Rare people get a distinction of unusual popularity after their release from jail for hate speech and PD act charges, in this category Hyderabad’s Goshamahal constituency MLA Thakur Raja Singh suddenly becomes a hinduvta poster boy personality despite court restrictions. This makes him more strong person than MLA and still he seeks the BJP ban acquittal which has become his hurdle.

BJP MLA Raja Singh represents the Goshamahal assembly constituency from atop a 52-foot-tall Hanuman monument in Hyderabad. Singh has been able to have a political trajectory that resembles the obscene Hindu religious symbols he has supported thanks to a clever blending of his outwardly manifested Hindu religiosity and the emotional element that he is the sole representative of the Lodha minority in Telangana.

Goshamahal in the Old City of Hyderabad has been brought into the national media’s spotlight by Raja Singh. His remarks against the Prophet Muhammad, which sparked a significant uproar and landed him in jail, are typical of the words and issues he has utilised to catch the public’s attention.

He has been ideologically inclined towards the BJP, but has always had an uneasy relationship with the local leadership. Since joining the BJP in 2014, he has left the party thrice on the grounds that the BJP has not been doing enough for the Hindus. Given his connection to Goud, he actually participated in party activities for the Congress party for a limited period.However, he entered electoral politics in 2009 with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), when he was given a ticket to run from the Mangalhat division in the Hyderabad city body elections (which falls under the Goshamahal Assembly segment). His relationship with the then-Congress MLA for Goshamahal, Mukesh Goud, in particular, assisted him in learning the ins and outs of politics.

Although Goud was the Goshamahal MLA during his term as a corporator from Mangalhat (2009–2014), he was able to solidify his position and negotiate the political environment in Hyderabad’s Old City, where the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) rules. He joined the BJP in advance of the 2014 Telangana Assembly elections at the urging of Mettu Vaikuntam of the saffron party, who held the office of Goshmahal division corporator from 2009 to 2014.

Goud, the current MLA, was a strong contender but lost to Singh. Goud only managed to garner 45,964 votes, compared to Singh’s 92,757 total. From the more than 100 seats that the BJP had run for in the 119-member Telangana legislative assembly, Singh was one of the five successful candidates. In the seven assembly districts that make up Asaduddin Owasisi’s Hyderabad parliamentary district, he was and still is the only non-AIMIM MLA.

Goshamahal: An unusual demographic Constituency

Goshamahal has a large Muslim population, as well as a sizable migrant population from Gujarat and the north of India. Singh’s Lodha group became the dominant community in the area after it was cut out of the former Maharaj Ganj assembly seat in 2008. Along with Muslim residents, the neighbourhoods within its boundaries of Dhoolpet, Afzal Gunj, Sultan Bazaar, Afzal Gunj, and Moazzam Jahi Market have a sizable migrant population from Gujarat and the north of India.Singh is a member of the Lodha group, which makes up the majority of the migrant population of Goshamahal.

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He moved his former mentor Goud into third place after soundly defeating Prem Singh Rathore of the TRS. He was the sole BJP candidate to win, and since then, his political standing has increased significantly. He naturally rose to the position of party floor leader in the Telangana assembly, which had previously been occupied by eminent figures like K.Laxman and G. Kishan Reddy (now a minister in the Union) (now, a Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh).

Singh continued to serve as the BJP’s floor leader in the assembly up until his suspension from the party following the remarks about the Prophet, despite the party now having three legislators in the Assembly in the form of Raghunandan Rao and Etala Rajendar, who are comparatively better positioned in state politics and have had a longer political career than Singh.

Goshamahal still struggles with a lack of basic utilities including roads, drinking water, and sanitation despite Singh’s repeated promises to his voters that he would bring about progress.

According to residents The Wire spoke with, the most urgent issue in the constituency is the absence of alternatives to gudumba (illegal alcohol) for the scores of people who relied on it until the TRS administration outlawed it in 2016. Not only had the selling of gudumba caused a number of deaths, it had also sparked the growth of a criminal underworld and an ecosystem whose tendrils had reached into politicians.

Due of its sway, Dhoolpet and the surrounding regions have the dubious distinction of being Hyderabad’s seedy underbelly, notorious for gudumba and drug dealing. Several localities near Dhoolpet are still negatively impacted by the stigma and infamy. Several local teenagers assert that employers had second thoughts about hiring them. To tide over this stigma, many youngsters do not prefer mentioning Dhoolpet in their job applications.

On the other hand, there are between 8,000 and 10,000 idol manufacturers in Goshamahal, especially in Dhoolpet. They produce Ganesh or Durga Mata idols according to the season, which they distribute throughout two Telugu states, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, as well as neighbouring areas like Maharashtra and Karnataka. Additionally, they support themselves by producing crackers for Diwali, manja (string) for Sankranti, and colours for Holi. Since the wages of artisans and other migrant workers from northern states, who are hired to handle the high volume of work during peak seasons, are determined solely by market demand, the majority of these seasonal businesses are unregulated.

Many people are left financially stranded because the rehabilitation package given by the state government to those participating in the illegal gudumba industry did not include the benefits of alternative economic options, like loans and other government welfare schemes.

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The idol-making industry, which offers thousands of locals employment prospects, is likewise plagued by uncertainty. The state government develops rules every year to deter the creation of idols using plaster of paris (PoP). Even this year, associations for idol creators had to file a case with the high court to get the restriction on the use of PoP in idol production repealed. The state government had imposed severe laws prohibiting the use of PoP in accordance with directives from the Union Environment Ministry.

Since COVID-19 had a significant negative impact on our business the previous two years, we had high hopes for a successful Ganesh Chaturthi this year. But the restrictions on the use of PoP only made matters worse. Every leader we could think of, including our MLA, had heard our case, yet nothing had changed. Finally, we had to knock on the high court’s doors. They previously outlawed the kaala dhanda (dark trade of Gudumba), and now they forbid us from making a living with safedh dhanda (white business, referring to the colour of PoP). Where do we go next to get food for our families? Narsingh, one of the Dhoolpet idol makers, laments.

Droning on about developmental work

Singh never considered development and livelihood issues in his politics, according to local workers and leaders. More than 75 first information reports (FIRs) have been filed against him, the majority of them centred on hate speech. He insists that during Hanuman Jayanthi and Ganesh Chathurthi, massive people march through his district from the Akashpuri Hanuman Temple, which houses the 52-foot-tall Hanuman statue.

Thus, developmental issues are no longer a priority in his politics. When questioned about the lack of development work in his district, Singh frequently claimed that the TRS administration was blocking funding out of spite in order to discredit him.

With such utterances, he [Singh] recognised that he [Singh] cannot offer development to the constituency, according to former TRS corporator Parameshwari Singh Lodha. He is using the TRS administration to obscure his mistakes. Although he has been a corporator and an MLA for this constituency for the past 15 years, he has never given any thought to growth. His main concern has always been to mislead voters by focusing on sensitive matters like religion.

She claims Singh has consistently found a method to obstruct the development projects the TRS government wished to carry out. In order to enlarge the Purnapool to Boiguda Kaman arterial route, for instance, the government wanted to purchase land. The government provided those with compensation in the form of Rs 90,000 per square yard.

The government’s compensation package is at least twice as expensive as the market rate. However, Raja Singh requested compensation of Rs. 9 lakh per square yard in Dhoolpet in a letter to the chief city planner. Even in Central Delhi, there is no such rate. His unreasonable and unattainable demands are frequently the cause of Goshamahal’s lack of progress.

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Locals claim that Singh’s “hypocrisy” in claiming to be the “protector” of cows is exposed by the existence of 13–14 beef shops close to his home in Dhoolpet. They claim that he had the opportunity to protest those slaughterhouses but never did.

“He is just being hypocritical. His self-styled label of cow protector and his animosity towards Muslims are purely political in nature to misguide people in the name of religion. There are hardly any cows left in the gaushalas he claims to have been taking care of. He receives so much money in donations for them, but we only see cows starving there without anything to eat,” alleges Parameshwari Singh.

While several development issues remain in the constituency, members of the Lodha Kshatriya Sadar Panchayat – a local caste grouping which commands influence over the community – say they back Singh, for he is the lone representative of the community in the state.

“People even have negative things to say about [Narendra] Modi. Does that mean he is not delivering? It is the same here in Goshamahal. Raja Singh will definitely win if there is an election today. We will ensure that he will. The samaj (community) is fully behind Raja Singh,” says Virender Singh, acting president of the grouping.

According to Amar Singh, Raja Singh’s win in the upcoming elections is imminent despite the fact that he did not deliver. “He may not have delivered in the last two terms. But that is ghar ka maamla (it is a matter within the community). We will settle it amongst us. He has stood against those who humiliated our Hindu gods and goddesses.”

Kamtaprasad Tiwari, the priest of Akashpuri temple, says Singh is the protector of the Hindu religion and the only champion of the Hindu cause in Telangana. He says Singh is being unjustly condemned only because he is exposing the “other side”, referring to the Muslim community.

In response to questions about Singh’s detention and the TRS administration’s approval of Munawar Faruqui’s performance in Hyderabad, Tiwari asserts, “Chief minister KCR was good at one point. However, the dharm has vanished from his spirit as a result of his affiliation with the opposite side [AIMIM]. The teeka is never the focus.

As a result of the PD Act and the Prophet comments case, Singh is currently free and out of jail on bail. Few people consider his inciting and abusive remarks to be unwarranted. The recent Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations, where his supporters chanted, “Jail kaa taala kole gaa, sher bahar niklega (The jail’s lock will be open and the Tiger will be out),” and the posters calling for his release that litter the winding lanes of Goshamahal are evidence of the wide-ranging support he still enjoys. #KhabarLive #hydnews #hydlive