Munugode By-Poll: An Election That May Determine Telangana’s Political Future
A victory for BJP in Munugode election would make it the only alternative to the ruling TRS and increases defections from other parties.
If Congress loses this sitting seat, it would be an end for it in India's youngest state created by the UPA-2 government.
For TRS, anything but a victory with an overwhelming margin will be termed a setback.
It is seldom that a by-election can determine the political future of a state. Telangana is experiencing this rarity with the Munugode by-poll.
Munugode constituency is located around 100 km to the southeast of Hyderabad. Since the past two weeks, it has become the centre of Telugu media and political discussions across the state.
Political analysts see this by-election as semifinals for assembly elections scheduled to be held in 2023. Its results determine the level of anti-incumbency against the current Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government and the probability of success Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may garner in this southern state.
On Thursday (3 November), over two lakh voters of this rural constituency would determine the future of three main contenders — BJP, Congress and TRS.
This by-election was necessitated by the resignation of senior Congress leader Komatireddy Rajagopala Reddy.
Reddy, who was elected as a member of Parliament in 2009 from Congress party, was re-elected in 2018 assembly elections as an MLA from Munugode. Even though he has been making pro-BJP statements for two years, he formally joined the saffron party in August this year.
He is the brother of another strong leader of this region, Komatireddy Venkat Reddy, who got elected to Parliament on a Congress ticket in 2019 despite the Narendra Modi wave at the Centre, and a TRS wave in the state in December 2018 assembly elections.
Komatireddy Rajagopala Reddy resigned as an MLA claiming that TRS government has not provided any funds for his constituency’s development works.
He cited example of Huzurabad by-elections that were held last year when the state government implemented various development works to win over the people. He says that the by-election necessitated by his resignation will compel the state government to take up development works in his constituency that will benefit the people.
However, it is a risky step as a defeat with a big margin may relegate him to oblivion in the state politics.
Analysts believe that this risk may generate support for Rajagopala Reddy, handing down a victory for BJP in southern Telangana.
Munugode: A Gateway For BJP To Southern Telangana
By winning four Parliament seats in 2019 general elections, BJP has stormed into Telangana politics. But none of these seats won by BJP are in southern Telangana. While one seat is in Hyderabad the other three are in northern Telangana region.
BJP won two assembly seats in by-elections since 2018 in the state and both of them are in northern Telangana.
Combined with poor party structure and cadre along with a strong Congress in this region, southern Telangana continued to be a hard nut to crack for BJP.
BJP state leaders believe that a victory for the party in Munugode, located in southern Telangana, may give an edge to the party over TRS in the upcoming assembly elections in 2023.
A Survival Test For Congress
Congress party which hasn't seen any victory in the state since winning three parliamentary seats in 2019 general elections is seeing Munugode by-elections as a do-or-die challenge.
Since the 2019 general elections, BJP has consistently used by-election opportunities to strengthen itself in the state at the cost of Congress.
Already, Congress has become a non-existent entity in many parts of northern Telangana. Leaders of the grand old party believe that Munugode's defeat will repeat the same in southern Telangana.
Congress this time has fielded a woman candidate, Palvai Sravanthi Reddy, who is the daughter of deceased Congress leader and former minister in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, Palvai Govardhan Reddy.
But the party hasn't garnered any support. Analysts believe it may secure a third position with its vote share decreasing day by day as elections get closer.
With Rahul Gandhi's 'Bharat Jodo Yatra', all leaders have left the constituency, a move that party cadres believe will further decrease the vote share in the crucial by-election.
The resounding defeat for Congress in this by-election may become a death knell for the party in the state.
A Desperate KCR Regime
The importance of this election for the TRS party can be judged by the fact that over 80 of its MLAs are camping in the constituency from two weeks.
In an unprecedented move, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) himself is campaigning for TRS for this ‘small election’ and putting himself in-charge of a small village in the constituency.
Each MLA is made in-charge of a mere 2,500 to 3,000 votes on average.
This unprecedented micro-management by the ruling TRS party shows how significant Munugode by-elections results are.
Also, TRS has aligned with communist parties (CPI and CPI-M) as Munugode was considered a communist stronghold a few decades back.
While TRS says it gets around 30,000 votes of hardcore communists, BJP shows West Bengal example where most of the communist votes have shifted to BJP to defeat the ruling Trinamool Congress.
A defeat for TRS even after such effort doesn't augur well. If BJP wins at the cost of TRS, the saffron party will do everything that is possible to win Telangana in next year's elections. Also, a defeat may put brakes on KCR’s ambitious plans to expand TRS across India as Bharatiya Rashtra Samiti (BRS).
All Roads To Munugode
If we keep aside the results, the process itself has revealed many existing problems in our democracy. Leaders of all parties have openly asked people to take money and ‘gifts’ but vote only for them.
Many local reports claim that votes are being bought at Rs 10,000 each in some villages. With all MLAs of ruling party camping at Munugode, it has become a grand political fest since the past few weeks in this rural constituency.
With meat and liquor parties becoming routine, some people have even stopped cooking at their homes.
Power Corridors: Munugode To Hyderabad Or Delhi?
Results of this election will be declared on 6 November. This date can be historic for the state’s political history.
For Congress, a win would stop the defections and consolidate the party, but a defeat could close the lid on its future in the state.
For BJP, a defeat could deter its rapid expansionary plans, but win would herald a further southern push with new strategy and tactics to win over Telangana by all means.
For the ruling TRS, a win could prove its comfortable position with a divided opposition, but a defeat will be a strong blow to KCR's regime and his dream to enter national politics. Also, a defeat for TRS may show the party as a sinking ship which further increases defections.
Further, analysts believe that even if TRS wins, it must be an overwhelming majority that suits unprecedented micro management it has put in. A win with tough competition from BJP or even with less margin is still not a good outcome for the ruling TRS.
This makes Munugode election results an ‘agni pariksha’ for all three parties.
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