BJP may spring a surprise plan at National Executive to wrest Hyderabad from AIMIM
Hyderabad has been the stage for two crucial decisions that shaped the destiny of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and paved the path for the advent of the Modi era in the saffron party’s history.
The first decision emerged from the National Executive held on March 21 and 22, 1994. in Hyderabad. First, after the 1991 Lok Sabha elections, held under the shadow of the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation, the BJP felt the need to come out in its true colours to catapult to power.
The meeting declared that the Hindutva was the ideology of the BJP. Party president L K Advani, in his opening remarks to the 2-day session, clearly stated that “Hindutva is not a slogan for us. It is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s ideological mascot, the most distinctive feature of its identity and approach…the hallmark of the party well before Ayodhya and will continue to be so even after a Ram temple at the birth-place in Ayodhya becomes a fact of life.” This is believed to have led the party to form the first short-lived Vajpayee government in 1996.
The second crucial decision, which of course proved disastrous, was taken again in another National Executive that met on January 11, 2004, in Hyderabad. This was where the party deliberated on the proposal to dissolve the Lok Sabha to go in for early polls. The result: the party lost the election and it had to wait till 2014 to secure power after 10 years in wilderness with the arrival of Narendra Modi.
Now, the National Executive is again coming to Hyderabad for a two-day session on July 2 and 3 at Novatel Hotel in the city. Though there is no clarity yet as to how the forthcoming session would go down in the party’s history, many in the party in Telangana are of the opinion that the party under the leadership of Narendra is certain to evolve a programme that would take Hyderabad out of the hold of AIMIM. The second “liberation” of Hyderabad is on cards, a party leader remarked.
Telangana eludes BJP’s grasp
Curiously, BJP has not been the beneficiary of any of the upheavals that rocked Telangana in general and Hyderabad in particular between 1980, when the BJP was founded, and 2022.
Neither the communal riots, nor the emergence of political parties such as the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), nor the support for the demand for a separate state of Telangana helped the BJP strike roots in the state. Even the BJP’s expansion elsewhere in India has not had much effect in the state.
On the other hand, the AIMIM, the Hyderabad-centric Muslim party, has gone from strength to strength since 1980. Though the AIMIM has not been able to win a single assembly seat from outside Hyderabad in Telangana, its hold on Muslim voters has been acknowledged by all political parties.
The Muslim population varies from 3.5 per cent to 12.5 per cent in different districts of the state. So, the Congress and the TDP never chose to be hostile towards AIMIM. By fielding non-local candidates symbolically in the Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency, these parties had, in fact, made winning a cakewalk for AIMIM.
Researcher Dr Mahammad Sherif from Osmania University said none of the candidates fielded by the Congress and the TDP in united Andhra Pradesh were suitable to fight in the Old City of Hyderabad where Urdu was widely spoken.
“Take the case of 1984, 1989, and 1991 Lok Sabha elections. All the Congress and TDP candidates were rank outsiders and concentrated their campaign only in Telugu-speaking semi-urban areas while AIMIM appealed to the Muslim identity throughout. In 1991, BJP fielded its strong man Baddam Balreddy, a local and Urdu-speaking leader from its ranks. But the Muslim consolidation was so firm that AIMIM emerged victorious in that election too,” Dr Mahammad said.
Even the “dreadful atmosphere” created by LK Advani’s Rath Yatra, which resulted in worst-ever communal riots in Hyderabad in 1990, did not help the BJP candidate in 1991 elections,” he said. AIMIM has been bagging the constituency without a break since 1984.
All the communal disturbances and political developments clearly demonstrate that the polarisation of Hindu votes has not taken place in the state as it happened in the case of Muslim voters.
Now a situation, where AIMIM commands considerable hold on Muslim voters across the state, has arisen. The TRS too after the formation of Telangana struck a ‘live and let live’ bond with the AIMIM.
In the absence of Hindu vote consolidation, the only option left for the BJP is to create an earth-shaking event like the wresting of Hyderabad seat from AIMIM and cash in on the hoopla generated by it.
Will PM Visit Bhagyalakshmi Mandir
Since a win in Hyderabad would have national ramifications, many in the party feel that the National Executive under the leadership of PM Modi would certainly evolve a separate programme for Telangana.
Party leaders are hopeful that during his 2-day stay at Hyderabad, the PM will pay a visit to the controversial Bhagyalakhsmi temple that has been erected near the historic Charminar in the Old City.
The temple began as a cornerstone that was knocked down by a truck or a vehicle in 1979. According to Lokayan, which studied the communal riots of 1983, a woman beggar applied vermillion and called it Goddess Mysamma to collect money from the passers-by.
In a fact-finding report released in1984, the Lokayan said the stone was soon replaced by the Mahalakshmi statue by local Marwari people with an enclosure, railing and a small structure of three feet over it.
“During the last Friday prayers of Ramazan that year, Majlis leader Owaisi gave a very emotional speech. Almost immediately, the provocative temple was desecrated. Riots followed with lightning speed accompanied by stabbing of innocent people, especially in the by-lanes. The desecrated temple was resurrected, now attached to Charminar, and more than twice its previous size. Now it was provided with a pujari, a water tap, a telephone and a bigger platform,” the report said while narrating how a stone transformed into a temple.
The temple, of late, has become the BJP’s nucleus of all activities. All the Union ministers, including home minister Amit Shah, on the tour to Hyderabad, visited the temple and offered puja. State BJP president Bandi Sanjay has made it a point to start all his programmes from the temple. All the party’s corporators in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) came in a procession to the temple after their swearing-in at the municipal office following their election.
The bustling temple, in the shadow of 66-ft height Charminar, is considered to be the toe-hold in AIMIM’s fiefdom. BJP sources opine that PM‘s visit to the temple will go a long way in enthusing the party cadre in the Old City before the elections.
Modi’s meeting with Hyderabad corporators
Against this backdrop, PM Modi’s one-on-one meeting with BJP corporators from GHMC last week, is seen as a clear call to work towards the “liberation” of Hyderabad, which has been the fortress of AIMIM for about four decades.
The fact that never in the past a Prime Minister had political meeting with representatives of a municipal body is a clear indication of the importance the party has attached to Hyderabad. A corporator, who attended Modi’s meeting with GHMC corporators, felt that it appears to be a part of a bigger strategy to wrest Hyderabad from AIMIM.
But what is troubling the BJP is the demography of Hyderabad constituency, which is a Muslim-dominant region and is not in favour of the party.
According to BJP’s Telangana chief spokesperson Krishnasagar Rao, the party is seriously studying the prospects of “contesting to win” Hyderabad parliamentary constituency and exploring the possibility of beating the demographic challenge.
“Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency is a classic case of demographic manipulation to proactively colonise a constituency with one community. It is a methodical conspiracy adopted by AIMIM for over 40 years,” said Rao.
BJP expansion in Telangana
Veteran journalist Syed Aminul Hassan Jafri said that majority community consolidation has not been on a par with Muslim voter consolidation in Telangana.
As far as Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat is concerned, after the delimitation of constituencies, it lost its Telugu-speaking semi-urban areas, making the constituency purely urban and Muslim-dominant. The constituency has a 60 per cent Muslim population. The majority community population came down to 40 per cent, Jafri said.
“Given the political situation, a triangular contest among the TRS, the Congress, and the BJP in the 2023 Assembly elections is a certainty. Even in its bad shape, the Congress bagged 20 per cent posts in the latest round of elections to the local bodies, and in the 2018 assembly elections, its vote share had gone up from 25.02 per cent in 2014 to 28.4 per cent. Demography-wise, minorities constitute 14 per cent of the population. To come to power, BJP needs 50 per cent of the remaining 86 per cent votes, which means a high jump from the 19.45 per cent vote share it got in 2018 to 40 per cent in 2023,” Jafri, who is also an MLC from AIMIM, said. The BJP’s hype is at variance with the ground reality, he added.
BJP plans to ‘liberate’ Hyderabad
Ever since the new state was carved out, the BJP has been demanding that September 17 be observed officially as the Telangana Liberation Day to commemorate the surrender of the last Nizam to the Indian army in 1948.
By celebrating the ‘Hyderabad liberation day”, BJP wants to revive the memories of the atrocities committed by Razakars on Hindus, Nizam’s plan to go with Pakistan or declare independence, and the role of Sardar Patel in merging the princely state with the Union of India to the party’s advantage.
But the TRS has not been in favour of it. Decrying the TRS government’s attitude, Union home minister Amit Shah declared on June 2, 2022, in New Delhi, on the occasion of Telangana formation day, that ‘Hyderabad liberation day’ would be celebrated when the ‘regime changes in Telangana after 2023 elections’.
Perala Sekhar Rao, a senior BJP leader and former member of the National Executive, is confident that the party will dislodge AIMIM from Hyderabad under the leadership of Modi. “The party is seized of the matter. I am expecting a multi-pronged strategy to liberate Hyderabad from AIMIM. Hyderabad has acquired a bad name as one of the epicentres of regional and global terrorism. Winning the seat by BJP is necessary from the national security perspective as well. Wait and watch the outcome of the National Executive,” Rao said, hinting at a possible surprise.