The result of Dubbaka assembly byelection has surprised me as it must have many others. I did not expect the BJP to win. In other words, I did not expect the TRS to lose. BJP candidate Raghunandan Rao worked very hard to improve upon his 2018 show. I thought he would stand in the second position. He performed far better than I had expected. It is a sweet revenge on the TRS which has defeated him twice earlier.
The campaign for the ruling TRS was spearheaded by Finance Minister T. Harish Rao. A seasoned campaigner, Harish did not leave any stone unturned. He represents the neighbouring Siddipet constituency and he was equally popular in Dubbaka.
Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) and his son and acting president of TRS K. Taraka Rama Rao (KTR) kept away from Dubbaka as they must have been confident that Harish was capable of delivering the seat. The TRS candidate,Solipeta Sujatha, wife of S. Ramalinga Reddy whose death had caused the by-poll, was expected to create a sympathy wave in her favour. Reddy had a fairly good image in the constituency. Moreover, Harish Rao never lost any election in which he had campaigned. Dubbaka is part of the old Medak district considered the pocket-borough of KCR and Harish Rao. Ruling parties generally win by-elections. These were the reasons why I thought the TRS candidate would not lose.
Also Read: Dubbaka byelection: BJP springs a surprise
What I had not reckoned with was the tenacity of Telangana BJP leaders and the silent work done by the RSS pracharaks who landed in Dubbaka soon after the demise of the sitting MLA. Another factor was the intensity of anti-incumbency sentiment. This was the second test to the TRS dispensation after a remarkable win in the 2018 assembly elections.
Right lessons not learnt
The first sign was available when the opposition parties had won eight seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP had got four, the Congress three and the MIM one. It was a bolt from the blue for the TRS which had won the assembly elections hands down. The TRS did not analyse properly either its victory in 2018 or the setback in 2019. It was perhaps TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu’s misadventure of canvassing in Khammam district and Hyderabad that had provided the theme for TRS campaign. It was only after Naidu had entered the scene that KCR’s campaign had got the trajectory when he asked the voters to decide whether they wanted to be ruled from Amaravati by remote control or directly from Hyderabad. But for Chandrababu Naidu the Congress would have got a good number of seats. And the TRS would have got remarkably less number of seats.
It is very important for a political party to understand why it won or lost and why it’s rival had won or lost. Had the TRS leadership (read KCR) understood the victory in assembly elections and setback in the Lok Sabha polls, the party could have been more carefully not only in planning for the campaign but also in overall conduct of the government.
Congress performance not convincing
The number of votes got by the Congress candidate are not convincing. The party which was in second position in 2018 could have ended up in a dignified third slot. Was there some sort of understanding between the BJP and the Congress leaders to transfer votes in order to defeat the TRS candidate to teach a lesson to the ruling party leadership? This aspect was discussed by some people.
The task ahead
KTR told the media on Tuesday that his party would analyse the result and draw suitable lessons. One would sympathise with Harish Rao who has been the trump card of the ruling party in any election campaign. He campaigned and won seats in a number of byelections even in South Telangana where the party is relatively weak. He too must have underestimated the antipathy towards the government. Nobody finds fault with the style and substance of the leadership provided by the finance minister. KCR has to take note of the huge anti-incumbency sentiment and think of remedial measures.
The BJP, as expected, is roaring. Bandi Sanjay, the State president of the party, said his party would capture power in the next elections. Raghunandan Rao, the hero who has been fighting for the seat since 2014, is the happiest person. He made the party proud. He is going to play an important role in his party’s efforts to capture power in the second South Indian State after Karnataka.
The question of the main challenger to the BJP in the 2023 elections has been settled. It is going to be an aggressive BJP, unless the Congress under the leadership of its AICC in-charge Manickam Tagore mounts an extraordinary campaign to retrieve the lost ground. Even today, the Congress has its votes spread all over Telangana while the BJP had its strength in pockets of North Telangana. But the saffron party has more committed leaders and the selfless services of the RSS pracharaks. The three main parties would be under watch for their preparations and strategies for the next assembly polls.