For four terms now, the Chamarajpet Assembly constituency has been a stronghold of B.Z. Zameer Ahmed Khan. While he won three times as a Janata Dal (Secular) candidate (the first time in a byelection), in 2018, he won from the Congress. As he is looking to continue his winning streak with his popularity and the votes of Muslims, the BJP has fielded the former city Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao as a “balanced candidate” to bring in votes from all communities.
The biggest problem that affects the constituency is the lack of infrastructure development, which is what the BJP is hoping to turn into the anti-incumbency factor this time. The constituency spread over 4.31 sq.km has 48 slums, the old fort area, and the bustling K.R. Market.
Mr. Rao said, “The roads are in bad condition. There is a water shortage and there has been no development in any of the slums. Not even one Smart City project has been brought to the constituency. There are no good government schools or hospitals. There is rampant poverty which is leading to crimes.”
The local people seconded that infrastructure needs a big boost in the constituency. “The roads are definitely in bad shape and to get drinking water, people still have to stand in long queues with their bindiges and buckets like in the old days. When it comes to slums, not much can be done as even the people residing there do not want to go anywhere else as these provide them easier access to K.R. Market and other pete areas,” said Govind (name changed), a doctor in the constituency.
Another resident, Karthikeyan, pointed out that what had worked for Mr. Khan so far was his connection with the lower strata of society. “From giving them money to taking them to hospitals and paying for their treatment, he (Mr. Khan) has maintained a good relationship with them. The fact that this is a Muslim-dominated constituency, also gives him the advantage.”
Last year, Chamarajpet was in the news for the Idgah maidan controversy. While the ownership of the land came into contention, there was also a demand to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi at the grounds. The Supreme Court, however, disallowed the celebrations. The whole issue had caused a lot of unrest among Hindus and Muslims in the constituency.
Speaking about the issue, Mr. Rao said, “That controversy was limited to two wards. As it is government land, it belongs to everybody. Voters should neither love nor hate the government, they should get work done by the government. We should also work on building confidence among the minorities and bring them into the mainstream.”
While the BJP has not won in the constituency for almost three decades now, Mr. Rao thinks he has an advantage. “Earlier, the candidates here used to be hardcore right-wingers. But I am more moderate and I can speak Urdu and I have a good connect with Muslims. There is a need and want for change from all societal sections,” he said.