The K Chandrasekhar Rao-led ruling Telangana Rastra Samithi (TRS), which so far has banked on the ‘Telangana sentiment’ to stay in power, may need a stronger strategy with the BJP leaving no stone unturned to trigger religious polarisation in the Telugu state ahead of the Assembly elections in 2023.
At this juncture, it becomes imperative for KCR’s party to consolidate its power in the state by winning two state elections in succession.
Speaking at a rally, organised to commemorate the Telangana ‘Liberation’ Day (September 17) at Nirmal, Union Home Minister Amit Shah unfolded his party’s grand plans to unseat KCR’s party in the next elections due in 2023.
It is to be noted that Telangana was at the top of the BJP’s ‘Operation 7 (states)’. After the ‘operation’ came a cropper in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal, the BJP has now turned its attention towards Telangana where it won four Lok Sabha seats with 20 per cent vote share in the last general elections.
The BJP chose the occasion (Telangana ‘Liberation’ Day) to consolidate the majority Hindu votes by pressing the TRS government to officially celebrate the commemoration day annually.
On September 17, 1948, the princely state of Hyderabad was merged with the Indian Union after police action against the Nizam’s forces. The BJP celebrates it as Telangana Liberation Day.
The TRS had pitched for the official celebration of the Telangana Liberation Day before the successive Congress and TDP governments heading the undivided Andhra Pradesh then. But, it changed its stance and shelved its own demand after coming to power and joining hands with the al All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).
BJP’s game plan
With such a demand, the BJP aims to kill two birds with one stone – putting the TRS in a fix on one hand and embarrassing the AIMIM on the other. KCR cannot afford to rub its ally AIMIM the wrong way by conceding the BJP’s demand. Similarly, Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM is averse to the very idea of Telangana’s liberation from the rule of Nizams.
“It is nothing but reopening the old wounds inflicted on Muslims. More than 1.5 lakh Muslims were massacred during the police action launched by then union home minister Sardar Vallabai Patel prior to the merger of Telangana with the Indian Union,” Owaisi told a media outlet in an interview.
We will celebrate August 15, the day when the country became free from the British rule as the liberation day, he had said.
Operation Polo, popularly known as the annexation of Hyderabad in 1948, culminated into trifurcation of the Nizam province – the Marathwada region went to the erstwhile province of Bombay; the Kannada-speaking areas were merged with the then Mysore state; the residuary Telugu speaking area remained as a separate entity until it was clubbed with Andhra Pradesh in 1956.
Hindutva vs soft Hindutva narratives
TRS working president and IT minister K.T. Rama Rao aka KTR on September 17 spelt out his party’s plans to halt the rise of saffron politics on his home turf.
“Why is the celebration of the Liberation Day on September 17? We will observe the Liberation Day on June 2, the day when Telangana was liberated or bifurcated from the hold of the Andhra people and became an independent entity in 2014 after a prolonged statehood movement,” KTR said, responding to the Amit Shah’s communal rhetoric.
KCR has emerged as an invincible leader in the state politics by pleasing the dominant Muslim community. He has used every trick in the book to showcase himself as a devout Hindu too – he wears a tilak (sacred Hindu mark of vermilion) on his forehead, performs Yagas with Hindu seers like Chinna Jear Swamy and has built an expensive temple by spending ₹1,800 crore from the state’s exchequer at Yadadri.
But it is also true that he is facing a tough challenge from the BJP after the saffron party’s spectacular performance in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, the elections for the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) and the BJP’S wresting of the Dubbaka Assembly segment in the by-election from the TRS.
Encouraged by the windfalls, the BJP is out to push through its agenda of polarisation ahead of the next elections and the so-called Telangana Liberation Day has come came handy in this endeavour.
On ‘liberation’ day, BJP state president Bandi Sanjay undertook a marathon padayatra up to Nirmal to highlight the alleged excess perpetrated by the Nizam and his razakars against Hindus.
Though the state BJP leadership rightly chose Nirmal’s Veyi Vurula Marri (a banyan tree with a thousand hangings) for its high-profile event to mark the occasion and drive a communal wedge, the party was criticized by many for allegedly distorting history for its vested interests.
Raka Sudhakar, a right wing intellectual, told The Federal that the place has got its name from the thousand hangings involving ‘Hindu martyrs’ who sacrificed their lives in the struggle against the Nizam of Hyderabad. History has it that 1,000 rebels from the Rohilla and Gond tribal communities led by Ramji Gond revolted against the British aided by the Nizam’s army and were tied to the infamous banyan tree before being hanged on April 9, 1860.
Pasam Yadagiri, historian, took serious objections to BJP’s attempt to paint history in communal colours. In fact, neither the BJP nor its ideological fountainhead Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was in existence during the Gond war, he said.
“Portraying the anti-Nizam resistance movements as the fights between Hindus and Muslims is a misrepresentation of facts,” Yadagiri said in a TV interview.
“In fact, there were many Muslims who were killed by razakars at the behest of the Nizam. For instance, Shoebullah Khan, the editor of an Urdu daily had his right palm chopped off for writing against the Nizam and the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen. Later, the assailants pumped bullets into him at point blank range and killed him,” Yadagiri said.
Prof K Nageswar, a former MLC and left-wing writer who teaches journalism at Osmania University, said Telangana has an illustrious history of armed struggle waged against the excess of the razakars (private army), feudal exploitation and oppression of the Nizam, involving people from both Muslim and Hindu religious groups.
Talking to The Federal, he said that KCR is using Nizam for his political needs by glorifying his exploitative feudal regime in the school text books contrary to the history of the armed struggle in which more than 4,000 people laid down their lives.
“By aligning with the AIMIM, the TRS government has participated in removing the dark side of the Nizam’s rule from text books and failed to make a mention of the reign of terror unleashed by the razakars against common people,” Nageswar said.