Banning release of the Godse book in Goa was an act of censorship and intolerance

Banning release of the Godse book in Goa was an act of censorship and intolerance
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Holding a mirror to society is the primary task of a public intellectual. Sometimes the reflection may not be pretty or what one would want to see, for it may show the warts on one’s own face. This is a hazard that we must live with because hiding the mirror is not an option available to an intellectual. So she must hold up the mirror to society and stop colluding with falsehood. She must speak up and tell it as it is. This is her principal obligation. Doing so is risky in times of social conflict but it is also necessary. One has only to think of how difficult it is to speak up in Israel today (Amos Oz), or the Soviet Union of yesterday (Andrei Sakharov), or the USA now (Noam Chomsky) or the India of the present (Dabholkar, Pansare, and Kalburgi) and one gets a sense of the moral and epistemic challenges that individuals, who have held up the mirror, have courageously faced. Deceits – like the eutrophication of the Dal lake in Srinagar – have a way of taking over our public discourse. They must be vigorously contested.

One such deceit took place in Goa on January 30 on Gandhi’s death anniversary. A book,Nathuram Godse: The story of an Assassin, written by Ashok Anup Sardessai, was to be released that day in the presence of Ashok Savarkar, the grand-nephew of Nathuram Godse and VD Savarkar. The hall where the release was to take place was Ravindra Bhavan, a cultural institution in Madgaon, run by Goa government. The Bhavan is chaired by Damodar G Naik, a Bharatiya Janata Party leader from the state. As was to be expected, there was a furore about the date chosen for the release of the book. Groups threatened to disrupt the function. They argued, even though they had not read the book, that government premises could not be used to malign the Mahatma, especially on his death anniversary. They saw this scheduling as deliberate, as a political attempt by the Hindutva forces, who are very active in Goa, to create a schism, particularly among the Hindu community. They argued that it was another attempt to glorify Godse and justify the heinous act of assassination. They saw a sinister conspiracy by the BJP and the Sangh parivar to poison the climate of communal harmony in Goa.

Under pressure from this negative publicity, the Goa government directed the chairman of the Ravindra Bhavan to withdraw the permission for the function. It was promptly withdrawn, even though the function, according to the chairman, was booked according to procedure. Secularists and rationalists celebrated this decision. Is this really an occasion for celebration? How should one read this episode within the larger national debate on intolerance?

Censorship and intolerance

Much as I dislike the idea of giving support to the cunning of the organisers, to a politics I dislike, to me the answer is clear. The function should have been allowed to be held. The author, in the publicity material preceding the launch, argued that he was not glorifying the assassination but only presenting the facts on the hardships faced by Godse’s family, post assassination. For those of us who know politics well, and who have studied the dynamics of the human condition, it is obvious that the choice of date, the title of the book, the motivations of the organisers, were not innocent. They were intended to provoke, either to give publicity to the book or to offend those of us who value the Mahatma dearly. But these motivations are irrelevant to the issue of censorship and intolerance.

The protesters exhibited intolerance towards a position they did not like. The ban was an act of censorship similar to the beef ban and exhibited behaviour no different from those who have hurled slippers at Taslima Nasreen, or those who vandalised the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. Threats to censor opinion one dislikes has no place in a constitutional democracy. When the Hindutva forces do it, we oppose them by invoking the sacred principle of free expression. On the day the permission to release the book at Ravindra Bhavan was withdrawn, the right to free expression suffered a major reverse. Banning the event was not the answer. We became our opponents.

This does not mean that there should be no protest on the book. In fact, the occasion of the book’s release was a great opportunity to expose the chicanery of those who killed the Mahatma, their politics of hate and upper caste bigotry. The supporters of a secular society should have used the occasion to build a public debate on the motivations of those who killed the Mahatma and who, when they did so, left us, a young nation, morally orphaned. This comes across in the article, by the renowned Odia poet Jayanta Mahapatra, titled “What Gandhi Means to me”, where he talks about the hush that fell across the nation when the news of his assassination was announced. From the description, one gets a sense of a people wondering who will guide them now. The campaigners against the book should have responded to the cunning of those who deliberately booked the hall on his death anniversary to release a book on Godse. They should have debated the philosophy of the Hindu Mahasabha and its campaign against Gandhi. Censorship was not the route to follow.

Patel-Mookerjee exchange

This exposure could have begun with the correspondence between Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of the Jan Sangh, and Sardar Patel, the Home Minister, on the question of the Mahatma’s assassination. Mookerjee wrote to the Sardar on May 4, 1948 expressing his belief that those “who are suspected of complicity in the outrage on Gandhiji will no doubt be put on trial”. (Note his use of the word “outrage” to describe the assassination). He was certain that Savarkar whose name was “being mentioned in this connection” would be given a fair hearing.

Sardar Patel, despite his anguish, remained committed to legal and judicial propriety assuring Mookerjee, in his reply of May 6, 1948, that he had instructed the investigators that “the question of inclusion of Savarkar must be approached purely from a legal and judicial standpoint and political consideration should not be imported into the matter”. How many in power today can show the Sardar’s commitment of an impartial legal and judicial process?

But the Sardar was not finished by just giving this assurance. He wanted to take the debate to a higher moral plane. He went on to state:

“…this is, of course, in so far as the question of guilt is concerned from the point of view of law and justice. Morally, it is possible that one’s conviction may be the other way about.”

For the Sardar, Savarkar was morally not innocent of the crime. Will anyone today challenge this view of the Sardar? It is this last sentence that carries the power and can be used against the organisers of the release of the book who chose Gandhi’s death anniversary for the release. They wanted to offend. We can see in this choice of date a mindset that hated and vilified the greatest Indian of the modern age. In booking the hall for January 30, they may have been procedurally correct but they were morally perverse.

The letter of the Sardar goes on to reveal his anger when he observes:

“I agree with you that the Hindu Mahasabha, as an organisation, was not concerned in the conspiracy that led to Gandhiji’s murder; but at the same time, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that an appreciable number of the members of the Mahasabha gloated over the tragedy and distributed sweets.”

Yes, gloated. Sweets distributed to celebrate the assassination while the nation mourned. Just think about it celebrating the Mahatma’s assassination with sweets. According to newspaper reports this was done again on January 30, 2016 in Meerut by the same organisation.

Exposing this mindset and challenging this politics of hate is what should have been done by those who oppose Godse and his idea of India. We are today in an intense battle not just for the soul of India but for minds especially of the young. On the one side is Gandhi and the moral and political philosophy of ahimsa and satyagraha he stood for. On the other side is Godse and his politics of hate. By preventing the release of the book, we chose the wrong side.

A commitment to freedom of expression cannot be whimsical. It must be near absolute. That is the only way forward for such a plural country. The forces of censorship are on the rise in India today, driven largely by the majoritarian politics of the parivar and by social groups acting as censors. So AK Ramanujan’s essay on a 100 Ramayanas gets banned as does Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey. We must be wary of this. Our journey towards a society that protects the freedom of expression is indeed such a long journey.


Neerja Bhanot biopic is a reminder of the glamorous lives of ’80s Indian air hostesses

Neerja Bhanot biopic is a reminder of the glamorous lives of '80s Indian air hostesses
Photo Credit: Courtesy Mahrukh Chikliwala
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Some people called them “glorified ayahs”, while they were patronisingly referred to in Hindi as hawayi sundaris. Yet, in the 1970s and ’80s, Indian air hostesses were also envied as glamourous, elite women who looked like film stars, jet-setted across the world and enjoyed exotic holidays that few others could afford.

In September 1986, when 23-year-old Neerja Bhanot died trying to save passengers of the ill-fated Pan Am Flight 73 from the bullets of hijackers, Indians saw – perhaps for the first time – that an air hostess could also be a hero.

The Mumbai-New York Pan Am flight was hijacked during a lay-over in Karachi by Palestinian militants from the Abu Nidal Organisation. In the 17 hours that followed, Bhanot took charge as the head purser, saving scores of lives by hiding the passports of American citizens, helping passengers escape through an emergency exit and, eventually, shielding three children from a rain of bullets. After her death, she became the youngest Indian to be awarded the Ashok Chakra for bravery.

Neerja Bhanot. Photo: Wikipedia
Neerja Bhanot. Photo: Wikipedia

Now, 30 years later, filmmaker Ram Madhvani is reviving Bhanot’s story for a new generation with his biopic Neerja. The film, starring Sonam Kapoor as Bhanot, will be released on February 19. “Whether in 1986 or today, a whole bunch of flight attendants do their duty so that we can do ours – and we rarely show gratitude for that,” Madhvani said. “In some ways, the film is a tribute to them.”

But being an air hostess in the ’80s was, in many ways, vastly different from being a flight attendant today. It was an era of fewer airlines, more luxury and greater glamour. Despite the alarming number of aircraft attacks and hijackings taking place through the ’70s and ’80s, it was an age far less obsessed with security than the post-9/11 world.

‘We had to know our wine and cheese’

“When I started out, we were trained to focus on service, not safety and security,” said Elfin Fernand, a Mumbai resident who joined Air India as a hostess in 1974 at the age of 21 and retired in 2009. “We had to know our wines and cheese and how to look after the passenger’s comfort. Today’s flight attendants have to be constantly alert, so even while talking to a passenger their eyes dart all over the place.”

Fernand’s career took off at a time when the perception of air hostesses had rapidly begun to change in India. Earlier, the women almost always came from Anglo-Indian, Catholic or Parsi families. In the rest of Indian society, flying, serving passengers and working with men was not looked upon as a respectable profession for a young woman.

“Many of the Hindu girls who came for air hostess interviews in the ’60s and early ’70s either had to fight with their parents or lie to them,” said Mahrukh Chikliwala, a veteran Air India flight attendant who flew from 1969 to 2009 and retired as a trainer for younger staff. “But many people also envied our work, because it didn’t need a lot of educational qualifications but paid very well.”

Mahrukh Chikliwala (second from right) and her colleagues display the new uniforms introduced by Air India in 1983. Photo courtesy Mahrukh Chikliwala
Mahrukh Chikliwala (second from right) and her colleagues display the new uniforms introduced by Air India in 1983. Photo courtesy Mahrukh Chikliwala

By the time women like Neerja Bhanot – who came from an educated Punjabi family in Mumbai – joined the field, young girls across India were dreaming of a life as an air hostess. One of them was Suneeta Sodhi-Kanga, who wanted to be an air hostess since she was six and was actively encouraged by her family.

“I was always fascinated with the glamour of flying – the elegance and charm of the well-groomed hostesses, their confidence and the prospect of travelling the world,” said Kanga, who worked with Air India from 1988 to 1996 and now trains corporate professionals in grooming, etiquette, fine dining and wine appreciation. In 1989, after Kanga won the Miss World Airline pageant held in Paris, she became the face of Air India at various cultural and publicity events.

A newspaper clipping of Suneeta Sodhi-Kanga's pageant win in 1989. Photo courtesy: Suneeta Sodhi-Kanga
A newspaper clipping of Suneeta Sodhi-Kanga’s pageant win in 1989. Photo courtesy: Suneeta Sodhi-Kanga

No weight gain, no acne, no glasses

The attention that air hostesses received for their grooming and beauty, however, came with a heavy dose of gender discrimination. Male flight attendants were hardly ever spoken about, but air hostesses were objects of fascination, and their looks a subject of much discussion.

In 1971, the Illustrated Weekly of India did a cover story on air hostesses that featured a telling classification of the women employed with the three main airlines operating in the country:

“BOAC [British Overseas Airways Corporation] lays stress on the healthy, nurse-like mantronly look…Air-India goes in for youth and glamour and patronises both the campus and the harem look. Indian Airlines goes in for the ‘desi’ demeanour – in the India-can-do-it fervour…Glamour with a campus touch and a come-hither look is a general characteristic of the Air-India hostess.”

Chikliwala serving VIP passengers in a traditional Rajasthani dress in the 1970s.
Chikliwala serving VIP passengers in a traditional Rajasthani dress in the 1970s.

“We women could be taken off cabin duty if we put on weight, wore glasses or developed acne, but this did not apply to male attendants,” Chikliwala said. “The men had no restrictions on marriage, but when I joined, air hostesses were not allowed to marry. Even divorcees were a problem.”

In 1979, after taking their case to court, Air India’s women cabin crew won the right to marry without losing their jobs or being grounded to do off-flight duties. They had to fight further to be allowed at least two children, but many other battles had to continue.

As an employee of Pan Am, an American airline, Bhanot was able to climb from the post of a cabin attendant to a head purser – the senior-most cabin manager – within just a year of flying. Had she been working for an Indian airline, Bhanot would never have been even a junior purser, simply because she was a woman.

At Air India, right up to the mid-2000s, only male flight attendants were allowed to take on positions requiring management and supervision in an aircraft. “The men were called pursers and the women were hostesses,” said Francis Monteiro, a retired Air India flight attendant from Mumbai who flew with the airline from 1977 to 2011. “The senior pursers could work in the galley and supervise, but hostesses worked only in the cabin. They were the face of the airline.”

Most air hostesses, says Monteiro, joined the field by the time they were 18. Most men joined at the age of 21. “Often, this meant that men would be supervising women their own age even though the women were more experienced,” he said.

This, too, was a battle that Air India’s hostesses had to fight in court, and victory came rather late in the day. “In 2006, I became the first woman to be made a flight in-charge, three years before I retired,” said Mahrukh Chikliwala.

Along with Elfin Fernand, Chikliwala was among the women who also fought for parity with male cabin crew in the case of retirement age. While men could retire at 58, women had to retire at 35 in the 1970s and ’80s – a figure that Air India raised to 45 in 1990 and 50 in 1993. By the time the women’s retirement age was raised to 58, it was already 2003, 14 years after Indian Airlines, the government’s domestic carrier, implemented the same decision.

Dangerous times?

While battling gender disparities in a field that inherently sexualises women, flight attendants of the time also had to grapple with the dangers of flying. The ‘70s and ‘80s saw a peak in aircraft explosions and hijackings, particularly because of the political instability in the Middle East and Cuba. Closer to home, Sikh militants from the Khalistan movement made at least four attempts to attack or hijack flights during those two decades.

In 1985, a year before Bhanot was killed by Palestinian hijackers, a Sikh militant group bombed Air India’s Emperor Kanishka flight en route from Canada to London. The plane exploded over the Atlantic Ocean at 31,000 feet, killing all 329 people on board.

“That was incredibly scary because it could easily have been me on that flight,” said Francis Monteiro, who had been on the staff of the same flight during its Frankfurt-Toronto leg a week before the attack. “I lost several colleagues and two batch-mates in that explosion.”

Rude, romantic

Keeping calm during emergency situations, however, is something almost all flight attendants imbibe during their training and years of experience. Often, cabin crew members found it harder to remain calm while dealing with insolent passengers – something that has not changed much in all these years.

“Indian passengers are particularly rude – many of them treat flight attendants like their domestic servants,” said Tehmi Ghadialy, who served as an Indian Airlines hostess from 1968 to 1988 and now works as a Japanese interpreter and tourist guide in Mumbai. “I’ve told off some Bollywood celebrities and ministers for being rude to the cabin crew.”

Despite the flipside, though, retired flight attendants are clear that they loved their jobs more than anything else, because the field had so much excitement to offer. Flight frequencies were lower in the ‘80s, so after a long international flight, crew members got up to a week’s break in different parts of the world, with five-star accommodation and opportunities to travel for free.

The Illustrated Weekly did a cover story on the glamour associated with air hostesses in 1971.
The Illustrated Weekly did a cover story on the glamour associated with air hostesses in 1971.

“It was quite a fashionable life. I had my favourite places to shop everywhere, from Cairo to Mauritius to Beirut,” said Elfin Fernand. A huge rock music fan, Fernand often requested for specific flights based on the schedules of major rock concerts. “I’ve seen every major band perform live around the world, including Led Zeppelin.”

Elfin Fernand (in red sari) with Rajiv Gandhi after the former Prime Minister took a VIP flight on Air India. Photo courtesy: Elfin Fernand
Elfin Fernand (in red sari) with Rajiv Gandhi after the former Prime Minister took a VIP flight on Air India. Photo courtesy: Elfin Fernand

Of course, for flight attendants, romance was also often “in the air”. Francis Monteiro fell in love with his wife, an air hostess and junior colleague, while at work in the ‘80s, and the couple now have two grown daughters. More famously, Parmeshwar Godrej and Maureen Wadia – wives of business tycoons Adi Godrej and Nusli Wadia respectively – were once Air India hostesses who are said to have met their spouses while hosting them on flights.

“Oh, there are many cases of air hostesses marrying first-class passengers,” said Monteiro. Such hitching, however, was not really a two-way street. “Which first-class woman passenger would pay attention to male pursers?”


Why did Ai Wei Wei risk public outrage by posing as the iconic drowned child on a pebbled beach?

Why did Ai Wei Wei risk public outrage by posing as the iconic drowned child on a pebbled beach?Photo Credit: Neil Hall/Reuters
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Thousands objected to the publication six months ago of photographs of the three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s body lying face down on a Bodrum beach. Alan’s father had attempted to take his family across the two miles separating Turkey and the Greek island of Kos, but their over-crowded dinghy capsized mid-journey. The bodies of Alan and his brother were captured on camera after they washed ashore that September morning. The clamour against the images died down somewhat after they spurred European states to take a more lenient view of refugees coming from Iraq and Syria, but related images soon drew the ire of easily outraged liberals. Charlie Hebdo was targeted after it published satirical cartoonsciting the Kurdi tragedy.

Now, the outrage has returned again, this time aimed at the celebrated Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who was photographed by India Today’s Rohit Chawla mimicking Alan’s pose. Weiwei has spent the past weeks helping refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos and preparing a new art project. Chawla and his colleague Gayatri Jayaraman travelled there to profile him as one of those honoured at the inaugural India Today Art Awards.

I met Chawla last week on the opening day of the India Art Fair in Delhi. He looked stressed, having returned from Greece just the previous evening, but seemed satisfied with the presentation of India Today’s booth at the art fair, consisting of portraits of artists the magazine had published over the years. The large Ai Weiwei image was the display’s centrepiece, and stood out thanks not just to its placement and size but also its composition. While most other pictures were conventional studio shots, the Ai Weiwei one showed the artist in an extraordinary pose within an evocative landscape.

Mimicking any martyr or victim is perilous, because the act implies one shares their fate in some fashion. It’s a huge step up from using a French flag filter on one’s Facebook profile in sympathy with the Paris terrorist attacks. Posing as Alan Kurdi has brought upon Ai Weiwei the charge of inflating his own importance at the expense of the individual who actually suffered a cruel end. Even though Ai did not choose the stance, he knew what he was doing by acceding to it, and was complicit in the belittling of Alan Kurdi, if indeed the photograph did belittle him.

Viewing the print at the India Art Fair, I didn’t consider it an insult to the dead child’s memory, partly because it opened up interpretations beyond the most immediate and narrow one by not slavishly imitating the original image. I disagree with Gayatri Jayaraman’s categorisation of it as a “reported news image” as opposed to “art”. In which “reported news image” does a photographer make an appointment with a subject halfway across the world, choose a secluded spot on a freezing, pebbled beach, and echo a recent iconic image in the subject’s pose? There was altogether too much deliberation involved in the exercise for it to be classified as simple reportage rather than art. (The two categories that are in any case separated by a very thick and blurry line.)

Haunting pose

What struck me most in my cursory initial view was that Ai’s body seemed to float just above the pebbles. There was something hauntingly unreal about the entire configuration which I didn’t have time to explore in the hurly burly of the fair. I now realise the effect was caused by an imperfect Photoshop job. Jayaraman’s link in her article to a Vine of the shoot in progress suggests Ai lay on a sheet which was then digitally eliminated. (I couldn’t confirm this because neither Jayaraman nor Chawla had consent to speak with me on the subject.) Accidents and flaws are often propitious in art, and I believe the Photoshopping imbued the picture with an unintended spectral force that raised it far above any ordinary tribute.

This is, of course, one subjective interpretation, which those disturbed by the act will doubtless reject. The question remains; why did Ai Weiwei consent to pose in that fashion despite having no idea how interesting the final product would be? I think it’s because he believes in exploring edgy subjects and ways of living that scramble conventional categories. He is a bona fide dissident, and has scars and a surgery for brain haemorrhage to prove it. He angered Chinese authorities by cataloguing names of students who died in badly constructed school buildings after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. He was beaten, prevented from travelling, placed under house arrest, but continued producing provocations. Yet, he hasn’t always had such an antagonistic relationship with the Chinese government. He advised the architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron on the design of Beijing’s Bird’s Nest stadium, a commission that no enemy of the state could have received.

His provocations are often straightforward and sometimes silly. He might brandish handcuffs in a ridiculous version of Gangnam style; or vandalise ancient artefacts by destroying a Han dynasty urn and painting a Coca Cola logo on another; or give the fingerto revered sites like Tiananmen Square as part of a series titled Study of Perspective.

The Venice Biennale is among the world’s most prestigious exhibitions and at the last edition, Ai collaborated on the Iraqi pavilion. The show was inspired by Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, and the artist Isaac Julien directed a marathon reading of all three volumes of the difficult text. At the same time and in the same city, Julien displayed a new video installation commissioned and financed by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. That’s the contradictory art world Ai belongs to, and is among the most prominent members of.

He recently took time off from working with Syrian refugees to open a show of pretty kite-like sculptures in the upscale Parisian store Le Bon Marché and take Paris Hilton on a private tour of the exhibition. He’s an artist, an activist, and a canny businessman rolled into one. His activism enhances his international stature which enhances the market value of his work. In earlier eras these things would be easy to separate, but it’s unclear now where activism gives way to art, or becomes art, or stops being art, or when provocation rises to the level of interesting art, or descends to the level of a tasteless publicity stunt. Ai Weiwei constantly tests the boundaries of these divisions, and often smashes them like a marvellous old Chinese vase dropped onto a concrete floor.


TRS sweeps Hyderabad polls, decisively settling the question of whom the city belongs to

TRS sweeps Hyderabad polls, decisively settling the question of whom the city belongs to
Photo Credit: IANS
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On Friday, as results began to come in for the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections held on February 2, it was clear that the Telangana Rashtra Samiti was doing much better than the opinion polls had predicted. The surveys had shown that the party would get 75-85 seats in the 150-member house. But by late evening, it had already won 98 seats and was expected to easily get a two-thirds majority.

The Telangana Rashtra Samiti victory points to crucial political realignments in Hyderabad. The party seems to have won the votes not just of its core Telangana constituency, but also of the more apolitical middle-class, the working class poor and even the openly hostile Andhra Telugus.

By late Friday, Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen had won 32 seats, the Congress had only one seat, as did the Telugu Desam Party. The Bharatiya Janata Party had won three.

To understand how a party with less than two years of experience in office exceeded expectations, it is vital to understand why the first Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation polls in an independent Telangana mattered for the Telangana Rashtra Samiti.

A key election

When Telugu-dominated Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated in 2014 to allow for the creation of Telangana, the city of Hyderbad was a major source of contention between advocates of each state. The city, with a sizeable population of Andhra Telugus, was eventually awarded to Telangana. But it was decided that Hyderabad would remain the joint capital of both states until 2024. It was vital for the TRS to get a majority in these municipal elections to settle the question about whom Hyderabad actually belongs to.

To score this victory, the TRS undercut the more established parties with their political and patronage networks. For instance, the old city with its majority Muslim population is considered to be the impregnable bastion of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen. The areas on the outer periphery have a sizeable Andhra Telugu population, which tends to vote for the Telugu Desam Party, while the non-Muslim minorities, Dalits and weaker sections were traditional Congress voters.

“The party appealed to different classes of people in different ways,” said Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, who was active in the Telangana movement. “They pulled out all stops to win the final bastion.”

A changing city

To woo the working class who constitute 40%-50% of the population the TRS relied on welfare measures. One such is the promise to build low-cost two-bedroom homes. Though the fine print is yet to be released, voters were enthusiastic. The working class has been priced out of the city in the last two decades in which Hyderabad has gone from being a laid-back nawabi city to a back office for global Information Technology and consulting firms. The centre of economic gravity has shifted to the HITEC city, the gleaming IT district on the western periphery where the skilled migrants live.

Although the middle class has benefitted from the boom, their situation has also become more precarious, said Rakesh Reddy, who used to be a software engineer himself. Two decades ago, a family could live comfortably in the city on a monthly income of Rs 15,000, he said. That is impossible now, as a boom in construction and real estate has pushed up prices. The TRS has used its position as Telangana’s ruling party to assure working class voters that it will take care of their interests.

To appeal to the middle class, the TRS used a different strategy. For this they had IT and Panchayati Raj minister, K Taraka Rama Rao, who is known as KTR. He is the suave, English-speaking face of the party in contrast to his father, TRS founder and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, who is more comfortable spouting witticisms in Telugu. KTR was meant to assure a globalised middle class uncomfortable with the rhetoric about a parochial state that the party understood their concerns.

Problems aplenty

Lastly, the large Andhra population, which was the core of the anti-Telangana sentiment also voted for the TRS, because no other party is in a position to protect their interests.

However, winning a majority does not mean that Hyderabad’s urban problems will get solved. Corruption in the civic body blights the quality of works undertaken by it. “Half of the GHMC budget is misappropriated by the eco-system of corruption,” said Padmanabha Reddy, the Secretary of the Forum for Good Governance.

Besides, the delineation of powers is not clear. Water and sewerage is the remit of another agency, while electricity and transport come under different departments. The Metro, which is still under construction, has a different parent while the MMTS suburban rail system is under the control of the Railways.