HYDERABAD: Sunday provided that much-needed insight to major political parties in the State to rework their strategies ahead of the 2023 Assembly elections. The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) had the last laugh with its candidate Kusukuntla Prabhakar Reddy crossing the rubicon in the Munugode Assembly byelection by 10,309 votes, in what turned out to be a neck-and-neck race against the BJP’s Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy till the last few rounds of counting.
Though it was a triumphant moment for the TRS, the saffron party’s success in crushing the Congress and claiming bragging rights as an alternative isn’t exactly the kind of result the pink party was hoping for. But for the failure of the Congress to retain its vote-bank or even secure its deposit, the TRS victory could have been much bigger.
Its ally, CPI’s State leader Palla Venkat Reddy, put it succinctly, “Rajagopal Reddy was defeated, but BJP won the bypoll” -- even as TRS leaders and cadre heaved a sigh of relief and took to celebrations.
The Munugode bypoll was necessitated due to the resignation of Rajagopal Reddy as a Congress MLA to join the BJP.
“It was the BJP strategy to make him resign and force a bypoll on the people of Munugode,” a TRS leader said, explaining that the saffron party wanted to wipe the Congress out as it had done in West Bengal and position itself as the main opposition.
The strategy worked, as the Congress votes shifted to the BJP along with Rajagopal. As a Congress candidate, he polled 99,239 votes in the 2018 elections. This time, he got 86,697 and Congress’ Palvai Sravanthi only 23,906 votes.
In his first reaction to the result, TRS working president KT Rama Rao conceded that his party should have won by a wider margin but pinned the blame for the same on the BJP’s money muscle. “They pumped in hundreds of crores from Delhi to buy votes... When we complained to the Election Commission, pressure was brought upon it not to act.
They deployed 15 companies of CRPF and dispatched 40 Income-Tax teams but could only manage to reduce our majority, not prevent our victory,” he said, terming the result a slap in the face of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Comfortable margin for TRS but not enough to be complacent
Post this bypoll, TRS president and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao could fine-tune his next moves to expand his Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) to other states. “The BRS registered its first victory over BJP,” claimed Panchayat Raj Minister E Dayakar Rao, hinting at the same.
However, Munugode is a wake up call for the TRS, as it secured a comfortable margin but not enough to be complacent. After all, it had deputed all its Ministers, a majority of MLAs and even corporators, not to forget that KCR himself addressed a couple of meetings in Munugode and yet couldn’t ge t a thumping majority. The BJP camp was visibly disappointed.
The recent farmhouse raid and the alleged attempt to poach TRS MLAs might have pulled it back in the race, BJP sources said and felt that a victory could have been a gamechanger giving it an edge heading into the Assembly elections next year. There is also the other factor that needs to be analysed as CPM State secretary Tammineni Veerabhadram pointed out, “The BJP got votes because of the popularity of Rajagopal Reddy.
There was no impact of BJP in the bypoll.” Nonetheless, the saffron party is not deflated yet. “Even if Assembly elections are held as per schedule in December, 2023, all our top leaders will focus their energies on Telangana. It will then become a problem for the TRS,” party sources said. The other aspect of this election is the role of the Left parties which have a traditional base in Nalgonda district.
To a query whether the Left parties and the TRS would continue the alliance beyond this bypoll, Rama Rao was evasive, saying it would be decided by elders of both the sides. During electioneering, Congress leaders exuded confidence that the party candidate would get no less than 40,000 votes in Munugode. But, Sravanthi lost her deposit, as she could not get one-sixth of the votes polled.
The Congress cadre were busy with Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra and could not concentrate on the bypoll. The party has to redraw its plans. This is a must as it faces an existential crisis.
Role of the Left parties
The other aspect of this election is the role of the Left parties which have a traditional base in Nalgonda district. To a query whether the Left parties and the TRS would continue the alliance beyond this Munugode byelection, KT Rama Rao was evasive, saying it would be decided by elders of both the sides. During electioneering, Congress leaders exuded confidence that the party candidate would get no less than 40,000 votes in Munugode. But, Sravanthi lost her deposit, as she could not get one-sixth of the votes polled