TO VOTE OR NOT TO VOTE?

Over the years I’ve managed to live in different parts of the country - Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Jaipur and Hyderabad. I’ve studied, worked, lived alone, with family, enjoyed the best and survived the worst these cities had to offer. My decision to move back to Hyderabad however was an easy one. It was, in my mind, the best out of all the other cities I’d lived in. People from Mumbai found this particularly perplexing, “There’s no art scene there, no clubbing scene like Mumbai’s… what’s the appeal?!”The Kolkata Bengalis usually throw up their noses at even being compared to another city in India. In their mind their mishtidhoi, Victoria Memorial, Park Lane, Alipore and Tangra are the best things to have happened to the Indian civilization. Then there’s the Delhi-wallahs, to whom any existence outside of NCR is a pointless one – “The South Indian food there must be good at least,” they point out, almost as if to say there’s a silver lining to living in Telangana’s capital. Jaipur, a city where my parents have now moved to, is a sleepy town, steeped in great culture and heritage, but lacks the shimmer and shine of a metropolitan. To them the Lit Fest, Polo season, lassi at MI Road and takeaway from Nero’s is something they just cant do without.

I am one of many people who have adopted Hyderabad as their home. Having grown up here and made friends through school also helps… in many ways I’ve seen the city evolve and transform, which is also one of its most beautiful characteristics. It is with all these sentiments that I have to decide on who to cast a vote for in the upcoming GHMC elections on December 1st. The result determines the control of our city’s civic governing body… its also an election like no other. There are varied communities, varied socio-economic voters, its not just one or the other group that decides the fate of Hyderabad’s Municipal Corporation. What’s at stake? The very soul of our city, the reason so many of us have chosen Hyderabad over bigger, more opportunity-filled metros like Mumbai and Delhi.

If you ask any political insider he’ll quickly tell you that the election’s in the bag for TRS. Our ruling party has preponedthe municipal elections, which were supposed to be earlier held in Jan 2021. This, many believe, is a knee-jerk reaction to them having lost to BJP in the recent Dubbakbyelections. Slowly, but steadily the BJP has been targeting Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, making inroads into a state which has for several decades been the bastion of the Congress Party. The loss of AP and Telangana, will probably go down in history as one of the biggest missed opportunities for the Gandhi-led Congress, which perhaps took it for granted, and didn’t want another strong leader to emerge from it, in the hopes of avoiding another PV Narasimha Rao situation, with their family’s leadership being challenged within the Congress Party itself.

Then there’s the AIMIM, which many know will get a sizable chunk of Hyderabad’s Old city votes… it is probably with their support that TRS will take control of the GHMC. The rest of the pool, insiders suspect, will go entirely to BJP, with Congress barely getting a handful of votes. All this political jargon and inside dealing goes above my politically naïve head. I don’t understand the importance of stopping land registration for two months and its impact on elections. I’m told that if land isn’t trade-able, it doesn’t allow political parties to liquidate funds and buy power and voters. I don’t understand the importance of preponing the election, until I see TRS supporters throng our city’s streets the very next day after a date is fixed by them… clearly catching all their opponents off guard.

Then there’s news of horse trading, or as we laymen might know it, party defectors, leaving the Congress and joining the BJP. Doesn’t that defeat the very purpose of voting for BJP here then? An old widow in a new dress? Then there’s the love-hate relationship between TRS and AIMIM, are they enemies or friends? Why don’t they announce their intentions to support one another before the elections?

Almost as an afterthought come the actual issues and promises being made by each party. TRS vows to distribute free water, up to 20,000 liters per month, per household or so. It’s also managed to dole out Rs 10,000 just a few days back, to people affected by the recent floods in the city. On the other hand, stalwarts in the Congress are very aptly pointing out that apart from making a new bridge over DurgamCheruvu, the TRS has largely ignored most of the promises they’d made to win the GHMC elections the last time round. The MusiRiver didn’t turn into the Thames, the Hussain Sagar Lake is pretty much the same as its been for the last three decades and Hyderabad hasn’t miraculously turned into Dallas or Silicon Valley in a matter of a few years. Then there’s our sporadic power cuts, something I NEVER experienced while living in Mumbai.

While the election is an important, perhaps even prestigious one, the hullabaloo around it this time is palpable. Post Dubbak, a loss for TRS in their State’s Capital, that too to BJP, would mean the beginning of the end. The party has thus focused all their attention to lambasting the BJP, comparing women’s safety in UP to that seen here in Telangana, criticizing the privatization plans PM Modi has, etc etc. Their foe is no longer the Congress or AIMIM, but the Goliath-like BJP that has been swallowing states at an alarming rate, thanks mainly due to the popularity of Modi. KCR and his son KTR are thus dealing with a winning hand, against an opponent that hates losing, who they’ve possibly caught off guard at the best time possible.

In the meantime, I know that the spirit of what makes Hyderabad-Hyderabad, will barely be affected by which government takes control of the GHMC. It’s soul will still remain intact and the games being played up above are more for power, lucrative contract-assigning opportunities, control over a large corpus of city-building funds.Who will I vote for? Go figure! But vote I shall, as I suggest you do too!     - Vishwaveer