Car zoomed, lotus gloomed, hand doomed

The TRS Government took some impressive measures like upgrading a couple of civic bodies into municipalities and tribal hamlets into village panchayats

TRS - BJP - Congress

HYDERABAD: "We should not be perturbed by election results. Victory and defeat are very common in politics. We may win this by-election mostly. Yet, we should not consider this as a benchmark for the next year's Assembly elections. We must work hard to win people's hearts," K T Rama Rao, working president of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and Minister, told NewsTAP during the counting of votes in Munugode Assembly constituency.

Bolstering the sagging morale of his party colleagues, when reports that the BJP was leading, KTR said accurate numbers would emerge in sometime. What's actually happening in the ground was different and "we are leading," he said.

The rest is history.

The 10,309-vote victory of Telangana Rashtra Samithi's Kusukuntla Prabhakar Reddy defeating his nearest rival and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nominee Komatireddy Rajgopal Reddy is no big win, per se. Maybe, it's remarkable when the outcome is viewed from the contestant's standpoint, but surely it ain't from the TRS party's perspective.

Kusukuntla Prabhakar Reddy consistently improved his performance since 2014. While he secured 65,496 votes in 2014 and was elected, he got 74,687 votes but lost in 2018. He polled 96,598 votes in 2022.

The TRS Government has done a lot in terms of development in Munugode constituency, especially in terms of providing safe potable drinking water completely wriggling out the constituency of the dreaded fluoride in water, thanks to TRS supremo and Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao's flagship programme of "Mission Bhagiratha".

Work on the Dandu Malkapur industrial cluster is gaining momentum, promising the youth of a wide employment opportunities. It has a potential of providing employment to over 35,000 youths.

The TRS Government took some impressive measures like upgrading a couple of civic bodies into municipalities and tribal hamlets into village panchayats.

While there are 2.38 lakh beneficiaries of welfare schemes introduced by KCR Administration like Rythu Bandhu, Rythu Beema, Kalyana Lakshmi, KCR Kits et al, the total number of voters in the constituency are a tad less than the number of beneficiaries. The total electorate is 2,17,791.

This means, the government has performed way beyond expectations of the electorate.

The key takeaway for the TRS in this by-election is that there is no negative impression about it among the people.

Kusukuntla Prabhakar Reddy, who was elected in 2014 and defeated in 2018, indeed lost by 22,545 votes in 2018 elections, especially when the TRS posted a resounding victory and secured a renewed term in office.

After too many people throwing their hats into the proverbial rink, and some leaving the party sulking, KCR decided to renominate Reddy to seek a popular mandate.

No impact of Bura Narsaiah's exit

Former Bhuvanagiri MP Bura Narsaiah Goud who quit the party upon being denied the party ticket didn't make any difference. On the other hand, it's yet to be examined whether he had contributed any extra votes to the BJP candidate, as he joined the ranks of the saffron party.

Though outwardly, it looks a TRS victory, as KTR said it wasn't surely an easy one. The party had to marshal all its strengths, two public meetings by KCR, a dozen road shows by KTR and Minister Harish Rao, deploying ministers and MLAs, MLCs, MPs and many other leaders village wise, and cobbling up a coalition with Communists, however small their electorate is. It left nothing to chance.

The TRS candidate secured 96,000-odd votes as opposed to his earlier tally of 74,000-odd votes, making a gain of 22,000-plus. This is the number with which he had lost in 2018.

Why did the TRS have to do so much braying all its guns without taking any chances? Because, a defeat in Munugode would bolster the BJP's campaign against the TRS that people were vexed with the TRS and it would bring in its incidental victories in Dubbaka and Huzurabad as cases in point. This would be a loss of face for the ruling dispensation. Plus, the BJP's overtures in at least eight states and the prospect of four more -- refer to the recent expose of effort to bribe MLAs to lure them into the BJP — governments to be toppled is something always lurking in the minds of the non-BJP Chief Ministers.

Win was inevitable for TRS

So, a win was inevitable for the TRS at this crucial point in time. For what all it did for the people and also the pitch and pace of electioneering, the TRS should have done much better. Definitely not garnering a meagre 1,000 votes or less in every round of counting.

Then, why did it not? There is an element of boredom that has set in among people's minds. This time, some of those who switched loyalties to the BJP were vocal about it. "KCR has done well, and we have paid back by enthroning him twice. Now we want to try a new one. The BJP looks to be a better bet," a nondescript villager in Munugode told NewsTAP during the election campaign. This means, people are expecting KCR to produce another rabbit from his magical hat.

Why has Rajgopal Reddy lost?

Whatever votes — 86,000-odd — he polled were largely his personal votes. The BJP might have won him about 15,000 votes. For, its nominee Gongidi Manohar Reddy, secured 12,000-odd votes in 2018 elections. Add three more thousands to it as the BJP is posturing itself as a formidable alternative to the TRS.

The hype created by the opponents that Rajgopal Reddy would distribute in excess of Rs 10,000 per vote and he would gift a tola of gold for every woman voter, considering his bagging of Rs 18,000-crore mining contract, by his own admission, worked against him.

He had to shell out more money than any party to the electorate.

He has personal rapport with many voters and the people on Munugode like him personally. The support by his followers, a large number of them who came adrift along with him from the Congress, and the tacit support by his brother and Congress MP from Bhuvanagiri, Komatireddy Venkat Reddy, have all contributed to his vote share.

One should not forget that he didn't contest on his own in 2018. He was the nominee of a grand alliance of the Congress, Telugu Desam, and the Communists.

Rajgopal Reddy's flamboyant approach and the display of the filth of his wealth spread among voters like an under current.

KTR succeeded in injecting into the minds of people that it was an election unnaturally thrust due to selfish pecuniary interests of Rajgopal Reddy and this was the handiwork of the BJP's spin doctors — Amit Shah and J P Nadda.

Huge haul of cash caught during the electioneering belonged to the BJP and the bank transfers from different accounts of corporates like G Vivek's Visaka Industries and Rajgopal Reddy's Sushee Infra raised many an eyebrow.

The BJP-sponsored self-inflicted injuries at Palivela by Eatala Rajender's followers and the drama enacted by Rajgopal Reddy and BJP's Telangana president Bandi Sanjay Kumar also boomeranged. The TRS campaign that 'everything the BJP says is fake' worked wonders. It was believable to the voters, thanks to the availability of numerous examples.

The BJP could not establish supremacy in many rounds of counting, barring second, third and fourth.

KCR's call to the electorate to make Munugode the foundation stone for his proposed national foray in the form of the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) indeed was endorsed by the people.

The poach gate of MLAs and the expose by the TRS made the people view the BJP with an eye of suspicion.

These apart, the people though admired Rajgopal Reddy for helping many people in the constituency financially in their needs like family weddings, education, health and others, he has not performed his role as an MLA of the main opposition. And, he has "sold himself out" to the BJP for the massive contract. These two impressions among the people have done him in.

Congress gives up from the beginning

Revanth Reddy's loudmouth did not help the Congress ever since he took over the reins as the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee president. The era of the Congress losing deposits has become the order of the day. Dubbaka, Huzurabad and Munugode have all relegated it to the third place and the party had to forfeit its deposit in the by-elections. The Congress still faces a huge flak from the people in Telangana. The way Rahul Gandhi ignored Munugode bypoll even though his Bharat Jodo Yatra was passing through Telangana was yet another negative factor that severely damaged the Congress. Revanth Reddy, though a rabble rouser, is still seen as a Telugu Desam man and carries the stigma of cash for vote case.

Thus, the anti-incumbency has cost the BJP (incumbent legislator) its seat, the Congress (incumbent party representing the constituency in the Assembly) its deposits, while the TRS wrested the seat pulling all the stops.

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