Why BJP may play ‘illegal migrant’ card in Telangana next to counter KCR govt

Telangana, NRC, BJP, TRS, illegal immigrants, Hyderabad
The BJP leaders, by and large, stick to the same narrative and point out that there has been a steady growth of illegal immigrants in the state in general and Hyderabad in particular in the guise of refugees. Photo: ANI/Twitter.

After Assam, it may well be the turn for Telangana to play out bitter politics over undocumented immigrants. The state BJP unit has demanded that the National Register for Citizens (NRC) updation be replicated in Telangana, the country’s youngest state.

The saffron party, which is making desperate attempts to make inroads into Telangana, has latched on to the emotive issue of NRC to use it as a handle to corner the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and its ally All India Majilis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).

Alleging that the TRS-led government, along with its ally, was turning a blind eye to the growing menace of illegal immigrants, the BJP has demanded that an NRC updation exercise be taken up in the state.

“Undocumented immigrants are moving into Telangana from many borderline states, finding the local environment conducive for their survival. The TRS, in political connivance with AIMIM, is looking the other way, with full knowledge of this dangerous trend,” BJP spokesperson K Krishna Sagar Rao has claimed.

A delegation of the party leaders is expected to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah soon to “brief” him about the situation in the state.

Target AIMIM

Telangana, particularly the capital city of Hyderabad which has 32 per cent Muslim population, offers an ideal platform for the BJP to rake up issues with communal overtones. The real target is AIMIM, headed by Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, which is a formidable force in the old Hyderabad areas. Owaisi is a four-time MP representing the city while his party has seven legislators in the Telangana assembly.

While the police say that there are about 5,000 Rohingya refugees in the city, the local BJP leaders dispute the figure and claim that their ‘number runs into lakhs’. It is also alleged that several Pakistanis are overstaying in the city beyond the visa period.

“Owaisi has given shelter to many Bangladeshis and Rohingyas to serve as his vote bank,” alleged city BJP legislator Raja Singh, notorious for his rabble-rousing and provocative speeches.

“Assam toh jhanki hai, Hyderabad toh abhi baaki hai (Assam is the trailer, Hyderabad is still to come),” the MLA from Ghosha Mahal in the city tweeted with the hashtag ‘NRC2019’.

Also read: Why September 17 holds key to BJP’s ‘Capture Telangana’ mission

Describing the alleged presence of undocumented immigrants as a “ticking time bomb” that can have “very dangerous consequences for communal harmony, peace, and law and order in the state”, the BJP demanded an NRC exercise in the state.

Quite often, the BJP refers to the old Muslim-dominated city areas as “dens of terror activities”. Even after being inducted into the Union Cabinet, G Kishan Reddy, who hails from the city, spoke about the rise in terror activities in the city. However, he was chided by senior colleague Amit Shah for his comments.

BJP leaders, by and large, stick to the same narrative and point out that there has been a steady growth of illegal immigrants in the state in general and Hyderabad in particular in the guise of refugees.

“As the core purpose of any NRC initiation like in Assam is to ensure that no illegal immigrants become citizens of India fraudulently, it must be applied to Telangana state too. This should be taken up in the larger interest of the state and the nation,” the party spokesman said.

Also read: Illegal migrants seeking passports on the rise in Hyderabad

However, the party has been vague about the exact number of illegal immigrants. “We need an NRC to determine the exact numbers. The state government is not doing anything about this issue. There are huge colonies in Old City full of illegals — now they are also moving to Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Nalgonda, Adilabad and other areas,” he said.

The campaign for NRC in Telangana comes despite party leaders’ unhappiness with the outcome in Assam where several Hindu migrants from Bangladesh have been left out of the final list.

“Amit Shah had quoted a figure of 40 lakh illegal immigrants but the NRC list has mentioned just 19 lakh. Even in this, many would be able to prove their citizenship. So it has busted the myth of the illegal migrant,” Owaisi tweeted.

Political messaging

By harping on the NRC card, the BJP wants to “expose” what it calls the “minority appeasement politics” of the TRS. This, coupled with the campaign demanding celebration of September 17 as the Hyderabad Liberation Day, is expected to provide an aggressive push to the party’s efforts to expand its base in the state.

It was on September 17, 1948 that the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad, under the Nizam’s rule, was merged with the Indian Union. The BJP has been observing it as “Liberation Day” and demanding its observation to mark the integration of the region into Indian Union.

It is an emotive issue around which the saffron party now wants to weave its political campaign to capture power in Telangana in the 2023 Assembly elections.

Nationalist narrative

Emboldened by the groundswell of support from the general public to the recent move to abrogate Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP leadership has decided to harp on the similar card of national integration in Telangana as well.

While the AIMIM is opposed to any narrative that denigrates the Nizam’s rule, the TRS has so far rejected the demand for celebrating the Liberation Day, keeping in view the sensibilities of the minorities.

Following the landslide victory in the Lok Sabha elections, the saffron party had declared Telangana as its next target to make major inroads into the south. The country’s youngest state offers a perfect setting for the BJP to go for the offensive as the opposition Congress is virtually in a comatose condition with a majority of its legislators already crossing over to the TRS while its cadre is thoroughly demoralized.

By taking up public issues, stepping up the campaign against the “family rule and corruption” of the TRS and building a nationalist narrative, the BJP wants to emerge as a formidable force and occupy the opposition space in the state.