Hyderabad: The campaign for the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMCV) elections-unprecedented in intensity, scale and acrimony - came to an end on Sunday with the top leaders of all the contending parties making a last minute appeal to the voters for their support.
About 7 million voters are eligible to vote in about 20,000 polling centers in the city to decide the fate of 1200 odd candidates.
In the last GHMC elections in 2015, TRS had emerged as a clear winner bagging 102 seats while its friendly party MIM had won 44 seats. All other parties including BJP, Congress and TDP were reduced to single digit.
Continuing its aggressive push to wrest control of the historic city of Hyderabad, the BJP brought in one of its top leaders union home minister Amit Shah into the field on the last day. In a reflection of how the BJP organized and ran the campaign on an emotional plank to raise the passion of its supporters, Amit Shah drove from airport straight to a small controversial temple at the historic monument of Charminar and offered prayers before starting his road show in different parts of the city.
From the start of the campaign, top BJP leaders have repeatedly visited the temple, termed by the state High Court an encroachment in the past, and offered prayers. Amit Shah came a day after another fire brand BJP leader, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath also campaigned in the city raking up controversies. Like many other party leaders, he too promised to change the name of the city from Hyderabad to Bhagyanagar. "If the name of Faizabad could be changed to Ayodhya and of Allahabad to be Pryagraj, why the name of Hyderabad can not be changed to Bhagyanagar", he asked.
BJP and other right wing Hindu organizations have repeatedly been making the demand for decades in the face of assertion by several historian that the city was called Hyderabad right from its foundation by Quli Qutub Shah in late 15th century and was never called by any other name.
BJP shocked both its opponents and supporters with its no-holds-barred campaign with its entire top brass descending on the city from all corners of the country. At one point ,there was even talk of Prime Minister Narendra Modi also taking part in the campaign.
But later it turned out that his visit on Saturday was confined to a private laboratory in Hyderabad to see the development of vaccine for Covid-19. But it was also used to make political gain as the Prime Minister refused to see Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao on his landing in Hyderabad.
The BJP campaigners who also included national party president JP Nadda and several union ministers including Smriti Irani also charged the state government of Telangana Rashtra Samiti with encouraging the infiltration by foreigners including Rohingya refugees in Hyderabad. TRS President K Taraka Rama Rao retorted by asking, "as the party in power at the Center the BJP was responsible if people were able to cross border and reach Hyderabad".
This was just a glimpse of the raw passions the BJP in its blitzkrieg tried to arouse in the city prompting the Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao to allege conspiracy to disturb the communal harmony of the city. Even the city police commissioner P Anjani Kumar had to issue a warning against the attempts to create trouble during the elections.
"We have maintained total communal peace and harmony in the city. Support TRS to maintain the peace", KCR told a massive election rally on Saturday.
Though the BJP tried to corner the TRS on various issues including a secret understanding with the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), saffron party's real strategy was to turn the electoral fight into a BJP vs MIM affair. BJP leaders warned that if MIM became stronger in Hyderabad it will spread its wing to more states.
MIM's campaign led by the two Owaisi brothers Asaduddin and Akbaruddin sharply focused on its stronghold in old city as they went from door to door seeking votes to safeguard the future of the city. They were given a rousing welcome in the Hindu dominated areas of old city where people were vocal in expressing their support to the Muslim party.
Chief Minister KCR and his son KTR who were the star campaigners for the TRS countered BJP tirade point by point demanding to know why Modi government at the center did not come to the help of Hyderabad after the recent floods. On BJP's claim that the Center had helped the state government in all its developmental schemes, KTR thundered, "whose money was it? It was the money of Telangana. During last six years, Telangana contributed 2.4 trillion rupees by way of taxes and The Centre gave us only Rs 1.4 trillion. You have not done any favor to us".
KCR on the other hand reiterated his political plans to counter BJP at the national level by developing an alternative along with other regional parties.
Interestingly, everything was discussed in a local election except the local problems and issues leaving the common voter wondering whether it was a municipal election or election to the state assembly and Parliament.
Polling to the 150 member Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) is due on December 1. As 24 state assembly constituency come under GHMC limits, the outcome of local elections will reflect the general mood among the people. The civic election has become a battle of prestige with the BJP fielding its entire top brass in the campaign. The state's ruling TRS led by the Chief Minister KCR has also been trying its best to retain the control of the state capital. The AIMIM, which has its stronghold in the city was also a serious contender. While the TRS with its ally MIM was likely to retain its upper hand, BJP is projected to emerge stronger with more seats. Results will be declared on December 4.