GHMC 2020 Election Results: Wrong KCR optics, expanding RSS fuel BJP surge in TRS bastion; AIMIM thwarts saffron charge
The Lal Bahadur Nagar area played a vital role in BJP’s performance as both the TRS and Congress were completely decimated.
The results of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) Elections on Friday may have come as a surprise to many, but those familiar with the dynamics of the states’ politics could clearly see the writing on the wall. The Telangana Rashtriya Samithi (TRS) shrunk from its previous tally of 99 to 55 seats, still emerging as the single-largest party but falling short of the majority mark. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stunned with a massive win – bagging 48 seats, while the All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) maintained its previous tally of 44 seats, and a rift-stricken Indian National Congress (INC) managed to win a meagre two seats.
During the last leg of the campaign for the most hyped, fiercely fought and communally charged municipal elections the city has ever seen, the discourse of the political campaign remained largely irrelevant and the local issues were not addressed either by the ruling party or the opposition. The BJP ran an aggressive and polarising political campaign, which resulted in its crucial turning-point performance, while the TRS also fell prey to reactive politics and failed to offer a gripping counter-narrative.
Comparing and analysing the data of the 2018 Assembly election results, the 2019 Lok Sabha election results, and the 2020 GHMC election results, the following are the key takeaways:
TRS strongholds remain steady
Serilingampally, Patancheru, Kukatpally, Quthbullapur and Uppal – where the TRS had polled more than 50 percent votes in 2018 Assembly elections still largely remain with the TRS. However, the areas that TRS had taken over from BJP during the same elections were retained by the BJP this time around. In fact, the TRS has shown a better performance when comparing this with the 2019 Lok Sabha election results for Greater Hyderabad-based MP constituencies, where MIM, BJP and Congress had won one seat each, leaving zero to the TRS.
|Assembly||2018 Assembly Elections Vote%||2020 GHMC Elections Vote%|
BJP’s rise in the state
Although the BJP had won four among 17 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, its performance in the GHMC 2020 elections is significant, especially after its recent victory in the Dubbaka Assembly by-election. The BJP did run an aggressive and communally charged political campaign with its central leadership, including Union Ministers Amit Shah, Smriti Irani, Prakash Javdekar, BJP chief JP Nadda and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath holding massive rallies across the city. However, the success of BJP can be attributed to a wide variety of reasons, including:
- BJP’s 2019 success – BJP had polled 3.8 lakh votes in the 2019 Secunderabad Lok Sabha seat election, which comprises almost one-third of the 150 GHMC divisions. It was not an uphill task for BJP to convince their 3.8 lakh voters to repeat their voting pattern within a year. Despite that, the TRS managed to poll 46 percent of the votes, while the BJP managed to get 32.7 percent of the vote share in this Lok Sabha constituency.
- Growing RSS presence – The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has been strategically working to make inroads into the state with a massive increase in its number of shakhas, which now stand at 1,600. The viral images of RSS activists manning a police check post on the outskirts of Hyderabad during COVID-19 lockdown and the RSS grand parade at LB Nagar in December last year at a time when other rallies were prohibited in the wake of anti-CAA protests speaks volumes about the social and political acceptance of the RSS in the state.
- Opposition vacuum – The lack of a sincere and robust opposition has created a vacuum in the states’ political space. The absence of TDP and the incompetence of Congress has led to a bipolar contest. For this, the TRS itself is partly to blame, given the fact that it encouraged the defection of MLAs from other parties. Furthermore, the Congress party lacks an opposition narrative and a face that can take on the might of Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR). Many local Congress leaders shifted to the BJP and so has its vote share. The Congress had secured a 38 percent vote share in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in the Malkajgiri constituency, which now fell to a single digit. BJP also gained from the absence of TDP, whose cadre known for its political passion and enthusiasm has now shifted to the BJP.
- The final push – Out of the 48 divisions won by the BJP in the GHMC 2020 elections, there are 8 divisions where BJP won by just 500 votes. Also, BJP strongholds such as Amberpet and Musheerabad, which the TRS had won during the 2018 Assembly election, helped the BJP win big this time.
The LB Nagar-story
The Lal Bahadur Nagar (LB Nagar) area played a vital role in BJP’s performance. Both the TRS and Congress were completely decimated. This has never been the TRS stronghold -- note that this Assembly segment was won by the INC-TDP alliance in 2018 and the Parliament segment was won by Congress. This indicates that the LB Nagar voter has been consistently voting for a non-TRS alternative, which must worry the TRS. LB Nagar houses a significant chunk of Andhra-based voters isn’t the right explanation for this, since other Andhra-influenced constituencies such as Kukatpally has been consistently voting for TRS.
|Assembly Segment||2018 Assembly Election - TRS %||2018 Assembly Election - BJP %||2018 Assembly Election - INC+TDP %||2020 GHMC Election - TRS %||2020 GHMC Election - BJP %|
Rhetoric over real issues
The COVID-19 pandemic, the subsequent lockdown, and the recent floods had little impact on the GHMC election results. One of the primary reasons for this is that the entire political campaign focused on irrelevant and communal issues completely ignoring the real issues affecting the electorate, such as electricity, water, infrastructure, healthcare services, jobs, etc. From what we see happening in the country in the last few years, elections are being fought on ‘rhetoric over real issues’.
Political optics, as they say, is not about right or wrong -- it’s more about the “image” and “symbolism” that you showcase. One of the major reasons for the decline of TRS’s popularity is its optical failure. Issues such as the demolition of the old Secretariat building in the midst of a pandemic, the alleged frequent visits of the chief minister to his farmhouse, etc., have only contributed to a negative public perception about the party and the chief minister.
TRS’s dud campaign
The TRS had executed several welfare and infrastructure projects in the last couple of years, including the Godavari water supply in Hyderabad, Rythu Bandhu scheme, the Durgam Cheruvu Cable bridge, multiple elevated corridors and flyovers, the Underpass roads and the Hyderabad Metro. Despite low revenue collections during the lockdown period, many of these projects were expedited. However, the party couldn’t market itself well, except for the massive hoardings that hardly please any voter. The TRS political campaign for the GHMC election remained elusive and reactive; particularly, the use of social media platforms and digital marketing was dull. Compare this to the smart campaign run by BJP that trumped TRS, both online as well as offline.
The MIM fortress
The AIMIM is a formidable force and has no opposition in the city. The only political party that has been opposing MIM is its breakaway faction Majlis Bachao Tahreek (MBT), which couldn’t even save its registration with the Election Commission this year. The party realised that it was de-registered by the State Election Commission and fought the elections as independent candidates. Except for the Azampura division, which was once held by MBT, and now won by MIM by a margin of 2000 votes, all other divisions voted strongly in favour of MIM. In at least 18 divisions, the vote share of MIM was recorded as high as 75 percent. Quite interestingly, MIM gave tickets to 5 Hindus out of the 51 divisions it contested, out of which 3 candidates won.
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