Goad for Munugode: Scramble for TRS, Cong tickets to fight BJP's Komatireddy

On the threshold of one last electoral battle ahead of the 2023 general elections, Munugode has emerged to be the most

Goad for Munugode: Scramble for TRS, Cong tickets to fight BJPs Komatireddy

HYDERABAD: On the threshold of one last electoral battle ahead of the 2023 general elections, Munugode has emerged to be the most favourite 'keyword' for all major political stake-holders in Telangana now. The Election Commission is yet to decide the 'muhurtham' but that does not seem to hold back the political parties to swing into the campaigning mode and look to overtake the others in grabbing the initial advantage.

Any by-poll within the sniffing distance of bigger general elections is almost always greeted with dispassionate efforts by the politicos and perfunctory participation by the electorate. The reasons are obvious. But the mood and the intensity surrounding the Munugode contest presents a completely contrasting picture.

The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), contrary to the earlier popular perception, is upbeat and simply raring to be unleashed. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which engineered sitting MLA Komatireddy Rajgopal Reddy's resignation and imposed the inevitability of the by-election, is equally in high spirits. The Congress, despite the shocking desertion by its legislator, is determined to reclaim the seat.

The groundwork has started pretty early for these major political parties. Interestingly, it's hard to pick a party that is lagging behind. They are sharpening their knives, and strategies too, to stay in the forefront and consolidate their presence till the final phase of campaigning.

The undeclared battle-cries also set off an intense scramble for party tickets within the ruling TRS and the Congress.

Ticket fight in TRS, Congress

Grappling for the candidacy and growing dissidence from rival factions have become the stumbling blocks for both the TRS and the Congress, stunting the pace at which they desired to reach out to the grass roots in Munugode. The BJP, with no second thoughts on its candidate for obvious reasons, is spared of such a distraction.

A flash wave of opposition for the TRS frontrunner K Prabhakar Reddy from a significant number of local leaders has virtually stung the party leadership and forced it onto the backfoot. Stormy scenes were witnessed at a meeting convened by Minister in-charge of Nalgonda district G Jagadish Reddy with the party's Munugode leaders on Wednesday.

The dissident leaders had no qualms in predicting a TRS defeat if the party decided to field Prabhakar Reddy. They found the ruse in Prabhakar Reddy's drubbing at the hands of Rajgopal Reddy in 2018 and his continued inaccessibility with the people of the constituency.

A last-minute intervention by TRS chief K Chandrashekar Rao at Pragathi Bhavan seemingly doused the dissidence for the time being. But KCR's assurance that a final call on the candidate would be taken only after considering local factors painted a picture of how the dissidents scuttled the TRS leadership's plans and nudged it into a rethink.

The TRS' inclination towards Prabhakar Reddy is reported to be influenced largely by the survey reports submitted by I-PAC and other independent agencies. These reports reportedly cited his active participation in statehood movement and his unflinching loyalty to the party and KCR as the likely cutting-edge factors in the constituency.

Also, the TRS going in for a review of its decision is candid evidence that the party is treading the path of a new, calibrated approach in Munugode. Unlike during the earlier elections, the ruling party is more active on the ground while maintaining a low profile in the media this time around. This refinement in strategy – giving up flamboyance and aggression for pragmatic business – is a refreshing change, a lesson clearly learnt from its experiences in Dubbaka and Huzurabad.

An 'Operation Aakarsh' is indeed going on within Munugode but in a 'hush, hush' manner. Incharge leaders have been appointed in a multi-layered net to entice sarpanches, ward members of gram panchayats, MPTC and ZPTC members of both the BJP and the Congress into its fold with lucrative offers. In a blitz of sops to attract the general public, a host of welfare measures and developmental works have been taken up on a war-footing.

Seemingly satisfied with its extensive groundwork, the TRS is confident of a great show in Munugode. The only difference is, there are no cravings to make big claims yet. Another indication to this effect comes from its decision to hold its public meeting in the constituency on August 25, well after the BJP's planned event on August 21. The ruling party clearly intends to wait for the BJP to make the first big move before it can reveal its cards.

Congress' task cut out

Of the three major parties, Congress seems to be facing its toughest battle here due to a swarm of issues facing it. The by-poll has become the most prestigious for it and especially for the TPCC chief Revanth Reddy, having seen its sitting legislator slip out of hands and embrace the BJP in unusual circumstances.

Ever since the by-election appeared on the horizon, the race for the ticket has intensified in the party. After enduring Rajgopal Reddy's shock exit, Revanth Reddy is desperate to retain the seat. He is actually looking to turn a perceived disadvantage into his favour to position himself as the most powerful in TPCC and also in the process preempt any possible desertions in future.

But like the TRS, he too has an adversary or a headache in picking the right nominee in Munugode. The Old MLA Quarters in Hyderabad has suddenly become a beehive of lobbying for ticket by the Congress aspirants. Cheruku Sudhakar, who was reportedly drafted into Congress by Revanth Reddy, gave clear signals of his interest when he met Congress incharge of Telangana Manickam Thakur at the Old MLA Quarters on Thursday.

However, a leaked audio conversation involving Palvai Shravanti Reddy, the daughter of veteran leader Palvai Govardhan Reddy, created ripples within the Congress and exposed the dissidence over the selection of its candidate. Shravanti has been pinning her hopes on the party ticket, riding high on the rich legacy of her father. But the leaked audio, where she purportedly criticised the party's strong inclination towards another contender Krishna Reddy portended the possible troubles ahead for the party. 'Revanth Reddy and co' are clearly on a tightrope walk as they are fully aware of the potential danger of taking the disgruntled factions lightly.

BJP's heavy dependence on Komatireddy family influence

The concerns for the BJP, on the other hand, are more at field level where it will be locked in a tough triangular fight. Komatireddy Rajgopal Reddy, whose resignation necessitates the by-election, is its obvious choice, leaving no room for ticket-squabbling.

The saffron party is hoping that Rajgopal Reddy's presence, aided by the Komatireddy family influence across the combined Nalgonda district, will work like magic for it. The party also expects the tacit support of Rajgopal Reddy's brother Komatireddy Venkat Reddy, given his open animosity with Revanth Reddy.

The BJP leadership aims at a repeat of what happened in Huzurabad where TRS deserter Etela Rajender received a resounding victory and in Dubbaka, where its candidate Raghunandan Rao defeated the TRS nominee braving the sympathy factor.

But merely resting on the Komatireddy factor, the BJP too has its task cut out in Munugode and should be wary of the intricacies involved in a tight three-dimensional contest.

Munugode has a total electorate of 2,27,101 out of which 1,15,415 are men and another 1,11,682 women voters. There are 298 polling centres for the electorate to cast their votes. The constituency has traditionally been a Congress stronghold with the grand-old party winning six out of the total 12 elections held since 1967. The Communist Party of India (CPI) is at a close second wresting the seat five times.

In the 2018 election, Rajgopal Reddy emerged victorious as a Congress candidate garnering 97,239 votes at a vote share of 48.9 per cent. His nearest rival, K Prabhakar Reddy of the TRS, settled for 74,687 votes (37.56%) while the BJP's G Manohar Reddy was relegated to a poor third with 12,725 votes.

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