Normally, a by-election is a lacklustre event. However, the Huzurnagar by-poll suddenly acquired a significant political dimension with rival parties moving heaven and earth to win the mandate. Adding spice to the poll fray, the ruling TRS reached out to the Communist Party of India (CPI) seeking their support for the ensuing by-poll. This is for the first time that TRS is seeking the support of other parties since it assumed office in 2014. The TRS move, if it succeeds, will result in a fresh round of political realignment in the state.

Meanwhile, TDP left the Congress-led Mahakutami to join the electoral fray. The BJP and the CPI (M) have already entered the electoral arena making the contest a five-cornered fight, at least technically. However, the Huzurnagar by-poll will see a fierce battle between the ruling TRS and the opposition Congress which won this seat in 2018 Assembly elections. The alignment and the realignment of political forces have a considerable potential to upset the apple cart of either of the main rivals given the narrow margin between the two parties.

The State Congress chief N Uttam Kumar Reddy won this seat braving the KCR landslide in the state. He vacated the seat as he won the Nalgonda Loksabha seat in 2019 in which the Huzurnagar Assembly segment falls. The Congress has now fielded Kumar Reddy’s wife N Padmavathi Reddy in this by-poll. She represented the neighbouring Kodad Assembly seat between 2014 and 2018 only to lose narrowly to TRS nominee in 2018. The Huzurnagar seat is believed to be the stronghold of N Uttam Kumar Reddy personally more than that of the Congress.

The Chief Minister and the TRS supremo, K Chandrasekhar Rao is believed to be very keen on wresting this seat from Congress at any cost. There are a host of reasons why TRS supremo is so particular on winning a by-poll. Several Congress MLAs defected to TRS since the 2018 mandate, crippling the party. However, the Congress received a sigh of relief when it won three Lok Sabha seats much to the dismay of ruling party. Congress won both the Loksabha seats in Nalgonda district. The rivals within the party, N Uttam Kumar Reddy and Komatireddy Venkat Reddy who won from Bhuvanagiri have declared that they would jointly fight TRS to retain the Congress-held seat.

The Congress stalwart and former leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP), K Jana Reddy also hails from the same undivided district. Thus, TRS wants to make a dent into the political bastion of Congress by wresting the Huzurnagar seat in this by-election, thereby inflicting body blow on its prime rival. The municipal elections are to follow soon. Any victory for the Congress would enthuse the opposition. The TRS is not willing to leave this space to Congress at a time when it already fears resurgent BJP after the latter’s good going in Loksabha elections. The victory for Congress in the by-poll will increase the pressure on defected Congress legislators to seek a fresh mandate from the people.

Congress could win the Huzurnagar seat by a relatively smaller margin of over 7,000 votes like in 2018. The TRS feels that it lost the polls due to presence of a candidate having a truck as his election symbol which looks similar to the party’s election symbol — Car. The truck got more votes than the majority Congress could register. G Jagadish Reddy, Minister for Energy who hails from the district in which the by-poll is taking place said that the TRS has morally won the 2018 Assembly election and the Congress victory is only technical. The TDP and the CPI were in alliance with Congress in 2018. The TDP has already entered the fray on its own giving the Congress a big surprise. However, poll pundits are unable to come to any conclusion over the impact of TDP contesting the polls until the election result. The TDP has committed voting in this seat given the fact that it falls on the border with Andhra Pradesh. However, the TDP lost most of its shine after 2014. Still, the party has sizeable voting enough to tilt the balance. According to one prediction, TDP will cut into the anti-government vote harming the chances of Congress. Besides, the Congress got the TDP vote in 2018 as the parties were in alliance. However, the other theory is that the backward class vote, which TDP enjoys shifted to TRS as it was not in the fray last time. Now, TDP will retain some of its lost BC vote harming the TRS.

Given these conflicting predictions, the ruling TRS does not want to leave any chance. Shedding its political arrogance, TRS reached out to CPI. A high power delegation led by the party Secretary-General, K Keshava Rao held talks with CPI leadership. The CPI was part of the Congress-led Mahakutami in 2018 Assembly elections. However, it is angry over Congress for not considering its friendship in the 2019 elections. The Congress contested the entire 17 Lok Sabha seats leaving none to its allies. In fact, in alliance with Congress, the CPI contested Khammam Lok Sabha seat in 2014. Thus, the CPI feels that it is not indebted to Congress in any way. The CPI failed to win any seat in 2018 Assembly elections, despite contesting along with Congress, TDP, and Telangana Jana Samiti (TJS).

Besides, the CPI is desperate to get some political space. The party feels that it can win a few municipal seats if it allies with TRS rather than Congress. However, the party is expected to take a call on the TRS request on October 1. Even the Congress and CPI (M) have also sought CPI support.

With the CPI looking towards TRS, TDP contesting on its own, a formal burial is performed on Congress-led Mahakutami. With the rise of BJP, the TRS doesn’t wish to leave any scope. The left parties contested the Lok Sabha elections together after the CPI (M) bid a farewell to the Bahujan Left Front (BLF) it floated during the 2018 Assembly elections. With Congress not yielding to its request, the CPI also preferred to fight the Lok Sabha poll together with its left ally, the CPI (M). However, with CPI (M) contesting elections, the CPI has to take a call on the Left unity which is anyhow not so robust. The undivided Nalgonda district was once the bastion of Left politics. But, this is no longer the case now. The Left decline, which is evident across the nation, is also seen in Nalgonda. Yet, the parties enjoy some support among the voters, not sufficient to win, but influence the mandate based on which party receives their support.

Prof K Nageshwar

Prof.K. Nageshwar is noted political analyst and columnist. He is a former member of the Telangana Legislative Council and currently a professor at the Department of Communication & Journalism, Osmania University, Hyderabad. He is the former editor of The Hans India. He was earlier the Editor-in-Chief of Telugu news channel HMTV. He was the founder chairman of 10TV. He is the author of the books Interpreting Contemporary India; How to win at life.

He served on the United Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council as an independent member from 2007 to till the bifurcation of the State in 2014 representing the Graduates' constituency of Hyderabad.

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