T-State in a bind over GHMC poll

(S.Nagesh Kumar)

HYDERABAD:  The Telangana Government finds itself in a predicament after the rather sharp observations by the High Court over the delay in conducting elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) whose five-year term ended on December 3.

The High Court, while  observing that delay in conducing the municipal polls was tantamount to ‘defrauding the Constitution’,  has asked to the Telangana Government to let it know by next week the time it required to notify, conduct and complete the GHMC elections on the basis of the 2011 census.

Constitutionally speaking, the responsibility of conducting the polls rests with the State Election Commission (SEC) but it is the Government that has to set the ball rolling. It has to take the all-important decision whether to trifurcate the City into three – Hyderabad, Secunderabad, Cyberabad, bifurcate it or retain the GHMC in its existing form.

Delimitation a tough task

Once this is done, work on delimitation of wards can follow. Delimitation has to be based not just on administrative convenience taking into account natural boundaries and contiguity but also on the political expedience of the ruling TRS.

Given the complexities of delimitation of wards (corporator divisions), this is a tall order. In the absence of concrete directions from the Government on the nitty-gritty of delimitation, there is no clarity whether GHMC’s present strength of 150 should be retained or revised on the basis of the 2011 census. If the census figures (67.31 lakh population) are taken into consideration, the number of wards will go up to 172.

 Presently, there are 100 wards in the central part of the city and 50 in the outlying areas where the winning prospects of the TRS are relatively low on account of the higher percentage of migrants from Seemandhra.

 If the number is increased to 172 as proposed by the GHMC last year, the TRS Government will have to do a lot of tight-rope walking not only in drawing the boundaries but also appeasing the migrant population without antagonizing the locals.

Winning the polls prestigious for TRS

Winning the GHMC elections is a highly prestigious issue for the TRS which bagged just one out of 24 Assembly seats in Hyderabad and four out of 14 in Rangareddy district. It must perform well to prove that it enjoys support not just in North Telangana but in the State capital and surroundings too. A sample of the party’s determination was witnessed in Secunderabad Cantonment elections where it pulled out all stops to secure a majority in the Board.

A huge plus point in TRS’s favour this time round is the likelihood of a pre-poll or post-poll alliance with the Majlist-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) which arguably has no challenger in the Old City. These two parties have been playing a ‘jugalbandi’ inside the Assembly and outside. Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has been going out of his way to please the MIM and heaping praises on the Nizam of Hyderabad who, till the other day, was a symbol of feudal rule.

On the flip side, KCR has to take into account the possibility of a combined challenge by the BJP and TDP. In spite of their alliance in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections which did not, however, yield a rich harvest of seats, there is no love lost between the two parties. BJP State president G. Kishan Reddy is known for his aversion for the Telugu Desama but he may be forced by his party high command to relent.

Congress remains a divided house

The Congress is yet to recover from the shock administered by voters in May 2014 while its leaders remain a squabbling lot. They have failed in seeking political capital out of the party’s line that Telangana State came into being because of Ms. Sonia Gandhi’s initiative.

There may be an upswing in its fortunes provided it puts up a good performance in the likely byelection to Sanathnagar Assembly constituency. Here again, bitter rivalry between former Congress MLAs M. Shashidhar Reddy and Danam Nagender has spilled out into the streets.

The High Court’s order has upset the TRS’s plans but only partially. It has been gearing itself for the GHMC elections for quite some time by enticing Opposition MLAs besides ex-corporators to join its fold. As early elections to the GHMC elections have now become inevitable, the TRS may seek to encourage more defections to achieve its objective of wresting control of Telangana’s capital city.

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