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Boosted by Cong MLA exit, BJP looks to edge out TRS in key Telangana bypoll before 2023 battle

Komatireddy Raj Gopal Reddy is expected to join the BJP and contest the bypoll on its ticket.

Komatireddy Raj Gopal Reddy (Image: Facebook)

With Congress MLA from Telangana’s Munugode constituency, Komatireddy Raj Gopal Reddy, announcing his resignation from the party and as legislator, the stage is set for a crucial by-election ahead of the state Assembly polls slated for December 2023. Raj Gopal Reddy is expected to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and contest the bypoll on its ticket.

The outcome of the Munugode bypoll would indicate if the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) still holds sway in the state or whether the resurgent BJP has gained some more grounds and emerged as its formidable challenger. It would also determine whether the tottering Congress has lost its standing as the main Opposition in the state.

Reddy’s resignation has dealt a severe blow to the Congress which has continued to be in dire straits. In anticipation of his resignation, the BJP, on the other hand, has already made its first moves.

Telangana BJP president Bandi Sanjay Kumar launched the third phase of his “Praja Sangram Yatra” from the temple town of Yadadri, not far from Munugode, on Tuesday. Yadadri was earlier part of Nalgonda district where the Komatireddy brothers have considerable political influence. Raj Gopal Reddy’s elder brother Venkat Reddy, a senior Congress leader, is an MP from the Bhongir Lok Sabha constituency which was also part of Nalgonda before the reorganisation of the districts.

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While quitting the Congress, Raj Gopal Reddy said that only the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi can put an end to the family rule of Chief Minister and TRS supremo K Chandrashekar Rao, sending out clear signals that he would be joining the BJP soon.

“I cannot work with a man who abused Congress leaders including Sonia Gandhi a few years ago, but is now in a leadership position in Telangana Congress,” Reddy said referring to Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) president A Revanth Reddy, the MP from Malkajgiri constituency and ex-TDP leader, who was given importance, he charged, by the party over its loyalists despite being an “outsider”.

Raj Gopal Reddy also alleged that the TRS government had “stopped” allocating development funds for his constituency.

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Putting up a brave front, Revanth Reddy said the party was ready to contest the Munugode bypoll. “Congress is ready for the fight. The party is important and not the candidate, and we will throw in our might to win the seat,’’ he said. He also reportedly said a meeting of all senior Congress functionaries will be held on August 5 to discuss the party’s preparations for the bypoll. The party also announced the constitution of a Strategy and Campaign Committee for the bypoll under the leadership of ex-MP Madhu Yashki Goud.

The BJP camp believes that the bypoll would be an opportunity for party to prove that it has made significant inroads in the state ahead of the Assembly polls. “Doubts have been raised about BJP’s presence in the state. I think the result of the Munugode bypoll will prove that we have really gained a lot of support,” Bandi Sanjay said.

The BJP has expanded its footprint in Telangana since the 2019 general elections when it

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won 4 of the total 17 Lok Sabha seats in the state as against the TRS’s 9 and the Congress 3. The party had managed to get just 1 seat in the 2018 Assembly polls. Since the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, it has been consistently on the rise, registering an impressive performance in the 2020 Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections, bagging 48 of its 150 wards, besides wresting the Huzurabad and Dubbaka Assembly constituencies from the TRS in bypolls.

Raj Gopal Reddy’s defection is however likely to make the situation tricky for both the Congress and the BJP, given his brother Venkat Reddy’s close association with the Congress. While the brothers have denied any rift within the family, their conflicting political allegiances may create political complications for their respective parties.

“It is to be seen if Venkat Reddy who is TPCC’s star campaigner will campaign against his brother,” a Congress leader said. Some BJP leaders also wondered how Raj Gopal Reddy will take on the Congress while his brother campaigns for the grand old party. Venkat Reddy has refused to comment on it.

Raj Gopal Reddy, 55, made his electoral debut on the Congress ticket in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections when he won from Bhongir. In the 2014 polls, he lost this seat to the TRS candidate. In the 2018 Asembly elections, he won from Munugode seat. Venkat Reddy had been a four-time MLA from the Nalgonda constituency. While the brothers have their hold over a large region of the erstwhile Nalgonda district, the coming bypoll may splinter the political scene there as they are likely to be ranged against each other.

First published on: 03-08-2022 at 17:55 IST
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