation. The BJP won four seats and the Congress only two. Incidentally, the BJP had won four seats in the first GHMC election in 2009 as well.
In terms of vote share, TRS received 44 per cent votes in 2016 and AIMIM 16 per cent. The BJP with just over 10 per cent votes stood fifth, even behind the TDP and Congress. So why the big saffron push for the ‘City of Nawabs’?
For years, the BJP has struggled to expand in the South. Except Karnataka, the party has limited influence in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. It did win some seats in state and general elections in alliance with other parties, but rarely could make a significant impact on its own.
However, between the 2018 assembly elections in Telangana and the Lok Sabha polls the following year, the BJP’s vote share in the state jumped from 7 per cent to 20 per cent. Compared to one assembly seat in 2018, the BJP won four Parliamentary seats just a few months later. Data shows it was leading in 21 assembly seats in 2019.
The GHMC area covers 24 assembly constituencies. Among these, the BJP received over 25,000 votes in 21 assembly segments in the 2019 Lok Sabha election; and in 14 assembly segments, it received over 40,000 votes. Just six months back, in the 2018 assembly election, the BJP had received over 25,000 votes in just seven of these assembly segments.
It was then that the saffron party smelled blood; and if some political analysts are to be believed, these are the reasons TRS is distancing itself from AIMIM this time, fearing polarisation of the electorate.
The Opposition vacuum
When Telangana was formed in 2014, the Congress had hoped it would get massive support from the people for fulfilling their longstanding demand for a separate state. However, it did not go as expected. TRS emerged as the dominant force in the state, winning both the 2014 and 2018 elections by huge mandates. The Congress, on the other hand, has been in continuous decline.
In the 2018 assembly election, Congress was in second position in terms of votes and seats. It received around 30 per cent votes, but managed to win only 19 seats. Six months later, in the Parliamentary elections, it was leading in 21 assembly segments. But at the same time, BJP was the bigger gainer.
In terms of vote share, BJP gained 13 per cent votes, while Congress gained just one per cent. In terms of seats, both BJP and Congress were leading in 21 assembly segments BJP 20 more than in 2018, while Congress only two.
At the same, AIMIM, which won five assembly seats in the recent Bihar elections and received much media attention on its efforts to expand to other states, has succeeded very little in creating an impact outside Hyderabad, even in Telangana. That the AIMIM is perceived to be a largely Muslim party acts as a deterrent in its expansion plans.
The absence of a strong opposition has provided an impetus to the BJP, which first plans to capture this space, before throwing a formidable challenge to the TRS in the 2023 assembly election.