The much-awaited result for Munugode by-poll in Telangana arrived on Sunday (6 November) with an interesting verdict.
The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has won this election with just over 10,000 votes. The unprecedented micro management deployed by Chief Minster K Chandrashekar Rao bore it fruits.
Bharatiya Janata Party's candidate Komati Reddy Rajagopal Reddy lost this significant election though he secured 86,697 votes (38.4 per cent). And Congress, which previously held this seat, secured just 22,552 votes (10.6 per cent).
What changed between 2018 and 2022?
In 2018, Congress candidate Komati Reddy Rajagopal Reddy became a first-time MLA by winning Munugode with 96,961 votes (total vote share of 50.51 per cent). In that assembly election, TRS secured 74,504 votes (30.13 per cent) and BJP garnered just 12,725 votes (6.5 per cent).
In the 2022 by-poll, with the addition of support base from former Congress MLA Rajagopal Reddy, BJP has improved its vote share from 6.5 per cent in 2018 to 38.4 per cent.
While the ruling TRS improved its vote share from 30.13 to 42.9 per cent, Congress has seen massive decimation with its vote share falling from 50.5 per cent in 2018 to just 10 per cent in 2022.
Congress — A Fringe Party?
Congress, which ruled the state before 2014 for two consecutive terms and formed Telangana state, is now relegated to third position without securing even a deposit in Munugode.
Even fielding a woman candidate hailing from a locally reputable political family, Palvai Sravanthi Reddy, has not worked for Congress.
In fact, Congress candidate Sravanthi secured more percentage of votes in 2014 elections (15.97 per cent vote share) when she contested as an independent from Munugode than by contesting on Congress ticket (10.5 per cent).
Erstwhile Nalgonda district, in which Munugode is located, was a stronghold of the Congress party. Today, this party has no seat in this region.
Though Congress has become a non-existent entity in many parts of northern Telangana, the party cadre had hopes of a revival beginning from southern Telangana. Munugode has turned those hopes into daydreams.
BJP — The Only Alternative To TRS?
By giving a close fight to the ruling TRS, that too in a Congress-communist stronghold in southern Telangana, BJP has emerged as the only alternative to TRS.
Though the party state cadre expected to win this election and thus is disappointed with the result, analysts say it was almost an impossible task with TRS mobilising all means to garner votes.
In this election, BJP faced a combined force of TRS and Communist parties. It faced an army of TRS legislators and a pinnacle of vote management by the KCR regime.
With Munugode, political discourse in Telangana changed from predicting a divided opposition vote to expecting a direct fight between TRS and BJP in next year assembly elections.
BJP may use this changing perception to expand the party across southern Telangana, particularly in erstwhile Nalgonda and Khammam districts.
It has a lot of work to do as it lacks party structure in some constituencies of this region. Winning more seats than KCR-led TRS with just a year left for elections is an uphill task.
A Temporary Comfort For TRS?
Though exit polls predicted a comfortable victory for TRS, its cadre was still sceptical about the outcome.
Devoid of any comfortable win since the 2018 assembly elections, Munugode victory over the BJP has provided a temporary relief to the TRS cadre.
Yet a big question is worrying TRS leaders: If the BJP gives tough competition to TRS even in Munugode, then what about next year's assembly polls?
TRS deployed all its might to win Munugode: ministers, over 80 MLAs and MLCs, and countless regional leaders of the party. It is not an exaggeration to say that all ruling party machinery has been camping in one constituency since a month before polling date. Yet, TRS won with just a thin margin.
In next year's Assembly Elections, every leader will have their own constituency to oversee and TRS cannot concentrate its power like this.
Another problem is resources. TRS legislators took Munugode as a litmus test for them. Each MLA reportedly spent a lot to win just 2,500 votes for which s/he was in charge.
All of Telangana observed what happened in Munugode, and voters may demand the same treatment for them during next year's elections.
No winner or loser?
Though no match for TRS, the BJP too spent considerable resources on Munugode elections and yet lost. As they gave a tough fight to the KCR regime, BJP leaders are claiming a 'moral victory' and saying that this defeat has only strengthened their resolve to end KCR’s family rule in the state.
On the other hand TRS even after winning the seat is worried about the future.
Also, TRS leaders are concerned about the chances of the Union government ordering investigation against the KCR family members in various cases.
With a diminished Congress and a rising BJP, Telangana politics was never more interesting. Munugode can be just the beginning of that most happening phase in state politics.
But who was the real winner in this bypoll?
It can be said that the actual winner was the average voter of Munugode who 'allegedly' took money from all main parties, enjoyed meat feasts and liquor parties for almost a month and secured several development promises from CM KCR himself.
This actual winner has also shown who is the real boss in a democracy, at least during the election code time.
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