Muslims account for over 12 percent of Telangana population and form decisive voting in several constituencies across the state with concentrated presence in old city of Hyderabad. The Congress president Rahul Gandhi addressed election eve public meetings in Bhainsa, Kamareddy towns in north Telangana and Charminar in Hyderabad old city. The Congress selection of these places for the first leg of Rahul’s campaign in Telangana elections indicate a clear strategy to woo Muslim vote. Bhainsa and Kamareddy also have a significant Muslim voting. Charminar area of Hyderabad is the heart of MIM bastion. The Congress has already declared that ‘vote for KCR is vote for Modi‘, a strong message to the Muslim electorate.
Several constituencies in Telangana especially, the urban ones have sizable Muslim voting . Such districts include undivided Mahabubnagar , Karimnagar , Nizamabad , Nalgonda, Adilabad etc. The TRS has a better image in the rural areas due to host of welfare schemes. The congress perhaps believes that urban seats are more conducive for them to win. Focus on minority vote would further bolster its chances, a congress leader remarked.
The TRS has an open understanding with MIM. KCR publicly announced that MIM is his ally and there will only be friendly contest against it. These so called ‘friendly’ contests are an attempt to divide non-MIM vote. The TRS is likely to field Hindu candidates in MIM strong hold to effect division in anti-MIM vote . The Congress while in power played a similar trick as it had an undeclared understanding with Owaisis.
The Congress government earlier implemented four percent reservations for Muslim and thus enjoys a positive image to this effect. KCR has also promised 12 percent reservation for Muslims and a request to this effect is pending before the centre. The congress intends to focus on the non implementation of this promise.
KCR has delinked assembly elections from Parliament elections by resorting to premature dissolution of state legislature only to ensure Muslim vote in his favour as anti-Modi narrative shall dominate 2019 polls. There is also intense speculation in the political circles that MIM may even join KCR cabinet if TRS falls short of majority. At the same time the political grapevine also says that TRS may join the BJP led NDA post 2019 if the saffron party falls short of numbers or even otherwise. All this depends on post poll arithmetic both at the centre and the state.
Meanwhile, the BJP has roped in Swamy Paripoornananda in a clear bid to attract Hindu vote through anti-Muslim rhetoric. The BJP president Amit Shah has exhorted the voters of Telangana to elect BJP to ‘liberate’ Telangana from MIM clutches. The BJP is likely to focus its attack on KCR ‘s bonhomie with Owaisis and the Congress alleged Muslim appeasement politics. Barring the city of Hyderabad , the MIM failed to win any seat in Telangana . In fact it never attempted to do so and helped the party in power with which it always has an overt or covert understanding. In fact, the MIM has significant wins in local bodies elections in the past like in Karimanagar , Bhainsa etc. The TRS now and the congress in the past never tried to penetrate into Owaisis strongholds in return for the MIM’s tacit support elsewhere in the state. Thus, in the wake of bifurcation of the state, Muslim vote seems to have become a crucial one in Telangana electoral arena.
( Prof.K. Nageshwar is India’s noted political analyst. He is a former member of the Telangana Legislative Council and professor in the Department of Communication & Journalism, Osmania University, Hyderabad, India )