The BJP has, for the last several years, been upping the ante
Exactly 75 years after the Indian police forces conducted “Operation Polo” to free the Nizam-ruled Hyderabad province, and ensured it became a part of Independent India, the date and its implications have deepened the political divides of Telangana.
The ordinary citizens of the erstwhile Hyderabad kingdom — whose parts are now disparately in three states — Telangana, and the neighbouring Karnataka and Maharashtra — did suffer untold indignity, denial of independence, violence and innumerable atrocities unleashed by Razakars, the organised gangs of terrorists sponsored by the Nizam.
For a long time, when Hyderabad and other parts of Telangana were part of a united Andhra Pradesh, the governments there refused to observe September 17 in a particularly celebratory manner. The BJP has, for the last several years, been upping the ante, seeking that the Telangana state government, post-bifurcation, celebrate the day and its hero — the country’s first home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel each year.
The ruling BRS government, under chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao, during the days of agitation for a separate Telangana, promised the people and the BJP, whose support was crucial for the creation of a separate state, that after Telangana became a separate state, September 17 would become a state-sponsored public holiday and a day of celebrations.
After the state was formed in 2014, TRS chief Rao did a volte face and ignored his promise, instead calling the Nizam a benevolent leader of his people and refusing to allow a past controversy to become a live wire in the current day. The BJP called it an act of betrayal, and used it as a basis to become relevant in the state politics, especially in the Greater Hyderabad area.
Over the years, as the BRS and AIMIM, led by Hyderabad Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi, became closer allies — this despite the fact that MIM had opposed the creation of a separate state — the BJP started building its narrative that the BRS was resorting to appeasement politics to please the MIM, which was why it was ignoring September 17 and Sardar Patel.
After years of demands, the BJP got into direct action and made “Liberation Day” a Central government celebration, which was held for the first time last year. This led to the MIM and BRS deciding also to celebrate it — but under the brand name “Integration Day”.
Ironically, the Congress Party which had ordered Operation Polo had been the weakest player in the game, and only this year, decided to make a grand statement, calling the BJP and BRS “clandestine allies” and holding its biggest show to observe and celebrate the “merger”. All senior leaders including Sonia Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi and its chief ministers were in Hyderabad, unitedly taking due credit on behalf of the party in both liberating Hyderabad and merging it into India as well as the creation of a separate Telangana.
An election year transforms the most normal of things into politically high value assets, and the symbolism of September 17 was too precious for any party to miss. Sunday, therefore, saw all the four parties in the highest performance mode.
Whom the people see as most credible remains to be seen, but for once, no one was founded wanting in their effort to stake a claim to Sardar Patel’s legacy, and to the historic significance of the day.