Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.
The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections will be held on 1st December, and my prediction is that the BJP, which presently holds only 4 of the 150 seats, will emerge as the largest party in these elections. Though it is only a municipal election, many BJP heavyweights and stars, Amit Shah, Nadda, Smriti Irani, Yogi Adityanath, Fadnavis, Tejaswi Surya, etc have been thrown into the campaign and made it almost a national election.
The Indian Constitution declares India as a secular country, but the ground reality is very different. Secularism is a feature of industrial society, but India is still semi-feudal. Most Hindus, who are about 80% of the population of the country are communal, and so are most Muslims, who are about 15-16%.
Even before the BJP came in power in the Centre in 2014 communalism was widespread in India, but to some extent it was kept in check by the Congress or other secular parties in power, not because they had real sympathy for Muslims, but because these parties had an eye on the Muslim vote bank. So before 2014 though communalism was always present, it was usually latent, and communal incidents were only sporadic. After 2014 there has been widespread polarization in our society, and communalism has become open, virulent, and continuous.
An example is what has happened in West Bengal. This state was till late a bastion of secularism. But now there has been intense polarisation, with the BJP, which was almost non-existent earlier, making deep inroads in the state. Something similar is likely to happen in Greater Hyderabad.
The GHMC consists of 4 districts, and its area has 4 MP and 24 MLA seats. It has about 18 lac ( 1.8 million ) voters, of which about 4 lac are Muslims, mostly in the old Hyderabad city, which is AIMIM leader Owaisi’s stronghold. The Muslims will mostly vote for AIMIM, but what about the remaining 14 lacs, who are mostly Hindu?
There are 150 seats in the GHMC, of which in the 2016 elections KCR’s TRS got 99, AIMIM got 44, the BJP got 4, and the Congress 2. So it seems most Hindus voted for TRS. But since then the situation has changed. In the 2018 Telangana state assembly elections the BJP got only 7% votes with just 1 of the 119 seats ( TRS got 88 ). But in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP got 4 of the 17 Lok Sabha seats from Telengana ( TRS getting 9, Congress 4, and AIMIM just 1 ), with 19% of the votes in the state. Thus, in just one year there has been a huge swing, and it seems many of the TRS Hindu voters have gone over to the BJP.
Communalism was always present in Hyderabad, but this GHMC election has raised it to a new level, with BJP campaigners calling Owaisi another Jinnah, and giving inflammatory speeches calling for ‘ kicking out these Pakistanis and filthy Rohingyas ‘. Also, the victory of 5 AIMIM candidates in the Bihar elections has further polarised society.
West Bengal and Tamilnadu elections are due in May next year, so the BJP has made the GHMC election a crucible for the road ahead, and is pulling no punches.
Interesting times are ahead, with ‘bhagwakaran’ proceeding at full speed.