TRS leader K Kavitha has said the BJP's campaign was aggressive and confused voters
Telangana's ruling party - the Telangana Rashtra Samiti - may have emerged as the largest party in the Hyderabad municipal election, but the BJP's gains mean it will likely need support from Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM when the time comes to elect a new mayor.
However, senior TRS leader K Kavitha told NDTV in an exclusive interview: "There is still some time for that. We will discuss and then come to a decision."
Ms Kavitha, who is also Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao's daughter, said that while the result of Tuesday's election called for "some introspection" and was lower than the party's expectation, she pointed out the TRS had lost at least a dozen wards by very low margins.
"The BJP paraded leaders and confused voters. it is the BJP tactic to go aggressive everywhere. We now understand BJP tactics. We will make sure we are one step ahead in 2023," she said, adding, "We are not a weak party. We are a well-organised party with 60 lakh members and will fight back to make sure we are one step ahead in 2023 (assembly elections)".
"We have managed to put a stop to the BJP emerging as the largest party. The rest of the country can learn from the TRS. Hyderabad has shown the way to stop the BJP," Ms Kavitha added.
The TRS won 55 of 150 wards in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) election. The BJP got 48 and the AIMIM retained its 44 seats.
In the previous election the TRS scored 99 and the BJP only four. The TRS suffered a 40 per cent drop from its 2016 haul, and will be looking over its shoulders with state polls due in three years.
Admitting the TRS had fallen short of its expectations, K Kavitha, however, pointed out that despite the BJP's campaign it had successfully battled anti-incumbency to remain the largest party.
"The TRS stood its ground and is still the largest party. Some introspection is needed... we lost closely in a dozen seats, but we have no hurry to elect a mayor. We have one month still," she said.
In a deeply polarising campaign the BJP had unleashed heavyweights - Union Home Minister Amit Shah and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath - who focused on Pakistan, the Hindu-Muslim narrative and whether Hyderabad should change its name to Bhagyanagar.
The campaign also focused on what the BJP called an "unholy alliance" between the TRS and the AIMIM. The two parties, although not officially partners, were friendly. That unofficial friendship will now likely to be made official, giving the BJP more ammunition ahead of the state elections.
Much of the BJP's gains came from flood-hit parts of Hyderabad, with the party tapping into public anger over the alleged mishandling of flood relief.
K Kavitha hit back at the suggestion the TRS could have done more to help voters there, saying the state had received "no help from the BJP government (at the centre) during floods".
"TRS managed to give relief even during the coronavirus pandemic. (But) the BJP stopped our relief... promised Rs 25,000 (compensation). Will central leaders now help Hyderabad?" she asked.