Despite winning two seats that boosted morale, the voting trend in election to two MLC seats rang serious warning bells to ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). Main reason for the win is assessed to be the multiple splitting of anti-TRS votes. The TRS victory also can be attributed to huge popularity of independent candidates like Mallanna, Prof Nageshwar and Prof Kodanda Ram, who polled huge number of votes splitting the opposition strength.
But the loss of independents in this single transferable and preferential voting indicates the defeat of ‘independence’ which does not augur well for democracy. In today’s situation money, power and misrepresentation contribute to victory of candidates in first-past-the-post system of major elections. Oversized ballot papers not only show big list of independent candidates, but also indicate that it was political strategy to confuse voters that worked to an extent.
Impact of invalid votes
Perhaps the nearest rival might have lost because of ‘invalid’ votes. For instance, in Hyderabad-Ranga Reddy-Mahabubnagar graduates’ constituency, 21,309 out of a total number of 3,58,348 votes polled, were declared invalid. Another surprising point is that out of 93 contestants, only four contestants secured more votes than the invalid votes. This means all the remaining 89 candidates got lesser number of votes. The story is almost same in Khammam-Warangal-Nalgonda graduates’ constituency, where out of 3,86,302 votes polled, 21,636 votes were declared invalid. Only four out of 71 contestants, scored more than the invalid votes and, all of them got far below this number.
Many Independents : were they truly Independent?
In two MLC seats, more than 150 independents contested elections in Telangana, in which ruling TRS won with required majority, though not on the strength of first preferential votes. Why there were so many independents in the fray? Did they contest on their own, seriously or some of them were chosen for the reasons of caste or the similarity of name?
BJP’s Rao has almost won
There are two most powerful contestants from two ruling parties in each seat. As BJP candidate at Mahabubnagar-RangaReddy-Hyderabad Graduates’ Constituency, N Ramachander Rao, a reputed lawyer, stood strong as a potential candidate, who won this seat 6 years ago, has left no stone unturned. He was confronted by TRS candidate S Vani Devi, daughter of former PM P V Narasimharao, with comprehensive strategies from the party leaders. The fight was between two ruling parties – the BJP and TRS. In spite of his popularity as strong critique of TRS administration, and massive enrolment of graduate voters in advance followed by motivating them to vote on the poll day Ramachander Rao was lagging behind in first preference votes also.
Unlike the voter in general constituency, who has to give only one vote to any of the candidates, a graduate voter to elect his MLC can vote all the candidates in field indicating his preference to each. But more than a lakh of voters left the ballots after ticking one candidate. Those ballots where no second preference is exercised is called exhausted papers. In all there were 1,47,700 exhausted ballot papers.
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None won by first preference
To win, a candidate shall get at least one vote over and above the 50% mark of the total valid ballots polled. The total number of valid ballots being 3,37,039, the winner’s mark was fixed at 1,68,520 votes.Vani Devi got 1.12 lakh first preference votes, while Rao got 1.04 lakh. G. Chinna Reddy (Congress) and former MLC from this seat K. Nageshwar (Independent) too, were eliminated from the fourth and third positions. During the other elimination rounds, 91 out of the total 93 candidates were removed from the contest, except the top two fighters. As the counting went on with the process of elimination, contestants with the lowest polled first preference votes were removed from the race gradually, and their second preference votes were apportioned to the respective candidates. Even after eliminating 91 candidates, none got required votes. Hence finally Rao too was eliminated. Among 1.04 lakh voters of Rao, around 40,000 gave second preference to Vani, that validated TRS victory. Vani Devi secured in all 1,89,339 votes, after all the candidates except her had been eliminated. Finally, Vani Devi secured a majority of 11,703 votes over Rao. Her total score including first and second preference ballots, stoodat 1,49,269 votes, and BJP’s Ramchander Rao stopped at 1,37,566. In a fierce battle having 64 per cent votes polled, the margin of victory is not significant. This fight perhaps indicates the character of tomorrow’s electoral battles. Ramachander Rao can rightly feel that BJP has almost won this battle!
Does this result indicate any?
A proper analysis of strength of the parties among the people, based on this poll is not possible because of the peculiar method of voting, where the single vote of voter can get transferred to other candidate based on the choice of voter shown in preferences. Forty thousand voters of Rao preferring Vani after him is an interesting factor which makes the assessment of voters’ mood difficult. This means voters wanted both TRS and BJP.
Most powerful among others was K. Nageshwar, who won this seat twice earlier. He polled 53,610 first preference votes, which might have spoiled the prospects of BJP and delayed the win of TRS.
In general elections it is not possible for an independent without any political support to come to a level of challenging the top two fighters. Nageshwar in fact was supported by left parties and huge mass of fans who like his analysis on his you tube channel.
Teenmar Mallanna: the hero
Teenmar Mallanna, an anchor with local Telangana accent on a Telugu TV Channel, has emerged as a heart winner of Warangal-Khammam-Nalgonda district graduates’ constituency. He won the most likes in social media. There is a strong suspicion that BJP cadre extended clandestine support to Mallanna, though it fielded its official candidate Premendar Reddy. But Mallanna pulled huge support from graduates.
Though sitting TRS MLC Palla Rajeshwar Reddy retained his seat with emphatic win, he also had to depend on second preference votes from 69 eliminated candidates, out of a long list of candidates. It was expected that Professor Kodandaram, Convenor of Joint Action Committee that spearheaded movement for Telangana State very effectively, would give a tough fight to Reddy. But it was Naveen, who is popular as Teenmar Mallanna who closely chased the winner till the end. When 69th candidate Kodanda Ram was eliminated, and his second preference votes for Reddy were added, the TRS victory was finalised. Reddy registered a majority of 12,806 votes over his immediate contender Teenmar Mallanna.
All through, Reddy was leading and he secured 1,10, 840 first preference votes in the seven phases of counting. Mallanna got 83,290 and M. Kodandaram got 70,072. The finality was reached on fourth day of counting when 70th round was completed. Reddy gained 29,128 votes and Mallana secured 40,901 second preference votes from Kodandaram’s ballot papers. Mallanna’s surge stopped at 1,49,005 votes while Reddy emerged victorious with a total 1,61,811 votes.
Senior Journalist P Yadagiri considered that Mallanna has won the election morally while TRS candidate has formally got elected. He said Mallanna has surpassed Kodandaram in voter’s support because the people admired his strong criticism of KCR’s family and TRS government. Kodandaram was also known for his courageous stand against the TRS, he was soft and using refined language.
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BJP says TRS won by manipulation
BJP blamed TRS alleging manipulation while Mallanna believed that his win was stopped by fake votes and spending of Rs 100 crore by the sitting legislator. Mallanna pledged to take up a 6,000-km padayatra across the State to expose the political parties who are not working for Telangana. He referred to the statement of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar which said, “Political power is the master key to open the doors of progress and self-respect” and fight for the political power. Mallanna polled around 1.5 lakh while Kodandaram’s strength crossed one lakh mark, and Nageshwar got more than 53 thousand votes. There is a scope for independent candidates to win in this process of single transferable preferential voting for MLCs. But TRS and BJP staked their power and resources. Voters were paid through google pay, vouchers and various other new means by the rich political parties while the independents totally depended on their personal popularity. At least one independent should have won the seat to establish that educated voters choose differently their representatives to the elders’ upper house.
Would Mallanna contest Sagar bypoll?
Sadly, a voter committed suicide because of frustration that Mallanna did not win, and another attempted suicide disappointed by Kodandaram’s defeat. There were huge speculations that Mallanna will contest by-election in Nagarjuna Sagar Assembly constituency and would certainly win. But Mallanna over social media appealed not to believe it.
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BJP state president and MP Bandi Sanjay questioned KCR for using PV Narasimha Rao’s photo in his campaign and alleged to have misused official power, induced, or threatened or influenced government employees. He said that this election proved that 70 per cent voters opposed the TRS.
The TRS knew it. That is why it adopted all strategies to fight the growing opposition. It did not want to lose like it did in Dubbaka by-election and Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation Polls. It may not be easy for TRS to retain power, but at the same time, the opposition also could find it difficult to face the strategic TRS.