Crucial Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation mayoral elections on February 11

Published : February 10, 2021 22:36 IST

State Election Commissioner C. Parthasarathi holding a meeting on the election of the GHMC Mayor and Deputy Mayor in Hyderabad on February 8. Photo: Vikram Goud G.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) high-pitched crusade last November, when it unleashed its mightiest election campaigners in a bid to wrest control of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), might have been piped at the post. But the party has not given up hope of netting the coveted GHMC mayoral post. Making the BJP’s task a tad easier is the fact that the election to the GHMC threw up a split verdict with no political dispensation securing an absolute majority. The elections to the offices of GHMC Mayor and Deputy Mayor are slated for February 11. Both offices are for five-year terms.

In the election held on December 1 to the 150-member GHMC house, the BJP won 48 constituencies, just eight behind the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) of Asaduddin Owaisi won 44, and the Congress two. The TRS had won 99 seats in the last GHMC election (2016), while the BJP had five. The AIMIM retained its 44 seats. In 2016 Bonthu Rammohan, president of the TRS youth wing was unanimously elected the Mayor.

For the BJP, winning control over the GHMC, which has a jurisdiction of 625 sq km and was formed in April 2007 by the merger of the Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad (MCH) with the 12 municipalities of Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy and Medak districts, is much more strategic and symbolic than romping home in just another city election. The GHMC has 150 wards but it encompasses 20 per cent of the total seats in the Telangana Assembly — 24 of 119 seats. The boundaries of the GHMC are also spread across five of the State’s 17 Lok Sabha seats: Seven Assembly segments each from the Hyderabad and Secunderabad Lok Sabha seats, five segments from the Malkajgiri, three from the Chevella, and one from the Medak constituency. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the BJP led in seven out of these 23 segments.

And recent election results have begun to favour the BJP in the State. The party polled just 7.01 per cent of the votes polled in the 2018 Telangana Assembly election, winning one seat. This increased to 19.45 per cent of the vote share in the 2019 parliamentary election, and four of the 17 Lok Sabha seats, including the seat held by TRS supremo and Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao’s daughter. Less than a month before the GHMC election, the BJP wrested, albeit by the narrow margin of 1,079 votes, the Dubbaka Assembly seat from the ruling TRS in a byelection that was held along with the 2020 Bihar Assembly election. The TRS had won the seat by a huge margin in 2018.

Although the BJP has traditionally been strong in the Secunderabad Lok Sabha constituency, having won it five times in the last three decades, it has had to lean on its erstwhile political ally, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), in other seats. The decline of both the TDP and the Congress has given a fillip to the BJP’s political ascendancy. Also giving the BJP oxygen has been the mass defections, triggered by the TRS, from the Congress. The Congress had won 19 seats in the 2018 Assembly election but its tally is now down to six, with most of the legislators, barring the likes of A. Revanth Reddy and Uttam Kumar Reddy who got elected to the Lok Sabha, defecting to the TRS. If it is to dislodge the TRS, the BJP needs to win over the TRS’ Telugu-speaking Hindu votes.

The BJP is looking to drive a wedge into the chances of any mayoral candidate put up by the TRS. The strong favourites appear to be the TRS’ Bharathi Nagar corporator Sindhu Adarsh Reddy and the late P. Janardhan Reddy’s daughter and ward member from Khairatabad, P. Vijaya Reddy. The AIMIM could also play a crucial role. But sources said the BJP was in constant touch with TRS corporators, who were dissatisfied with developments in their camp, and might spring a surprise on February 11.