Hyderabad, April 14 (IANS) This is one parliamentary constituency which is immune to any wave sweeping the country or Andhra Pradesh and it is the only Lok Sabha seat where the mainstream political parties don’t take the fight seriously.
Such is the hold of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) or the Owaisi family over Hyderabad that the results on most occasions during the last three years had been a forgone conclusion.
From senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader M. Venkaiah Naidu to even Muslim leaders opposed to the Owaisi family, all have tried but failed to wrest the seat.
In a constituency known for sharp polarization of votes on communal lines, the MIM, which draws its support mainly from Muslims, appears set to win the poll for the ninth time in a row.
MIM president Asaduddin Owaisi, who is aiming a hat-trick, is expected to have a smooth sailing again. The London-educated barrister will take on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Bhagwanth Rao in a direct contest.
The BJP, which has an alliance with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), has fielded Rao, a PhD scholar and general secretary of the Bhagyanagar Ganesh Utsav Samithi, which organizes the annual Ganesh procession in the city.
In 2009, Owaisi defeated Zahid Ali Khan of the TDP by over 100,000 votes. Khan, editor of the Urdu daily ‘Siasat’, has not decided to contest this time.
The constituency spread over the Muslim-majority Old City of Hyderabad had witnessed the worst communal riots in the 1980s and early 1990s. Though the communal tension has ebbed in the last two decades and there is more focus on development issues, the MIM continues to hold sway.
The MIM further strengthened its position with the delimitation of the constituency.
Till 2004, three of the seven assembly segments of Hyderabad were in neighbouring Ranga Reddy district. The three rural segments had a majority of non-Muslim voters. Now all the seven assembly segments are in the city and Muslims are an overwhelming majority in six of them.
In 2009, the first polls to be held after delimitation, the MIM bagged six out of the seven assembly segments.
The Hyderabad constituency has 1,393,242 voters, about 65 percent of them Muslims. The MIM is ahead of its rivals in the campaigning, with its chief and other leaders addressing daily meetings in the old city.
Though an underdeveloped constituency compared to other parts of Hyderabad and the twin city of Secunderabad, development was never an election issue in Hyderabad.
Despite complaints of poor civic amenities, Muslims always backed the MIM.
“We may not agree with the MIM but we vote for the party as it voices the community’s problems in both the assembly and parliament,” said Rafeeq Ahmed, a trader.
Asaduddin Owaisi claims development of the city is the party’s agenda. “We have succeeded in solving many problems faced by people but a lot remains to be done,” said the 44-year-old, under whose leadership the party is looking to expand outside Hyderabad.
It was his father Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi who first won the seat in 1984 despite a TDP wave. He retained it in 1989. Although the BJP emerged as a strong force, ‘salar’ as he was popularly known, continued his winning streak in 1991, 1996, 1998 and 1999.
Due to failing health, Salahuddin Owaisi made way for his elder son who was till then heading the party in the Andhra Pradesh assembly. The young leader continued where his father had left.
Asaduddin Owaisi’s grandfather Abdul Wahid Owaisi had tried to wrest the seat from the Congress in 1962 but was unsuccessful. Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi was also unsuccessful in his first attempt in 1977. However, there was no looking back for the family since 1984.