HYDERABAD: February 6, 2016: One of the many recent urban initiatives which have caught the attention of this city is called ‘Car-Free Thursdays’. The day after yet another such Thursday, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s ‘car’ drove speedily, relegating the hand, cycle and lotus to irrelevance on Friday, sweeping 99 out of the 150 seats in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation. Only the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (MIM) put up a respectable show, retaining its bastion in the Old City with 44 seats.
In merely 18 months after coming to power in the state of Telangana, for whose formation it had fought incessantly, the TRS was considered weak in the city, mainly because of emotional discontent amongst the large-number of Andhra-Rayalaseema settlers, estimated to be around two million people who were against the separation of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh state. But the results have helped the party overcome its final hurdle and it now holds complete supremacy across the state. The victory is all the more creditable given that the party had won just two out of 24 assembly seats in the city in 2014.
New Icon of Development
In this metro resurgence of the pink party, the crucial role was played by K Taraka Rama Rao (KTR), Minister of IT and son of chief minister K Chandrasekhara Rao (KCR), who emerged as the urban face of the party. He helped the party put its best and most modern foot forward, impressing all cross-sections of society, especially the dominant youth and technology sectors of the city. In his road shows, town hall meetings and other interactions, he spoke of challenges the city faced, from the completion of the Metro to drainage systems and even the safety of women. This put the developmental agenda first, impressing voters, even those who were concerned about earlier TRS campaigns on “settlers”, the term used by the party for those who hailed from Seemandhra.
The IT minister has attracted major investments from Google, Amazon, Boeing and helped create an incubator station “T-Hub” to kickstart startups. This has won him admirers and helped his party, taking away those who would have otherwise gone towards the Telugu Desam.
“KTR’s following among the youth borders on adulation levels; he is a new development icon of Hyderabad,” said Faisullah Sheikh, editor of the Hyderabad Youth Mirror.
The Telugu Desam on the other hand was stuck in the nostalgia of the bygone Chandrababu era. “It is absurd to give the entire credit of building Hyderabad to one person, Chandrababu Naidu, even if he made some contribution towards marketing it,” Sheikh said. The BJP, had no face or a viable alternative developmental model to offer. Its campaign touched upon issues such as the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a student at the Hyderabad Central University, beef festivals and ‘award wapsi’, which failed to impress the electorate.
In the last elections to the civic body, the TDP and the BJP had won 45 seats and 5 seats respectively; this time their total came to 5, with the TDP winning only one. The Congress, which had got 52 seats in the 2009 elections, was reduced to 2 seats this time. Only the MIM has increased its strength, from 43 to 44. MIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi said that all the waves in the city had made no difference to his party’s hold in its base in Old Hyderabad.
All three parties — the Congress, the Telugu Desam and the BJP — have now been reduced to also-rans in the Corporation.
A defeat for the TRS in Hyderabad, which is Telangana’s capital could have created political problems for the party, which rules the state. The overwhelming victory now puts it on a strong footing to proceed with its development programme. Like all such mandates, however, it comes with high expectations which the party will have to meet.