PM Modi waves the Bhagyanagar card in Hyderabad

Narendra Modi

With his reference to Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a new weapon tot the state BJP to take on the ruling TRS-AIMIM in Telangana ahead of the 2023 assembly elections.

Addressing the party delegates at the National Executive meeting  on Sunday (July 3) in Hyderabad, the PM said it was here “in Bhagyanagar” that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel laid the foundation for  “EK Bharat” (United India) by integrating the region into the Indian Union.

The mention of Bhagyanagar comes days after Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray renamed two cities in neighbouring Maharashtra, Aurangabad and Osmanabad as Sambhajinagar and Dharashiv, hours before he stepped down as chief minister.

There has been clamour for such name changes for long, including Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar. But this is the first time PM Modi made the mention.

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The reference is no casual remark, but a clear indication of the BJP’s plans to attack the KCR government on yet another plank ahead of the assembly polls.

When asked if there was any plan to change the name of Hyderabad to Bhagyanagar if the party came to power in Telangana, Union minister Piyush Goyal diplomatically said on Sunday, ”If the BJP were to  form the government in Telangana, the Chief Minister and the cabinet would take a decision on the issue.”

Political turn

Though the demand to rename  Hyderabad as  Bhagyanagar has been there for quite some time among the Sangh Parivar organisations, it has never been exploited as a poll plank of the BJP either in 2018 or in 2014, or before.

The issue took political overtone only when party’s Goshamahal MLA Raja Singh spoke of renaming Hyderabad following the UP Government’s renaming of Faizabad as Ayodhya and Allahabad as Prayagraj.

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Addressing a press conference on November 8, 2018, Raja Singh said, ”If the BJP wins majority in Telangana, our first aim would be to develop the state, and the second would be renaming Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar. We will also change the names of Secunderabad and Karimnagar.”

The controversy entered the poll arena only in the run-up to the election of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) in 2020 when UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath stirred the hornet’s nest while campaigning for the BJP in Hyderabad and took potshots at AIMIM.

In the run-up to the GHMC polls, the BJP sought to intimidate AIMIM by deploying two emotional issues, first, Bhagyanagar, and the second, the Bhagyalakshmi temple, located adjacent to the historical  Charminar in Old City, the citadel of AIMIM.

While Bhagyanagar deals an emotional blow to AIMIM, converting the Bhagyalakshmi temple to Ground Zero for BJP activities in the Old City symbolises a physical invasion of AIMIM space in the Old City.

Home Minister Amit Shah began his campaign in GHMC polls after prayers at Bhagyalakshmi temple the very next day of Yogi’s visit. Few more BJP leaders like Tejaswi Surya also started calling Hyderabad ‘Bhagyanagar’ during their campaign.

BJP’s game plan is to convert the Bhagyalakshmi temple, a Hindu popular shrine in AIMIM territory, and attract more people to visit the temple that has controversial origins.

Bhagyanagar and Bhagyalakshmi

The temple began as a cornerstone that was knocked down by a truck or a vehicle in 1979. According to Ahmedabad-based Lokayan, which studied the communal riots of 1983, a woman beggar, applied vermillion on the cornerstone and called it Goddess Mysamma, to beg money from passers-by.

In the fact-finding report released in 1984, Lokayan said the stone was soon replaced by a 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 Ramadan that year, the AIMIM leader Salauddin Owaisi gave a very emotional speech. Almost immediately, the provocative temple was desecrated. Riots followed with lightning speed accompanied by stabbing of innocent opal, 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 narrated the way how a stone transformed into a temple. Now the temple grew in size many times.

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Nobody knows how the Mahalakshmi became Bhagyalakshmi, many in the area believe that the temple became Bhagyalakshmi, now sought to be connected to  Bhagyanagar, following appropriation of the temple by  Sangh Parivar.

Now the temple has acquired such status and legitimacy that nobody can question the existence of the temple so close to a protected monument of the stature of Charminar.

The temple, of late, has become the party’s ground zero for all activities. Many union ministers, movie stars, and other dignitaries pay a visit to the temple and offer puja during their trip to Hyderabad.

Having realised the importance of its location and the name, state BJP president Bandi Sanjaykumar has made it a point to start all his programs from the temple. Party’s GHMC corporators came in a procession to the temple after their swearing-in at the GHMC office following their election in 2021.  The bustling temple, in the shadow of 66 ft height Charminar, is considered the toehold of the BJP in AIMIM’s fiefdom.

Hyderabad vs Bhagyanagar

Except for the Hindu connotation, there is nothing historical about the name  Bhagyanagar. No historian has ever shown any historical document that contained evidence of the existence of a city called Bhagyanagar in the region.

According to a folk story, popular in this area, Golconda Nawab Quli Qutub Shah constructed the town Bhagnagar or Bhagyanagar after a Hindu courtesan called Bhagmati who he was in love with. The town became Hyderabad following her conversion to Islam and changing her name to Hyder Begum.

But, this story does not serve the purpose of politics. A news story to justify the demand to rechristen the name of Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar is being bandied about.

According to a BJP source, the temple adjacent to the Charminar predates the four-hundred-year-old structure and the city was named Bhagyanagar after goddess Bhagyalaskhmi.  “The party wants to bring back the old name which was changed to Hyderabad during the reign of Golconda Nawabs,”   the source, who does not want to be quoted, said.

Historian Capt Lingala Pandurangareddy (rtd) rubbishes all the stories as concocted. Reddy, a member of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland said no scholar worth his salt had ever recorded the existence of a city called Bhagyanagar and its becoming Hyderabad.

“In the history of Hyderabad only one traveller from France referred to the city as Bagh Nagar after seeing numerous baghs (gardens) such as Bagh Lingampalli, Basheer Bagh, Bagh Amberpet, Jam Bagh, Mosaram Bagh, etc that surrounded it,” he said.

According to Reddy, an authority on the history of Hyderabad and Deccan, Hyderabad was once a village called Chichulam which was relegated to the background following the rise of a new township that later became Hyderabad.

“Quli Qutub Shah, the fifth of Golconda Nawabs built a few barracks at Chichulam for the temporary rehabilitation of the people when plague spread in Golconda. The township slowly grew into a town and it was named Hyderabad later by the Nawab,” he said terming the stories about Bhagyanagar as myths.

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