Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao will both unfurl the national flag in Hyderabad on Saturday in separate "September 17" celebrations, in what is building up to be a day of intense and competitive political activity in the state.
The Centre will, for the first time, celebrate September 17 as "Hyderabad Liberation Day". The former Hyderabad State under the Nizam merged with the Indian Union on this day, more than a year after India's Independence.
The Telangana government has planned what it calls the "Telangana Unity Day" and has announced three-day festivities. It is an important message from Mr Rao or KCR, who has been rallying opposition parties to take on the BJP in the 2024 national election. He and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) view the Centre's celebrations with suspicion, calling them in line with the BJP's "divisive agenda".
Union Home Minister Amit Shah will headline the Centre's celebrations at the Army Parade Ground in Secunderabad. Invites have gone to the Chief Ministers of two neighbouring states where the BJP is in power - Karnataka and Maharashtra. Basavaraj Bommai and Eknath Shinde will both attend the function. Both states include parts ceded from the former Hyderabad state.
The Home Minister will land tonight in Hyderabad for his day-long visit. BJP leaders point out that in 1948, the first Home Minister of India, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel had unfurled the national flag after Hyderabad acceded to India.
Mr Shah will also participate in another event, called the "Sewa karyakram", to mark Prime Minister Narendra Modi's birthday.
The BJP has tagged yearlong celebrations of "Hyderabad's Liberation" to the central government's ongoing "Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav" to mark 75 years of Independence.
Telangana's KCR has also been invited too. But he has other plans. He will be at Public Gardens for his government's official function to mark National Integration Day.
Separate celebrations by the Centre and the state takes competitive politics to a new level. Both Amit Shah and KCR will address public rallies.
AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi had also written to the Centre and the state government asking for the day to be celebrated as "National Integration Day". The Hyderabad MP will hoist the national flag and flag off a "Tiranga bike rally".
Asked whether he would attend any of tomorrow's events, Mr Owaisi said "only if they call it National Integration Day".
Why didn't the AIMIM ever celebrate the day earlier, Mr Owaisi was asked. "The central government should be asked the same question," he retorted. The AIMIM leader said both Hindus and Muslims in the former Nizam state had wanted to accede to a "democratic, secular Indian Republic".
KCR's party questions why the BJP is not celebrating the integration of Gujarat's Junagadh in India on November 9, 1947, and wants to focus only on Hyderabad.
The BJP has been politically aggressive in Telangana. In 2018, the party won only one assembly seat in state elections, but it subsequently won three byelections and also local body polls in Hyderabad. The party sees a huge political opportunity in Telangana, with a weakened Congress unable to challenge the TRS strongly.