Nalgonda Lok Sabha constituency, a traditional Congress stronghold, is set for a close contest between Telangana Congress chief N Uttam Kumar Reddy and Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s (TRS) debutant Vemireddy Narasimha Reddy, a businessman. However, Nalgonda is perhaps the only constituency in Telangana where the TRS is likely to face tough competition. In all other constituencies, the ruling party seems to have the upper hand. The main fight is with the Congress, with BJP still trying to make inroads in the state.
The election will not be a cakewalk for Uttam Kumar, who won from Huzurnagar constituency in the Assembly elections last December, either. “Although the TRS candidate is a novice, the party has gained ground in the Assembly elections. Except for Huzurnagar, the TRS won all the other six Assembly segments under Nalgonda Lok Sabha constituency,’’ said Krishna Reddy, a Congress campaign manager in Nalgonda.
In December 2018, Uttam Kumar won Huzurnagar by a margin of 7,466 votes against his TRS rival. For lack of a better candidate, the Congress chose to nominate him for the Nalgonda Lok Sabha seat. While the Nalgonda rice millers’ association has thrown its weight behind Uttam Kumar, the TRS has strong support in the Assembly seats of Devarakadra, Kodad, Miryalguda, Nagarjuna Sagar, Suryapet and Nalgonda town.
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“People vote differently for Assembly and Lok Sabha polls. Nalgonda will support me in this election,’’ said Uttam Kumar, campaigning at Penpahad mandal near Nalgonda.
However, Narasimha Reddy was confident that Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s work would help him win. “The pro-KCR mood which helped the party win in December still prevails,” he said.
The TRS swept the Assembly elections, and seems to be in a strong position to repeat the performance in the 17 Parliamentary constituencies going to polls on April 11. The TRS plans to win 16 of the 17 seats, while its ally MIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi will contest from the remaining seat of Hyderabad.
Confident of a sweep, TRS leaders have stopped mobilising people for public meetings. Sources said local leaders did not want to spend money on gathering a crowd as they expected TRS candidates to win easily.
In his speeches, KCR has been focusing on continuing his party’s work through welfare schemes. He has been asking people to give TRS 16 seats so it can be in a strong position to bargain with the Centre for additional funds and national status for various projects.
The Congress, meanwhile, is banking on Rahul Gandhi. The Congress president has addressed four meetings in the state in an effort to bolster the party, but in the absence of any strong local leaders the party seems to be adrift. Similarly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has addressed two rallies for the BJP, but they seem to have had little impact.
In 2014, when elections were held in undivided Andhra Pradesh, the TRS won 11 of the 17 seats in Telangana region. This time, planning a sweep, the TRS has started consolidating itself in districts where Opposition MLAs had won one or more Assembly seats.
In the state polls, the TRS won 88 seats, Congress 19, TDP 2, BJP 1, MIM 7 and others 2. Among the 31 districts of Telangana (increased to 33 after Assembly elections), the TRS won all Assembly seats in 18 districts. In seven districts, the TRS won all but one seat. That leaves the TRS to work on four or five Lok Sabha seats where the Congress can put up a fight. The slogan driving the TRS’ efforts is “16 geluddam, Delhi sadiddam” (win 16 and win Delhi), TRS working president K T Rama Rao said.
In Khammam district, the TRS won only one of the seven Assembly seats under Khammam Lok Sabha seat. The party now has in its fold two Congress MLAs, two from the TDP and one Independent. The TRS has fielded former TDP leader Nama Nageshwara Rao, who joined the TRS last month, while the Congress has fielded Renuka Chowdhury.
Khammam Lok Sabha seat was won by YSRCP in 2014 while TRS won the neighbouring Mahbubabad seat, parts of which are under Khammam and Mahbubabad districts. Congress MLA Rega Kantha Rao from Pinapaka in adjoining Bhadradri Kothagudem district has also joined TRS, strengthening the party in the area. The TRS had won both Assembly seats in Mahbubabad district and only one seat in Khammam district, while the Congress won 2, TDP 1 and Independent 1. TDP candidate Sandra Veera Venkataiah and Independent L Ramulu have already joined the TRS, and the entry of Congress MLA from Yellandu — in Mahbubabad Lok Sabha seat — has not only increased TRS’s chances of retaining Mahbubabad Lok Sabha seat but also of wresting Khammam. The TRS is also wooing Congress MLA from Chevella, Sabitha Indra Reddy. Her son Kartik Reddy, a Youth Congress leader, has already joined TRS.
In Nizamabad, MP K Kavitha could be up for a challenge as 179 farmers are in the fray apart from Congress’ Madhu Yashki Goud and BJP’s Dharmapuri Aravind. The TRS looks set to retain Adilabad, Peddapalli, Karimnagar, Zahirabad, Medak, Mahbubnagar, Warangal, Bhongir and Mahabubabad.