Gajwel, a town in Telangana's Siddipet district, from where Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) was elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in 2018, will play host to an interesting electoral contest this time around.
KCR recently announced his decision of contesting from two constituencies in the upcoming election — Gajwel and Kamareddy.
Some reports then suggested that Rao's decision to choose Kamareddy as an additional constituency was part of a strategy to overcome anti-incumbency in the seat.
It was believed that if the incumbent Chief Minister was himself the candidate, the voters of Kamareddy would tilt in favour of the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS).
Another way to look at it? — KCR is probably wary of losing from Gajwel.
Gajwel In 2014 And 2018
While the 2018 elections saw KCR win by a landslide in Gajwel, the contest was not simple in 2014.
Elections in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh were held in April and May 2014, around the time of the Lok Sabha polls, per the recommendation of the Election Commission of India.
In the 2014 contest, KCR faced a challenge from the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) candidate, Pratap Reddy.
Reddy bagged close to 70,000 votes and ended up as a runner-up.
Since it was a triangular contest, the votes were divided among KCR, Pratap Reddy, and T Narsa Reddy, the latter fighting on a Congress ticket. In fact, the combined vote of Congress and TDP in Gajwel was more than that of the BRS.
KCR 'Not Reachable'
While Rao got a massive 61 per cent voteshare in Gajwel in 2018, some of the issues coming up now were present five years ago too.
The most common complaint against Rao in Gajwel — he is reportedly inaccessible.
Acknowledging the problem previously, KCR had brushed off the issue by saying he will "allocate more time for Gajwel in [his] next term."
This time around too, locals feel that KCR remains difficult to reach. According to some, KCR rarely visits his constituency.
Many of his constituents have felt that the Chief Minister does not spend enough time in the constituency, and the villagers are left to depend on KCR's 'representatives' to get their work done.
They felt that the Congress candidates were much more accessible.
Agriculturists Are Angry
When the state government was trying to acquire land for the Kaleswaram irrigation project, a section of the farmers was reported to be unhappy with KCR.
The Kaleswaram project was once touted as the 'world's biggest irrigation project', aiming to provide water to almost every district in Telangana.
Displacement due to the construction of the Mallannasagar and Konda Pochamma reservoir had also reportedly angered some of locals.
These projects are located in the Siddipet district. The Gajwel constituency is a part of Siddipet.
Nearly 7,000 people were displaced due to the project.
Some farmers even accused the administration of inadequately compensating them for their lands. Landowners near Mutrajpalli were given a compensation of Rs 6 lakh per acre, whereas the actual market value was around Rs 1.5 crore per acre, as reported by Hindustan Times.
Earlier this year, people from the Jagdevpur mandal's Teegul village rose in protest against the Chief Minister for allegedly not delivering on the Dalit Bandhu scheme effectively.
The Dalit Bandhu scheme seeks to provide financial assistance of Rs 10 lakh to eligible scheduled caste families to start their own businesses.
Despite being eligible, many Dalits were allegedly left out of the beneficiaries list.
In one reported case from a village in Gajwel, a meeting was held to select beneficiaries who were allegedly close to the BRS, without the knowledge of the local sarpanch. As a result, out of 400 Dalit families, only 20 received benefits.
Many political parties and its leaders joined the protests that followed. YSR Telangana Party's Sharmila was prevented from visiting Gajwel at the time. KCR's government had placed her under house arrest.
Prerna Thiruvaipati, a Dalit activist in Hyderabad says that the Chief Minister has not kept the promises he made towards the community.
"For instance, he promised that Telangana's first chief minister if BRS comes to power would be a Dalit. He never kept his word. He has become the chief minister and he is now grooming his children to take over the throne once he retires," she tells Swarajya.
She recalls the humiliation faced by the community when one of their prominent leaders, an MLA, passed away. When Secunderabad cantonment MLA G Sayanna passed away, he was not given a funeral with state honours.
The then state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Bandi Sanjay Kumar had hit out at Rao by comparing the incident with the death of Mukarram Jah, the eighth Nizam of Hyderabad. Jah was given a funeral with state honours.
"When Nagaraju, a Dalit man married to a Muslim woman was a victim of honour killing, why did the chief minister not bother to help the family of the deceased," she asks. The incident happened in Vikarabad.
In July, a man was arrested in Gajwel town for defiling a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. This incident almost turned the area into a communal tinderbox.
Following the incident, the police detained the BJP MLA M Raghunandan Rao. Locals then garlanded the statue and poured milk over it.
BJP's Chance To Shine?
Once a trusted confidant of the Chief Minister, MLA Eatala Rajender's announcement that he will contest against KCR has made the contest in Gajwel interesting.
During his fallout with KCR, he mentioned that BRS leaders "were not slaves to the pink flag but were its owners."
Since then, the KCR government is seen to have gone after Rajender in more ways than one.
Still, reports suggest that many voters of the Mudiraj community in Gajwel are rallying in support of Rajender in the constituency. Many backward caste (BC) community leaders have also expressed solidarity with him.
The 'oustee' votes are also expected to turn in favour of Rajender, since the people now displaced and settled in Mutrajpally may show their anger against KCR by voting for Rajender.
Further, there are more people left out of schemes, like BC Bandhu, Dalit Bandhu, and Minority Bandhu, than there are beneficiaries.
Speaking to Swarajya, senior journalist from Hyderabad, Raka Sudhakar Rao stated that KCR's accessibility may be one of the biggest issues for him, locally. When local leaders revolted against KCR, he tried to make peace with them by inviting them over for a discussion at his farm house in Gajwel.
"He apologised and promised to meet them once a month," Rao says.
"With the anger of those displaced from Gajwel and people generally getting irritable with KCR being inaccessible, it might be tough for him," Rao adds.
Rao says that Eatala Rajender is originally from Gajwel, so that makes him more familiar with the place than KCR, who is identified as a person from Siddipet. Eatala distanced himself from Gajwel when KCR sent him to take on the Congress in Huzurabad.
"Eatala is no pushover. He will definitely give Rao a run for his money," Rao added.
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