TRS may face challenge from BJP in municipal polls

By Mohammed Shafeeq

Hyderabad, July 27 (IANS) After a setback in the recent Lok Sabha polls, Telangana's ruling TRS is gearing up to bounce back in ensuing elections to urban local bodies but may face a stiff challenge from a spirited opposition, mainly the BJP.

Elections to 132 municipalities are likely to be held next month when the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) will be looking to repeat the performance of Assembly elections held in December 2018 and subsequent panchayat polls.

Buoyed by the massive inroads it made in the Lok Sabha elections by winning four seats, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is preparing to give a tough fight to the TRS.

Trying to project itself as the alternative to the ruling party, BJP is looking to build on its victory in Secunderabad, Karimnagar, Nizamabad and Adilabad Lok Sabha constituencies.

BJP retained Secunderabad and wrest three seats from TRS while Congress also came up with good performance to bag three seats. Out of 17 Lok Sabha seats in the state, TRS won nine seats while its ally All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) retained the lone seat. However, the results were a setback for TRS, which was confident of a clean sweep.

TRS, which swept the rural local body elections held last month, is confident of repeating the performance in municipal polls. BJP, however, is hopeful of cashing in on the perceived support among urban voters to bag majority of municipalities.

With BJP going aggressive with its best-ever performance in Lok Sabha polls in Telangana by polling 19 per cent votes, its leaders are confident of the party emerging as an alternative to TRS and storming to power in 2023 elections.

Signalling the significance the party attached to Telangana, party's national president Amit Shah chose Telangana to launch the membership drive. He asked the party cadre to increase the party's vote share in the coming elections to 50 per cent.

Though the BJP state leadership had set a membership target of 16 lakh, Shah revised it to 18 lakh. As part of 'Mission 2023', Shah plans to visit Telangana every month to strengthen the organisation.

"BJP will contest all the seats in the municipal polls and we are confident that the party will win majority of the seats," said state BJP chief K. Laxman.

Though the Congress did well in the Lok Sabha polls to win three seats, the party suffered a huge blow after the results with 12 out of its 18 MLAs merging with TRS. The party has also lost the status of main opposition party in the Assembly.

Other opposition parties are also in no mood to join hands with Congress for the municipal elections. The Left parties and Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) plan to contest the polls on their own.

Congress had contested Assembly elections in alliance with Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Communist Party of India (CPI) and TJS. However, TRS retained power, winning 88 seats in the 119-member Assembly. Its ally AIMIM retained seven seats. Congress could secure 19 seats while TDP got two. The BJP got just one seat.

With other opposition parties posing no major threat, the TRS is focusing on BJP, especially in the four Lok Sabha seats that it won.

Leading the party in another poll battle, TRS Working President K.T. Rama Rao is busy holding meetings with the party leaders to work out a strategy to counter BJP.

The ruling party is continuing its aggressive membership drive. It claims to have enrolled 40 lakh members so far and hopes that the total number will go up to 60 lakh in next few days.

Rama Rao, who is son of TRS President and Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao, is confident that the welfare schemes being implemented by the government and its focus on addressing people's problems at local level would once again help it come out with flying colours.

(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at m.shafeeq@ians.in)

--IANS

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