Hyderabad: The Huzurabad by-poll has all the ingredients of a political potboiler - personal feud, political fallout, criminal cases, mudslinging, promises, and unprecedented money disbursal scheme.

In fact, it will go down in the annals of history as one of the "costliest" by-elections in Telangana in terms of government schemes to woo all communities especially SCs, STs, and BCs, running into hundreds of crores.

Never has a by-election attracted so much public and media attention amid public spats with rival parties. Huzurabad is a rare case and the reason is out in the open.

Former health minister Eatala Rajender, once a close buddy of TRS chief and Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao during the Telangana movement and in the Cabinet, quit the Cabinet and the party after he was sidelined by the Chief Minister followed by cases over alleged purchase of assigned lands and amassing wealth.

After allegations and counter-allegations by rivals, talks of sympathy and advantage to Etala Rajender and TRS, announcement of the mega Dalit Bandhu scheme, "ayarams and gayarams", and fallout with those who had joined the party or crossed swords with Etala, the Elections Commission postponed the polls much to the relief of the ruling party and to Etala's disappointment.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) postponed the Huzurabad by-polls while releasing the schedule of the by-polls for the three Assembly seats in West Bengal and one in Odisha. The ECI said, "The chief secretaries of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh brought to the notice of the commission the constraints related to flood situations, festivals, and pandemic. They suggested that it would be advisable to have by-elections after the end of the festival season."

The festival season ends with Diwali on 4 November.

Huzurabad's seat fell vacant on 12 June and the ECI has time till 12 December to hold the by-poll. It is likely to hold the Huzurabad by-poll by November-end. It has also indicated that the polls for six MLC seats under MLAs' quota that was originally scheduled for May this year will be deferred till November.

Yet, the election campaigns continue. While TRS and BJP have announced their candidates, Congress is yet to name its candidate.

Etala Rajender, the BJP candidate, while on the way to the party padayatra told NewsMeter on Saturday, "I am confident of a big win. People are with me. They are in my favor and it has been good so far."

When asked whether the Dalit Bandhu scheme will have an impact on his chances, he said, "Let's wait and see. So far the conditions have been quite favourable for me and people have sympathy towards me. I did my best for the constituency."

Equally confident is TRS candidate and TRSV president Gellu Srinivas Yadav. "I will win, 100 per cent. KCR's people's schemes, developmental works and latest Dalit Bandhu are our trump card. There is a good response from all sections of people, especially Dalits. Since the CM left the choice to the Dalits to utilize Rs. 10 lakh per family funds, Dalits are jubilant," he said.

Apart from the financial windfall to people, especially Dalits, in the form of schemes, there has been a windfall to some "ayarams and gayarams" or turncoats, TRS leaders from Huzurabad constituency and Karimnagar district in the form of nominated posts.

Padi Kaushik Reddy, the former Congress leader who has now joined TRS, is the biggest beneficiary. A ticket aspirant who shifted his loyalties, Mr. Reddy is on attack mode against Etala Rajender. He was overnight recommended for the MLC seat under the Governor's "social service" quota which created a stir in Huzurabad and TRS circles. In fact, many TRS leaders, including those from Huzurabad constituency and Karimnagar district, were upset over KCR's decision. There were fears of a negative impact.

But in a blessing in disguise to the TRS, Telangana Governor Dr. Tamilasai Soundararajan withheld the Cabinet approval on the plea that it needed further review. The Governor said that while the Cabinet had cleared the decision, she had not. "The category is social service category and since it's the Governor's nomination, I need some time to study the nomination," she added.

Another major beneficiary is Dr. Vakulabharanam Krishna Mohan Rao who was in the midst of campaigning in Huzurabad when he was nominated as the chairman of the Telangana Commission for Backward Classes.

Chief Minister KCR also appointed Banda Srinivas as the chairman of the Telangana State Scheduled Castes Development Corporation Limited. For KCR and TRS party, Huzurabad by-election has become an issue of prestige. Almost the entire Cabinet and the party machinery are at it. A win will enhance the party's prestige; a defeat will be a slap on the face.

CR Gowri Shanker

CR Gowri Shanker is a senior journalist and former political editor of Deccan Chronicle

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