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Hyderabad: The ongoing tussle between the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has assumed a new dimension with strong speculation that the Narendra Modi government is planning to declare Hyderabad a Union Territory as a check on the TRS and the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM).

The speculation has gained momentum after the federal government scrapped Article 370 of the constitution downgrading Jammu and Kashmir from a full fledged state to a Union Territory to be ruled directly by the Centre.

As the BJP was riding a wave of nationalistic sentiments over the Kashmir move, its leaders feel that declaring Hyderabad a Union Territory will also deliver immense political benefits in Telangana.

Hyderabad has a unique political status in southern India with a “Muslim image” due to its significant minority population, its historical background of the Qutub Shahi and Nizam rule as well as being the citadel of a Muslim political party MIM.

In the present context, “global city” Hyderabad had also emerged as a growth engine driving the Telangana economy and giving the state a distinct edge.

A lot is going to be heard about Hyderabad and its history over the next month with BJP deciding to celebrate ‘Hyderabad Liberation Day’ on September 17 on a grand scale.

It is aggressively targeting the TRS as a party “unwilling to celebrate the historic day”. Federal Home Minister Amit Shah will be the chief guest at the celebrations in Hyderabad and will hoist the national flag to mark the day when the Indian government brought the Nizam’s rule to an end through Police Action in 1948.

Though Hyderabad was merged into the Indian union under Congress rule, the BJP gives the credit to the then federal home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

In this context, speculation about the federal government thinking of making Hyderabad a Union Territory has stirred a hornet’s nest.

While indirectly fanning such speculation, the BJP leaders were not willing to make any official comment. However, the ruling TRS and other parties have warned of repercussions of such a move.

Newly-appointed Telangana State Planning Commission chairman and former member of parliament B. Vinod Kumar said that any such move would spark anger among the masses of Telangana. “I don’t think the BJP will dare to make any such move,” he said adding that it will only end up further strengthening the position of the TRS and the BJP.

He pointed out that such an idea was in fact floated during the movement for a separate Telangana state, but the TRS and other parties had strongly opposed it. “Telangana cannot be imagined without Hyderabad and vice versa,” he said. “Any such move will bring the people of Telangana out on the streets,” he added.

MIM has also expressed similar sentiments. Party general secretary Ahmad Pasha Quadri said that there was no such possibility. “We have always strongly opposed any such move,” said the MIM leader. MIM is the strongest political force in the city, representing seven of its assembly seats and the Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat as well for decades.

Congress, too, has ruled out any such possibility. “It is a hypothetical question,” said state Congress president N. Uttam Kumar Reddy.