Muslims in Telangana, who constitute around 12.7% per cent of the electorate, are going to decide the destiny of political parties in at least 40% of the 119 assembly constituencies the state that goes to the polls on December 7, say political experts.
Muslims are present in considerable numbers in almost all districts of Telangana, but are predominant in Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy, Mahabubnagar, Nalgonda, Medak, Nizamabad and Karimnagar districts. According to the Telangana Social Development Report- 2017, 1.73 million Muslims reside in Hyderabad alone, making up a fourth of the city’s population and 43.5% of the state’s Muslim population. The city has 24 assembly seats, of which the outcome in 10 can be swung by Muslim voters.
Most of the Muslims of Hyderabad are residing in the old city, which has been a fiefdom of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) for two decades. The party has been consistently winning all the seven assembly seats in the old city.
The MIM was a strong opponent of the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh before 2014, fearing that it would result in the growth of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Telangana due to a polarisation of Hindu votes. However, with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) emerging stronger after the formation of the new state, the MIM gave up its anti-Telangana stand and warmed up to the TRS.
In September, MIM president Asaduddin Owaisi appealed to Muslims voters to opt for the TRS in the constituencies outside Hyderabad where his party is not contesting (seats such as Asifabad, Mahbubnagar and Medak).
“Owaisi’s party has gained considerable hold over the Muslim voters across the state. This has turned out to be an advantage for the TRS headed by K Chandrashekar Rao over the other Congress and its allies,” says political analyst and Muslim scholar Mir Ayub Ali Khan.
In the outgoing assembly, there are eight Muslim MLAs with seven from the MIM and one from the TRS.
“The Muslims have lost faith on the Congress after the Babri demolition. It has failed to prevent the growth of the BJP. On the other hand, the TRS has been able to provide a secure environment for the Muslims,” a senior MIM leader said on condition of anonymity.
Observers say a big advantage for the TRS among Muslim voters is that chief minister Rao is considered friendly to the community and is fluent in Urdu.
“The biggest benefit KCR has done for the Muslims is establishment of 200 residential schools and colleges exclusively for Muslims, where they are given free education, food and clothing up to Class 12…,” said Khan.
KCR’s son and state IT minister K T Rama Rao said Muslims were feeling secure during the TRS regime. “There was not a single instance of communal violence in Telangana. Old city of Hyderabad which used to witness curfews regularly during the Congress regime, is peaceful now. The Muslims are happy with TRS,” he said at a meeting in Wanaparthy early this week.
But the Congress points out that the TRS failed to implement a promise for 12% reservations for Muslims in education and employment, a move that was struck down by the judiciary. “It was the Congress party which introduced 4% quota for Muslims. KCR promised to enhance it to 12 % within a year of coming to power, but could not implement it till now,” Telangana PCC president N Uttam Kumar Reddy said.