BJP's top leaders, including Union home minister Amit Shah, party president J.P. Nadda, Union minister Smriti Irani, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, former Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis and Bangalore South MP Tejasvi Surya, have all made joined the campaign in Hyderabad's local body elections. To top it all off, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Hyderabad as a part of his vaccine tour, all of which made the local Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) polls a national spectacle. But one might wonder, why is BJP invested so deeply in local municipal elections - that too in Hyderabad. It's all part of a big plan and the most important one if the party wants to grow its foothold in the alien state.
The TRS and AIMIM dominated state has always been confident of its influence and dominance in Telangana. Its leaders haven't been shy to challenge the BJP, provoking the national ruling party to make an attempt to win over the state. It's time and PM Modi-led party is coming with everything it's got, all the top brass, its most influential leaders from various states all stepping in to campaign for something as local as GHMC elections. Crystal gazing into the future shows just how important these polls are for BJP if it wishes to leave more than an imprint in the state even if it is not necessarily about coming to power this time.
BJP's efforts make it absolutely clear that it wishes to make Telangana inroads with Hyderabad polls. The GHMC polls are nothing short of a battleground, with as many as 1,825 candidates in the fray. The TRS is contesting all 150 divisions, BJP with 149 seats, Congress with 146 and AIMIM fielded 51 contestants. The grand campaigns ended on Sunday with voting to happen on December 1 and results to be declared on December 4.
Striking TRS, AIMIM at their home turf
BJP currently holds just 5 of GHMC's 150 seats and experts believe securing 20-30 seats will be a huge win for the party. The national ruling party is also tapping into the anti-incumbency sentiment in TRS and AIMIM's home-turf, which it feels can secure anti-government voters' confidence. Through its campaigns, BJP has established that TRS is biased towards the Muslim community, so is AIMIM. But outside the Muslim-majority old city, BJP stands a tough stance against TRS.
BJP is establishing itself as a viable alternative to TRS, which commands a majority of 99 out of 150 seats. AIMIM, which bagged 44 seats, doesn't have much of an impact outside the old city and internal TRS surveys have indicated that it might retain about 45 seats and BJP might eat into TRS share to secure 20-25 seats, leaving the ruling state party with 80-85 seats. This will leave BJP a much-needed sizeable seat at the big boys' table.
BJP has made some bold promises to win over voters, including 28,000 jobs, free tablets for government school children, free transport for women in city buses and Metro trains. The party has also added the COVID-19 vaccine to the mix, by promising to follow the vaccination strategy PM modi has readied through PHCs and Corporation without relying on private hospitals. Other promises include scrapping of LRS, spending Rs 10,000 crore to modernize the sewage system, and monetary support to flood-affected families and auto drivers.
That's not all. BJP also used harsh words, called names, threw challenges and barbs and also received the same from AIMIM. One of the most controversial statements made by BJP was by party chief Bandi Sanjay Kumar, who is also a member of Parliament. "If BJP wins GHMC polls, surgical strikes will be carried out in the old city to drive out Pakistani supporters and Rohingyas," he said. Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi hit back at that remark, but other BJP top guns lashed out with full fury.
GHMC is just the beginning
BJP's show of might at GHMC polls through powerful campaigns is not aimed at victory, but a rather crucial power play to set a strong foundation for what's to come next. Having a sizeable share of the seats at the table at GHMC allows the part to have access to grassroot level voters of Hyderabad and Sikandarabad. Through this, BJP can grow its grassroot level politics and then move up the latter into assembly politics and MP politics.
The GHMC polls are not merely a 'gully' election but a semi-final in the run-up to the 2023 Assembly battle. BJP claims to have emerged as the main opposition party replacing the Congress, and now it is aiming for power in Telangana making true on the promise of saffronisation of entire south India.
A generous annual budget
Politics aside, whoever wins the GHMC election has a generous annual budget. With more than Rs 7,000 crore to spend by a single municipal division. The elected body of GHMC approved the corporation's budget of Rs 6,973 crore for the year 2020-21, during its general body meeting in February this year. Earlier this month, GHMC submitted the annual budget proposals of Rs 5,600 crore for the financial year 2021-22. So BJP will also have a say in the expenditures in the allotted budget as long as it gets seats in at least two digits or even come close to AIMIM.