The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi and Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen are locked in a close race as votes were being counted for the bitterly-fought Hyderabad municipal elections on Friday, NDTV reported. The Bharatiya Janata Party, on the other hand, has made big gains.
As per the update at 5.25 pm, results have been declared for 99 of the 150 seats, according to The News Minute. Of these, the TRS has won 41 seats while the AIMIM has got 34. The BJP has bagged 22 so far while the Congress secured two seats.
The results are likely to be known only by evening or night since ballot papers were used for casting votes. However, as the TRS’ lead widened, celebrations broke off outside the party’s headquarters in Hyderabad, The News Minute reported.
Several TRS leaders exuded confidence that they were poised for a victory. “TRS is winning in most seats,” party leader K Kavitha told ANI. “As voting was by paper ballot we have to wait 3 to 4 hours to get exact numbers. I believe BJP numbers will further decline and heavy support for TRS will surface.”
Telangana minister Talasani Yadav claimed the TRS will form the government in the Hyderabad civic polls by a 100% majority. He also accused the Bharatiya Janata Party for interfering in a local election. “Why did the central government leaders come here to interfere in a local body election, when there are so many pressing issues like the farmers’ protests, is what is not understandable,” he told ANI.
Former Hyderabad Mayor and AIMIM candidate Mohammad Majid Hussain, meanwhile, won from Mehdipatnam, according to The Hindu. Speaking to reporters outside the counting centre, Hussain credited his victory to Owaisi. He said the work done by him during the last term ensured his smooth victory.
Communally charged campaign
Despite the high-pitched campaign by nearly all parties, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation polls reported an unimpressive 46.55% turnout on Tuesday with 34.50 lakh people voting from a total of 74.67 lakh voters.
Even though the polls are for electing a city mayor, the intense campaign witnessed comments on Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, surgical strikes, allegations of Rohingya infiltrators and one focused on Hindu-Muslim narrative. “Once a BJP candidate wins the mayor post in these elections, there will be a surgical strike on patha basti [Old City],” Telangana unit chief Bandi Sanjay Kumar had said. “It’s the BJP’s responsibility to kick out these Rohingyas and filthy sons of Pakistan.”
In his speeches, BJP’s Tejasvi Surya, the Bangalore South MP, had also made several controversial remarks while taking on the Opposition. He had accused Owaisi of speaking Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s language of “rabid Islamism, separatism, and extremism”, and claimed that every vote for the Muslim leader was a vote against India and “everything India stands for”.
Political observers said the acrimonious campaign is not new to the city’s political landscape, but it still escalated to a new and dangerous level this time. The BJP had brought in several heavyweights, including Union Home Minister Amit Shah, party chief JP Nadda and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath, for campaigning.
In the last municipal elections in February 2016, the TRS had won 99 seats, while the AIMIM secured 44. The BJP won four, the Congress got two and the Telugu Desam Party managed to get just one.
A loss in the elections could dent the image of the TRS and bolster the Opposition to step up its campaign against the ruling party.