Munugode by-poll: High-stake battle for KCR; parties likely to spend Rs 1000 crore

Munugode by-election will also be the first litmus test of Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao after foraying into national politics and his attempt to win a third term next year.

By CR Gowri Shanker  Published on  17 Oct 2022 5:01 AM GMT
Munugode by-poll: High-stake battle for KCR; parties likely to spend Rs 1000 crore

Hyderabad: Munugode Assembly by-election in the Nalgonda district of Telangana may go down in the annals of history as one of the most ferociously fought and costliest polls to date.

It will also be an acid test for Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) which has been turning into a national party BRS (Bharat Rashtra Samithi). It will also be the first litmus test of Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao after foraying into national politics and his attempt to win a third term next year.

Since the Munugode by-poll comes just a year before the general elections, it may set the agenda!

Though leaders and parties swear by the Election Commission of India's expenditure norms, those in the field and campaigning believe about Rs 1000 crore would be spent by TRS and BJP to win the seat.

Barring confessions by leaders in private and street talk, no political party or contestant reveals the actual expenses in any election including Munugode. Candidates file election expenditures within the stipulated expenditure set by the Election Commission of India over the years unless some hawks prove otherwise.

The Election Commission of India has fixed the maximum limit of election expenses for Assembly Constituency (AC) at Rs 40 lakh in Telangana State. That means candidates in the fray in the Munugode Assembly constituency are allowed to spend legally just Rs 40 lakh per candidate. It's peanuts compared to actual expenses.

After Huzurabad by poll, Munugode is the cynosure of all eyes.

"I think about Rs 1000 crore will be spent in Munugode. It's a conservative estimate. Elections are becoming costlier. Voters' aspirations too are going up. Despite a slew of schemes, money matters in elections," a leader of a national political party told "Newsmeter."

He said routine expenditure has just started. "The actual distribution of money takes place two or three days before the polls. From the days of Rs 100 per vote, the price has been jacked up to Rs 500, Rs 1000, Rs 5000, and now the demand is Rs 10,000. Not all voters demand money, but many succumb to offers though he or she votes for only one party. Hired campaigners charge not less than Rs 500 per head per day plus food…liquor as a bonus," he said.

Asked if there is no impact of Central and State government schemes on voters, he quipped: "When we explain the schemes, some counter. So what? What I get now is the question from some."

Munugode by-election was necessitated due to the resignation of sitting Congress MLA Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy over differences with Congress leadership in the State. Rajagopal subsequently joined BJP and is contesting on its ticket.

TRS has fielded former MLA Kusukuntla Prabhakar Reddy, while Congress is banking on Palvai Shravanthi, daughter of ex-MLA and ex-Rajya Sabha MP Palvai Govardhan Reddy.

K Rajagopal Reddy is the richest candidate in the field with declared family assets of Rs 275 crore, followed by Congress candidate Shravanthi Rs 41 crore, and TRS nominee Prabhakar Reddy Rs 13.78 crore. The amount includes that of spouses.

After BJP beat TRS in Dubbaka and Huzurabad, the Munugode by-election has become crucial for both the ruling TRS and the saffron party. In the no-hold-barred election, both parties are luring voters since it could make or mar their image in the run-up to the assembly election 2023.

TRS turned BJP candidate and former Minister Etala Rajender, once a close aide of Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, won in one of the most fiercely fought elections recently. And the talk then was Rs 10,000 distributed to a large number of voters by major parties.

"Things look pretty good for TRS in Munugode, but we don't know the undercurrent. We have seen what has happened in Dubbaka and Huzurabad. The result was shocking," said a senior TRS leader in the field.

Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao is personally overseeing the poll. He has deployed Municipal Administration Minister and son, K T Rama Rao, Finance Minister and nephew T Harish Rao besides over 100 Ministers, MLAs, MLCs, chairpersons of corporations, DCMS, DCCB chairpersons, senior TRS leaders for the poll. One leader takes care of 100 voters!

BJP is not behind. Top BJP leaders and RSS teams have been drafted for the polls, while Congress leadership, though woken up late, too has hit the road.

For some, the Munugode by-election looks like a fight between the Centre and the State government or the newly formed Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS).

TRS and BJP have made the election a prestige issue. "If BJP wins, their confidence will shoot up. It's more of a trial run for the BJP which is having an eye on Telangana. In the Huzurabad by-election, the talk was Etala Rajender won by his charisma. Dubbaka's situation was different. Munugode's election is different. The sitting candidate resigned from Congress, joined BJP, and is contesting on the BJP ticket. If BJP wins, their confidence will go up and the TRS cadre too may shift to BJP. Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy and family have a good reputation in the constituency," said a BJP activist.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not represent the views of NewsMeter. We have not changed, added, or omitted anything to the text. NewsMeter is not responsible for the accuracy of the facts and the content of external links included in the article.

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