All thoughts, all moves and all eyes are on Huzurabad constituency in north Telangana. Ever since Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) decided to dump his minister for health Etala Rajender, he started planning for a bypoll. The moment he understood that he was going to be sent out of the party, Rajender launched his own campaign for reelection. It is a do or die battle for Rajender as well as, even more so, for KCR.
For KCR, it is part of the game he is used to playing since 2001 when he launched his party, TRS. He used to organize one mega meeting in six months to keep the movement for a separate state going. He used to deliberately cause by-elections by making his colleagues resign their seats in Assembly and Lok Sabha. He relied on mobilization of people in the name of elections and public meetings in time of peace and war. Public attention should be focused on one political event or other. Even after becoming chief minister, he depended more on creating election atmosphere rather than providing good governance. Generally politicians think of elections once in five years. But KCR thinks of elections throughout his political life-whether in power or opposition.
By-election, a creation of KCR
Huzurabad by-election, which is likely to be held before September 10, is a creation of KCR. If he was not happy with Rajender, he could have changed his portfolio or dropped him from the cabinet. Earlier one health minister was sacked and he did not leave the party. There was no need to force Etala out of the party. For KCR now, defeating Rajender is more important than anything else. Will KCR be able to achieve his objective?
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That Rajender is not a pushover is known to KCR more than anybody else. The former minister has been winning from Huzurabad constituency since 2009 when he was polled 38.82 per cent of valid votes. Then TRS contested in collaboration with the TDP. In the by-election in 2010, the Telangana sentiment was on the rise after the demise of YS Rajasekhara Reddy in September 2009, TRS candidate Etala Rajender was polled 67.36 percent votes. In 2014, he won by getting 61.44 percent of the votes polled. In 2018 elections, Etala had crossed one lakh mark by polling 1,04,840 votes in the total 1,76,723 votes (59.35%) polled. The Congress candidate Kaushik Reddy got 34.60 % of votes. The Congress had alliance with the TDP in 2018 elections. Peddi Reddy, then the TDP leader, could not contest as a TDP candidate since it was left for the TRS. Reddy shifted to the BJP with a hope to contest 2023 elections on BJP ticket. But Rajender joining the BJP disappointed him. The total number of votes in Huzurabad constituency is 2,05,282.
Rajender, TRS, both are important
The credit for winning from the same constituency for four times goes to Rajender. But the party also is important. It is both TRS vote and Rajender’s personal goodwill that helped Rajender win. TRS won Huzurabad even when Rejender was not a candidate. In 2008 by-election, the TRS candidate was Captain Lakshmikantha Rao, now a TRS Rajya Sabha Member, who polled 54, 547 votes as against K. Sudarshan Reddy of the Congress who got 32, 727 votes. In 2004 when the TRS and the Congress fought together against the TDP and the BJP combine, TRS candidate Lakshmikantha Rao got 81,121 votes while Peddi Reddy Enugula of the TDP was polled 36,451 votes. The TRS has its votes since 2004.
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On the contrary, the BJP has no presence in the constituency. It could not even get a good candidate to field so far. Getting a leader like Rajender to be its candidate gave a good boost to the BJP. Had Rajender opted for the Congress rather than the BJP, he would have given a better fight since the Congress has 30 percent of solid vote. Rajender would have added his own personal clout and his chances of winning would have been more than what they are now. He had his own reasons to join the BJP. At the time of his decision, the Congress was yet to appoint Revanth Reddy as the PCC president. War of statements by senior leaders against Revantha Reddy was going on. BJP, on the other hand, appeared cohesive and better organized in perfect tune with central leadership. The party is in power at the centre. This point was considered important by Rajender. His assumption that the BJP leadership would come to he is harassed by KCR could be the main factor that tilted the balance in BJP’s favour.
Rajender slugging it out
Having made the decision, Rajender has to depend upon his own steam and the efforts put up by the enthusiastic BJP leadership. He is doing padayatra on conclusion of which the president of the TS wing of the BJP, Bandi Sanjay would launch his own walkathon aimed at mobilizing people for Huzurabad by-election. Rajender is a popular and strong candidate, the best the BJP can think of. It is not yet known whether he would himself contest or put up his wife Jamuna who is from Reddy community which is vocal in the constituency. His influence among the OBCs and his wife’s connections with a dominant community might help the BJP candidate to fare well. The RSS has deployed its cadres and Union Home Minister Amit Shah had promised Rajender and Sanjay that he would travel from Delhi to Huzurabad to campaign for the BJP candidate.
KCR believes in setting a difficult target and working with single-minded focus to achieve it. He has taken up Huzurabad as a challenge. Dalits constitute 40,000 of the voters in Huzurabad constituency, which means 20 percent of the total electorate. KCR wanted to capture this vote bank. There is general antipathy between OBCs and Dalits. Most of the leaders from Dalit community are with TRS. Narsimhulu, a prominent Dalit minister in TDP government, who joined the BJP later had submitted his resignation to the saffron party and is about to join the TRS bandwagon. He called KCR the modern Ambedkar. As a Dalit leader he has importance, especially now in view of Huzurabad by-election. Peddi Reddy who won from Huzurabad in 1994 and 1999 as a TDP candidate had earlier joined the BJP. After Rajender was declared as the BJP candidate, an upset Peddi Reddy was expected to leave the saffron party and join the TRS.
KCR leaves no stone unturned
KCR, who always aims higher, thought he should leave no stone unturned in order to decisively beat Rajender. He admitted the president of Telangana unit of the TDP L Ramana and the Congress candidate in 2018 Kaushik Reddy into the TRS. He has been showering love and affection on the constituency. He thought of doing something more for Dalits. He held a day-long meeting with Dalit leaders of all parties, intellectuals and his cabinet colleagues. Soon after he said the government would give Rs.10 lakh grant to each Dalit family to enable them to become self-reliant. About one hundred beneficiaries would be selected from each constituency. The scheme is given the name of Dalit Bandhu on the lines of Rythu Bandhu a very successful welfare programme. Dalit Bandhu would be implemented in Huzurabad constituency as a pilot programme. KCR had no hesitation to declare that it would be first implemented in a constituency where by-election is due in less than one and a half month. He blatantly asked what is wrong if political mileage is taken by the ruling party. KCR said when Banda Srinivas, a Dalit from Huzurabad appointed as chairman of Dalit Development Corporation, met his on Saturday that his government would spend huge amount from Rs. 80,000 crore to one lakh crore of rupees on this scheme. The TRS leaders and cadres have been conducting milk bath (Ksheerabhishekam) to his photographs calling him a true representative of BR Ambedkar. Political observers say it is a command performance.
Srinivasa Yadav, minister for animal husbandry, will launch the second phase of distribution of sheep at Jammikunta, one of the four mandals in Huzurabad constituency, the other three being Huzurabad, Veenavanna and Kamalapuram. Chairpersons for two more corporations are likely to be appointed from Huzurunagar constituency, according to a report published by The Hindu. Rajender says all these appointments and welfare measures are happening because of him.
Has Revanth met Rajender?
Sources from Huzurabad constituency say Rajender has been attracting good, sympathetic crowds. BJP was the first party to start the campaign. PCC president Revanth Reddy is understood to have a secret meeting with Rajender along with Konda Visveswara Reddy. The rumour making rounds says Revanth had promised to put up a weak candidate on the Congress ticket so that the fight remains mainly between the TRS and the BJP. The meeting reportedly took place before Revanth left for Delhi. But if it were true, it is not in the interest of the Congress to help BJP win the seat whatever may be its relationship with the ruling TRS. If BJP wins Huzurabad, it would gain currency and ascendency at the cost of the Congress. After Revanth Reddy took over the PCC, he had imparted dynamism to the party which appears to be a certain second to TRS relegating the BJP to the third place. If the Congress helps BJP to win to defeat the common enemy, the TRS, the Congress would be the loser at the end of the day. Anyhow, it is only an unconfirmed news that Revanth Reddy met Rajender.
In spite of all the efforts, if the BJP wins Huzurnagar, TRS and KCR would be left high and dry. Problems would start sprouting. If, on the other hand, the BJP loses, heavens would not fall and it would be blamed on Rajender and KCR’s extraordinary effort bordering on illegal and undemocratic practices. It is KCR’s battle and KCR’s alone. He created a difficult situation and is fighting it out.
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Rajendra Garu won on TRS ticket only and TRS won in Huzurabad even without Etela earlier. BJP has no base in that constituency. The efforts of CM is single minded and TRS has no chance to lose the election. But the fight is interesting. Revanth has to fight it very seriously whether they win or not. In the beginning of his stint as PCC president.. he should not play petty tricks as his earlier boss used to do. Let us wait