A hotbed of communal politics for decades, Andhra Pradesh capital Hyderabad is once again playing along the same lines. And the re-entry of All India Majlis-e-Itehadul-Muslimeen chief Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi in the poll fray as sitting MP, leaves nothing in doubt.
The seat bears testimony to a continuing saga of Owaisi vs BJP political battle for about two decades, in which Owaisi has always emerged victorious so far. He has been undisputed leader of the constituency's muslims since 1984.
Cashing in on the communal divide with more than 62% Muslim voters, Owaisi has won seat for five times in a row so far, defeating even the high-profile present BJP chief M Venkaiah Naidu in 1996. But he faces a stiff challenge from BJP-TDP combine this time.
Owaisi had defeated his old rival Baddam Bal Reddy by 60,821 votes in 1999 in a 7-cornered contest. He had defeated Reddy in 1998 by 71612 votes. In 1996, BJP fielded its stalwart M Venkaiah Naidu but he too was defeated by Owaisi by 73,273 votes.
In 1991, Baddam Bal Reddy gave Owaisi a scare polling 415,000 votes in 1991. Owaisi got 454,000 votes to squeeze past in the election. In 1989, Owaisi drubbed Teegala Krishna Reddy of TDP by 133078 votes.
The communal divide was not substantial till Owaisi started contesting elections. In 1984, he bagged 222,000 votes defeating K Prabhakar Reddy, who was an Independent candidate.
While Muslim voters in Chadrayangutta, Charminar and Yakutpura assembly segments -- who can tilt the balance in anybody's favour -- are solidly behind Owaisi, Reddy is counting on the Hindu votes in Chevella, Karwan, Tandur and Vikarabad areas.
A communal divide has not always existed in the constituency. In 1952, Ahmed Mohiuddin of Congress bagged the seat defeating Makhdoom Mohiudddin of Progressive Democratic Front. In 1957, Vinayak Rao of Congress got elected whereas the seat went to GS Melkote of Congress in 1962 when he defeated his nearest Independent rival V Ramachandra Rao. Melkote won the seat in 1971 election too, defeating Badruddin Tyabji.
Since 1984, Owaisi has been the leader of the city's Muslims, though he had faced a challenge from Amanullah Khan who rebelled against his alleged autocratic functioning and nepotism.
The Majlis Bacho Tahreek which Amanullah Khan formed after he split with the MIM reduced the MIM's strength in the state assembly to just one in the 1994 assembly election. Amanullah Khan threatened to cut Owaisi down to size by contesting against him in the 1996 general election. But the electorate rebuffed him. He even lost his deposit.