Telangana BJP president Bandi Sanjay on Thursday, July 8, announced that he would expand and build the Bhagyalakshmi temple -- considered an unauthorised structure by the Archaeological Survey of India -- abutting the historical monument Charminar, if the BJP comes to power. Presently, the temple is in a make-shift tent with scaffoldings. The Telangana BJP president said, “Immediately after coming to power in the state as we have promised to install the 125-feet statue of Baba Saheb Ambedkar, along with that we will also build a beautiful temple at the present Bhagyalakshmi temple.” Sanjay claimed that the temple was earlier a bigger structure and was downsized later.
“Shouldn’t we restore the temple to its former glory?” the BJP president asked enthusiastic party members at the BJP Hyderabad Central District Executive Meeting. Sanjay also made hateful remarks against the Rohingya refugees in Hyderabad likening them with “terrorists.” “Old City (Hyderabad) has become a shelter for terrorists and Rohingyas. When we ask the Chief Minister to kick out the Rohingyas, we are dubbed as a communal party. Then what should we call the AIMIM party which is aiding them?” Sanjay said.
The Archaeological Survey of India, considers the temple as an ‘illegal structure’, which came into existence post 1959, following the merger of Hyderabad State with the Union of India. The disputed temple located in Charminar, a predominantly Muslim area, has become a weapon in the BJP’s arsenal to consolidate the Hindu votes. The Hindu newspaper published two pictures in 2012 showing the Charminar with and without the temple next to it and inferred that the temple could not have been more than 60 years old. The BJP however maintains that the temple predates the construction of Charminar (built in 1591) as part of their political campaign. Along with this, to capture Hyderabad and Telangana eventually, the right-wing party also claims that the city’s historic name is Bhagyanagar. In fact, the BJP desists from using Hyderabad in their official communication.
During last year’s heavily polarized Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation election, the city saw the visit of a battery of several BJP national leaders including Home Minister Amit Shah. Amit Shah began his campaign from the temple, which falls under the constituency of Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi of the AIMIM -- a clear sign of a direct confrontation between the BJP, a right-wing party and AIMIM, a Muslim party. Other leaders who participated in the BJP campaign include BJP national president JP Nadda, Bengaluru South MP Tejasvi Surya, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, former Union minister Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister Smriti Irani and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
The communally charged campaign reaped benefits to the BJP. From being a non-entity in the previous 2016 Municipal elections it went on to win 46 out of the 150 divisions.