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Will Telangana Muslims back Congress this time?

– Our Correspondent

Hyderabad, October 18, 2023: Telangana’s ruling party Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) has ignored Muslims in its manifesto while the Congress party is likely to make some promises to win the community’s support for next month’s assembly elections.

The manifesto released by BRS president and Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao on October 16 has just a single line about minorities – Minority welfare will be increased.

The lack of any specific announcement for minorities has disappointed the Muslim community, which had overwhelmingly backed TRS (now BRS) in 2014 and 2018 elections.

The manifesto has apparently sent a message that KCR’s party takes Muslim support for granted.

With more than a month to go for the elections and Congress party marching ahead to catch up with the ruling party, KCR faces a challenge in scoring a hat-trick as chief minister.

The BRS has been projecting its success in maintaining peace and law and order as a key achievement during the last nine years. Barring the communal violence in Bhainsa town of Nirmal district, the state has been free from communal riots. At almost every public meeting, KCR and other leaders of BRS mention how they were successful in preserving ‘Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb’ in Hyderabad and the rest of the state.

Increasing the budget for minority welfare to Rs.2,000 crore and setting up of minority residential schools are claimed to be the major steps taken by the KCR government during the last two terms. Under the Shadi Mubarak scheme, the government is providing financial assistance of Rs.1 lakh for marriage of poor Muslim girls. The government is also extending financial help to minority students for overseas education. A few months ago, it announced a scheme to provide Rs.1 lakh each for minority youth for self-employment.

However, the BRS government has often come under criticism for not releasing total funds allocated in the budget for minority welfare and lack of proper implementation of schemes. The ruling party also faces criticism for doing nothing all these years to implement its promise of enhancing reservation for Muslims to 12 per cent from present four per cent in government jobs and education.

FILE PHOTO: KCR (R) offering iftar to Asaduddin Owaisi at an iftar party

KCR’s party enjoys total support of its friendly party Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM).  Its president and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi has already appealed to Muslims to back MIM in constituencies where it is fielding candidates and vote for BRS in the remaining constituencies.

MIM is not likely to contest more than 7-8 seats, all in Hyderabad. The party has seven MLAs in the 119-member assembly. It is the second largest party in the assembly after BRS.

Asaduddin Owaisi is of the view that despite some shortcomings, the overall picture of BRS rule from the Muslim perspective has been satisfactory. A bitter critic of both BJP and Congress, he is worried that if Congress comes to power, the cycle of communal riots and curfew may return to Hyderabad.

The MIM leaders have been targeting state Congress chief A. Revanth Reddy over his alleged RSS background. Revanth Reddy admits that he was with ABVP in the past but he denies any links with the RSS.

In the undivided Andhra Pradesh, MIM has been the traditional supporter of Congress party. It also had friendly ties with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in a couple of elections. MIM’s relations with the Congress turned bitter in 2013.

The Congress leaders have been branding both the BRS and MIM as B team of BJP. They point out how BRS extended crucial support to the BJP government on key bills in the Parliament and also on the issues like demonetization and GST.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed at a public meeting in Telangana early this month that KCR wanted to join the BJP-led NDA in 2021, the Congress leaders said this has proved that BRS is the B team of BJP.

As MIM is contesting elections in various states, the Congress leaders are targeting it for dividing secular votes thus benefiting BJP. Asaduddin Owaisi, however, dismissed the allegations saying Congress wants to blame him for its failure to check BJP.

With the BRS disappointing the Muslim community by not promising anything, all eyes are now on the Congress party.

Congress, which last month announced six guarantees for various sections like farmers, women and youth, is expected to come out with a minority declaration towards the end of October.

SEE: Student Leaders Launch Student Manifesto Ahead of Telangana State Assembly Elections

The party has already announced declarations for youth, farmers, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

The Minority Declaration Draft Committee of the Telangana Pradesh Congress has called suggestions from all Muslim and Christian religious, welfare and educational organizations pertaining to their welfare issues.

“The party has already received several representations from several organizations and will incorporate these in the party manifesto and minority declaration to be released shortly,” said Zafar Javeed, Vice President of Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee and draft committee convenor.

The party will also be organizing an interactive session of prominent Congress leaders with religious leaders of these communities.  Not only their suggestions will be solicited but also the support of these organizations and communities will be enlisted for the Congress party in the ensuing elections.

The Congress party has announced candidates for 55 out of 119 seats. The list includes three Muslim candidates but all on the seats held by MIM.

There are three Muslim candidates in the BRS list of 115 candidates announced two months ago. Two of the Muslim candidates have been fielded in the constituencies considered as MIM strongholds. The party has re-nominated its lone Muslim MLA Mohammed Shakeel Aamir from Bodhan constituency in Nizamabad district.

It remains to be seen how many Muslim candidates Congress field in the remaining 64 constituencies.

If the Congress fields 4-5 Muslim candidates and promises specific for the socio-economic and educational development of Muslims, this can help the party in winning the trust of Muslim voters.

As it was during Congress rule in undivided Andhra Pradesh that the Muslims were provided reservation in education and jobs, the party claims to be sincere towards their development.

It will be interesting to see if Muslims support shifts from BRS to the Congress party.

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