“Just a municipal election” is the new mantra that is being chanted by the members of the WhatsApp group of English journalists. The reference is to tomorrow’s election to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Council (GHMC) and how BJP’s top central leadership participated in the campaigning for “just for a municipal election”.
What these people very conveniently don’t tell you is that the ruling TRS is also taking the “just a municipal election” very seriously. Almost all ministers of the cabinet have been given specific responsibilities in this campaign. More than 50 MLAs of the party are assisting these ministers in campaign strategy and implementation. The CM himself released the manifesto and spoke for more than an hour there. He spoke for nearly an hour in a public meeting organized on Saturday. Pretty much the entire might of the TRS party is focused on trying to win “just a municipal election”. This begs the basic question – If the incumbent is so serious about it, why shouldn’t the opposition be equally or more serious about it?
This GHMC election is not “just a municipal election”. This election has the potential to alter the political discourse of the Telangana state. The ruling TRS won a very predictable landslide in 2016. It won 99 out of the 150 divisions. Their friend, the MIM won 44 seats. Given the landslide, TRS could have its own mayor without the support of friendly MIM too. That election established the supremacy of TRS in the electoral politics of the new state and set the course for the 2018 election victory of the TRS. BJP won a partly 4 divisions. They were contesting the elections in alliance with TDP, which won only 1 division.
Ever since the crushing defeat in the 2018 Assembly elections, the BJP has been able to challenge the supremacy of TRS slowly but steadily. The first blow to TRS came in the Lok Sabha elections, when TRS won 9 out of the 17 seats (KCR’s daughter was defeated by BJP; the constituency for which KCR’s son was incharge was won by the BJP). BJP’s victory in 4 LS seats boosted the morale of the cadre. The second blow to TRS came in the recently concluded Dubbaka by-poll where the BJP registered a stunning victory, and more importantly found the right voice to challenge TRS’s monopoly in the Assembly.
It is in this background that the GHMC election is being held. A victory to the BJP does not necessarily mean that they should win the Mayor seat. Given the composition of the GHMC Council that elects the Mayor, the BJP actually has to win a whopping 95 seats out of the 150 to be able to have its own Mayor. On the other hand, the TRS has to win 67 seats to be able to get a Mayor of its own. However, even if the TRS-MIM combine win 67 seats, they will easily come to an agreement to share power and have their Mayors rule the roost.
It is also a victory for the BJP if the TRS fails to win 75/150 seats. Whatever number game will result thereafter, this basically means that TRS did lose the popular mandate of the people. It will rejuvenate the cadre in ways that hasn’t happened in a very very long time. It will give out a message that the mighty TRS can be electorally defeated again and again, if the right guidance and leadership is provided to the party. That today, such a scenario is seen as a strong possibility (TRS not winning 75) is also a testament to the effort the party has put into the fight.
Though the TRS was made to sweat it out, if it does win more than 75 seats, it would reestablish the supremacy of KCR’s son, KTR in the party. It would also mean that the path to even establish a decent opposition to the TRS party has become even more stronger. Undoubtedly, the BJP has replaced Congress as the main opposition, but a victory for TRS would certainly mean that they have a lot of catching up to do.
As is the case with all campaigns, the speeches from both sides had their ups and downs. This is the first time since 2014 that there is a possibility of unseating TRS from a strong position of power. And if that happens, “just a municipal election” would have altered the political discourse of the state. If key leaders of political parties listened to this bunch of condescending English journalists, then they would be confined to the drawing rooms of their party offices. If you don’t believe me, ask the cadre of the Congress party!