November 2, 2021 10:16:02 pm
In Telangana’s Huzurabad Assembly bypoll, Eatala Rajender triumphed over his former party Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) with a thumping majority of 23,855 votes, according to the ECI website.
Rajender’s win as its candidate has meant a turnaround for the BJP, which had polled fewer votes than the NOTA option in the 2018 Assembly elections. In this bypoll, the saffron party secured a 51.96 per cent share, getting 1,07,022 votes. TRS nominee Gellu Srinivas Yadav polled 83,167 votes. The Congress, which nominated NSUI state president Balmoor Venkat, polled only 3,014 votes and lost its deposit.
The results of the by-election, which was being seen as a battle of prestige between Rajender and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, have raised the BJP’s hopes of emerging as the main challenger to the ruling TRS in the upcoming Assembly polls in December 2023.
The bypoll was necessitated after Rajender resigned as MLA and joined the BJP in June. His decision to quit the TRS, a party he had served for nearly two decades, came after he was dropped from the state cabinet, where he was the Health Minister, in the wake of allegations of land grabbing by a company owned by his family.
While BJP had pinned its hopes on the popularity of Rajender, who has represented the constituency for four terms between 2009 and 2021, the TRS was relying on the various welfare schemes of the government.
With the one-sided result, questions are being raised on the ambitious Dalit Bandhu scheme, which extends an assistance of Rs 10 lakh via direct benefit transfer to Dalit families across the state to help them start a business. The scheme was announced in Huzurabad on August 16.
Incidentally, the BJP secured more votes than TRS in Shalapally village, from where the Dalit Bandhu scheme was launched by the CM. Similarly, BJP outperformed TRS by 191 votes in Himmatnagar village, which is home to TRS candidate Gellu Srinivas Yadav.
Though TRS started with a massive lead during the counting of postal ballots, Rajender maintained an edge from round 1. By round five, his lead had crossed 2,000 votes. With initial trends in its favour, BJP’s state unit president Bandi Sanjay told reporters that Rajender was going to win with a thumping majority. “The results will be a fitting lesson to the arrogance and money power of TRS,” he said, adding that the people have “lost faith” in CM Rao. Of all the 22 rounds, TRS could gain a lead only in two rounds.
In the evening, Union Tourism Minister G Kishen Reddy, while congratulating Rajender, said people stood by the right candidate and the right party “despite the TRS abusing the state machinery”. He called the people’s mandate a vote against the “injustice and arrogance” displayed by TRS.
TRS working president and Minister KT Rama Rao, in his first response to the election result, said the party in the past 20 years had seen many highs and lows and that this election result would not be of much consequence.
While the TRS campaign in Huzurabad was led by Ministers T Harish Rao, Gangula Kamalakar, and Koppula Eshwar along with other leaders, CM Rao and KTR had stayed away.
Meanwhile, Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee president Anumula Revanth Reddy took full responsibility for the party’s defeat.
The Congress lost its ground despite having a cadre base in the region. During the December 2018 polls, Congress had secured over 60,000 votes in Huzurabad. The All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge for Telangana, Manickam Tagore, said the state unit’s political affairs committee will meet on Wednesday to discuss the dismal performance.
As many as 30 candidates had been in the fray for the bypoll, which saw a turnout of 86.6 per cent on October 30, with as many as 2,05,965 voters exercising their franchise. The counting of votes began at 8 am at SRR Government Degree College in Karimnagar on Tuesday.
TRS has a brute majority of 103 members in the 119-member State Legislative Assembly. With Rajender’s victory, BJP now has three MLAs. This is the second defeat for TRS in four by-elections held since the last Assembly polls. While the ruling party’s defeat in Dubbak was by a narrow margin of 1,079 votes, the defeat in Huzurabad is a blow.
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