One would be puzzled as to why a 'Beedi' is playing a key role in the Lok Sabha by-election to Karimnagar seat, caused by the resignation of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) chief and former union minister K Chandrasekhara Rao.
But the fact is that the beedi smoked by a common man which provides employment to lakh of families in the area is going to play an important role in the by-election.
Karimnagar district had about 9 beedi factories employing over 2.5 lakh workers, most of whom are women. The beedi industry amounts to a major section of the people.
The Union Government had issued an order on July 5, 2006 making it statutory to print the picture of a skull with two bones, the usual danger signal, so that even illiterate smokers would know that smoking a beedi was injurious to health.
Union Health Minister Anbumani Rama Das had also supported the idea of a pictorial warning. Beedi workers in the constituency were a disturbed lot, as they feared that the new legislation would effect their livelihood.
When CM YS Rajasekhara Reddy recently launched Congress party's election campaign, beedi workers raised slogans in his public meeting demanding the withdrawal of the warning signal on the beedi packets.
Reddy assured the agitated beedi workers that he would use his good office and resolve their problem. Consequently, all the political parties started to blame each other for the new decision, to attract the votes of the beedi workers.
Reddy said that the Act was brought in 2003 when NDA government supported by the TDP was in power. The Government order was issued when TRS Chief K Chandrasekhara Rao was the Union Labour Minister, he added.
While the opposition parties TRS, TDP and BJP were blaming the Congress for the decision, Congress was trying to assure the beedi workers that their interests would be protected.
Chandrasekhara Rao, along with his colleague A Narendra resigned from the Union Cabinet protesting against the delay in the announcement of the formation of separate Telangana state. Rao later resigned from his Lok Sabha seat also, proclaiming the ensuing by-election to be a referendum on Telangana.