As the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) flexes its muscles to wrest Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), which goes to the polls in January, the opposition Congress, which ruled it for five years till last year, is at its wits’ end. Even a centralised coordination from the AICC headquarters in Delhi is unable to put up a credible fight in the key city’s civic body.
Ever since Congress lost in the last Assembly elections, it has been unable to find a way to restore its lost glory in the past one and a half years. Elections to the GHMC, which are being held at the direction of the High Court, have become a testing time for Congress as the TRS led by Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) has begun poaching opposition ranks.
Winning Hyderabad has become prestigious for all the major parties as the city with a population of around one crore and a voter base of around 70 lakh offers them the status of the party in waiting to come to power three years later.
The five-year term of the elected civic body ended by November 2014 after a Congress-MIM coalition ruled it since 2010.
After TRS came to power in Telangana and Congress was humbled both at the Centre and the state, the MIM ended a decade long alliance with it and sided with the regional party.
In 2010, Congress won 50 divisions and MIM 40, followed by TDP’s 45 and BJP’s five. Congress mayor Banda Karthika Reddy ruled in the first three years, while MIM’s Mohammad Majid Hussain enjoyed power for the past two years.
In fact, Hyderabad city has never been a stronghold of TRS since its inception in 2001. In 2002, when the party contested a majority of 100 divisions, it won only in two.
In 2010, TRS stayed away from the GHMC elections fearing a massive defeat. Then, KCR felt that a humiliating defeat in the GHMC elections might be taken as an indication of public mood against the formation of Telangana.
Now, KCR is keen on proving that his writ runs in Hyderabad city, which accounts for around 30% people from Andhra and Rayalaseema. Unless his TRS wins in GHMC, it may be difficult for him to claim that TRS is the major party in the entire Telangana.
As of now, TRS presence in Hyderabad city is minimal as its large chunks are out of bounds for the party.
As many as 24 Assembly constituencies cover the 150 GHMC divisions. These Assembly segments are located in Hyderabad (15), Ranga Reddy (eight) and Medak (one) districts.
In 2014, of the 24 seats, the TRS won only two in the city, and one from rural Medak district. Telegu Desam Party won 10, BJP 5, followed by seven of MIM, while Congress drew zero MLAs in the city limits.
Still, KCR is determined to prove his mettle and win GHMC at any cost.
As a first step, he appointed his son and IT Minister K.T. Rama Rao (KTR) as the overall in-charge of TRS in the GHMC two months ago. A team of six ministers and 12 MPs, MLAs and MLCs has been set up to strengthen the party in the city.
As part of the strategy, KTR and his team have ensured defections of around five TDP MLAs, all with a strong mass base and encouraged large scale defections from the Congress.
T. Srinivas Yadav, a TDP MLA from Sanathnagar, has been made commercial taxes minister. In the past one month, a day hasn’t passed without one or the other local Congress or TDP leader joining TRS.
Sources in the TRS told The Sunday Guardian that another two or three TDP MLAs might join the ruling party before the election notification is issued later this month.
Opposition parties are crying foul at the TRS’ open poaching of their MLAs. Several delegations of TDP and Congress have met the Governor and complained against TRS for encouraging defections in the Assembly.
“Perhaps no other state in recent times has seen this brazen scale of defections like in Telangana. Have you seen an opposition MLA (Srinivas Yadav) continuing as minister without resigning his seat? CM KCR is doing all this only to win the GHMC elections,” former Congress minister M. Shashidhar Reddy, who lost to Yadav from Sanathnagar last year, told this newspaper.
TRS president in GHMC Mynamapalli Hanumanth Rao, however, denied the charge and said that leaders of opposition parties are coming forward to join TRS as they were attracted to KCR’s leadership.
“How can we attract so many leaders from opposition parties unless there is a genuine desire in them to be part of the city’s development?” he asked.
As per present trends, the ruling TRS is all set to win the mayor post, for which election will be held indirectly by the elected corporators, with the help of MIM. MIM president Asaduddin Owaisi has agreed to offer the mayor’s post to the TRS for the first two or two and a half years, if the alliance secures a majority.