By Sushil Kutty
Telangana votes on November 30. Two days later votes cast will be counted and by afternoon of the same day, which party will be ruling Telangana would be known. If it is the Bharatiya Janata Party, the party has promised an Other Backward Caste Chief Minister. The party will also end “Muslim Reservation”. This requiem to Muslim quota was an election promise of the BJP. It certainly led to communal polarization.
For far too long, consolidation of Muslim votes was the only certainty. A polarization and consolidation of Hindu votes has been a regular since 2014 when then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi became Prime Minister. The three-party contest in Telangana this time has the Congress, Bharat Rashtra Samithi and the Bharatiya Janata Party with the Congress charging the BRS with “betraying the people of Telangana”.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh says the BRS claim that Telangana posted the highest per-capita income in India is only half the truth. The Congress insists that its fight is solely with the Bharat Rashtra Samithi and that the BJP is nowhere in the picture. The entire top Congress leadership was in Telangana including Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Meanwhile, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi was accused of violating the Model Code of Conduct with the EC acting on the Congress complaint of the BRS announcing financial grants when the MCC was in force. The Election Commission chose to handle this allegation with kid gloves, stating that undue publicity shouldn’t be given to such negativity when the MCC was in force.
Top leaders of all parties were on campaign blitz. This included a roadshow of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Prime Minister and roadshow is a signature event in all states where assembly elections have been held, starting with the one in Karnataka. There was a Modi roadshow in Indore in Madhya Pradesh followed by one in Rajasthan and now this one in Hyderabad in Telangana.
For those who are not aware, the BJP is fighting this latest slab of assembly elections on the name and face of Prime Minister Narendra Modi because Modi said so. There is no departure from the rule in Telangana, too. But the BJP’s Telangana campaign is also entirely ‘Hindutva-based’, right from choosing candidates to temple-hopping. As part of this strategy, suspended Hindutva firebrand Tiger Raja Singh was reinstated and named to contest from Goshamahal constituency where ‘Raja’ is ‘King’ and his candidature a dog-whistle to Hindutva sentiments.
Another dog-whistle was Prime Minister Narendra Modi offering prayers at Tirumala in Andhra Pradesh before going to Hyderabad for the roadshow. Being the last of the 5-states assembly elections, the hustle-bustle in Telangana is the most hectic with leaders of all parties politicking to extreme lengths. The leaders included Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. Also Bharat Rashtra Samithi chief and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.
For the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma besides Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The last two are out and out BJP’s Hindutva icons the most in demand for campaigning purposes in states going to polls.
While Yogi Adityanath’s ‘Bulldozer Baba’ image is a massive hit across north India, he also has a following in the south states. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s Hindi renditions in Assamese accent is similarly a huge hit in Telangana. The duo are understudies lined up to take up key roles in the 2024 general elections.
But while the Yogi and Biswa Sarma are specialist speech-delivery boys, the strategist is Union Home Minister Amit Shah who is behind the promise to end Muslim reservations, one of many BJP promises aimed at coaxing voters to be part of the BJP’s Hindutva journey. There is also the promise of an Other Backward Caste Chief Minister, reservations to SC, ST and OBC and “vertical reservation to the Madiga community”- all from the fertile brain of Amit Shah, whose announcement that the four percent reservation for Muslims will be diverted to the SCs, is a promise aimed at the 2024 general elections.
Free trips to Ayodhya once the BJP comes to power, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi would have inaugurated the Ayodhya Ram Mandir in all its glory, is another of Amit Shah’s Hindutva promises to win elections. “You are all invited to have a darshan of Ram Lalla,” he told voters in Telangana, not forgetting to “remind” them that the Congress and Bharat Rashtra Samithi were “opposed” to the Ayodhya Ram Mandir. (IPA Service)