Munugode bypoll a litmus test for BJP in T’gana
Rajagopal Reddy, who quit the Congress on last Thursday, resigned from his assembly membership on Monday.
The by-election to Munugode assembly seat in Telangana, necessitated by the resignation of senior Congress lawmaker Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy is going to be a big test for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to prove its strength, as it aims to win the assembly elections scheduled next year.
Rajagopal Reddy, who quit the Congress on last Thursday, resigned from his assembly membership on Monday. He submitted his resignation to state assembly speaker Pocharam Srinivas Reddy, which the latter accepted immediately. Within an hour, the speaker’s office notified the vacancy for Munugode assembly seat and forwarded it to the Election Commission to conduct the by-election at the earliest.
Later in the day Rajagopal Reddy said he will join the Bharatiya Janata Party on August 21 and contest the by-elections, whenever they are held. “It is going to be a battle between dharma and adharma,” he said, adding that the people of the constituency had already made up their mind whom they will vote for.
The by-election to Munugode seat is said to be part of the BJP’s strategy to expand its footprints in the districts where it has little presence till now.
In December 2018 assembly elections held in Nalgonda, the BJP had lost deposits in almost all the assembly seats. Accounting for 5.81% of the total votes polled, the party was able to bag only 12,725 votes as against 97,239 votes polled by Rajagopal Reddy from the Congress in Munugode.
Similarly, in the by-election held for Huzurnagar assembly seat in Nalgonda district in October 2019, the BJP got 2,639 votes, accounting for only 1.31% vote share. In the by-election to Nagarjunasagar assembly seat, also in Nalgonda, held in May 2021, the BJP could get only 7,676 votes, accounting for just 4.02% vote share.
Several southern Telangana districts, including Warangal, Nalgonda and Khammam, were dominated by Communist parties — CPI and CPI-M — for a long time, followed by the Congress and since 2014 by Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).
Now, the BJP is faced with a humongous task of building up its leader and cadre base in these parts of Telangana. “There is no doubt that the BJP has been growing steadily across Telangana and has set its narrative of dethroning the TRS, in many parts. But it needs leadership in these districts, which is why the party has focussed on poaching strong leaders in these districts,” said political analyst Sriram Karri said.
The defection of Rajagopal Reddy into the BJP is being viewed in this context. The party leadership is of the view that the move will trigger more defections from both the Congress and the TRS in Nalgonda and other districts.
On Sunday, senior TRS leader Errabelli Pradeep Rao, brother of state panchayat raj minister Errabelli Dayakar Rao from Warangal, resigned from the TRS and hinted at joining the BJP.“This is just a beginning. Not just Munugode, there are going to be by-elections for at least a dozen assembly seats in Telangana soon as the TRS legislators are making a beeline to the party,” said state BJP president Bandi Sanjay said.
Apart from banking on Rajagopal Reddy’s personal charisma and his money power, the BJP hopes to get clandestine support from his brother Komatireddy Venkat Reddy, who is presently a Congress MP from adjacent Bhongir parliamentary constituency.
Venkat Reddy has already met Union home minister Amit Shah and has been staying away from the strategy meetings of the Congress for Munugode. “I know who will win the by-election, but I will not disclose it now,” he said.
Nalgonda Congress MP and former PCC chief N Uttam Kumar Reddy, however, said the Congress will win the by-election and teach a fitting lesson to Rajagopal Reddy.
“Munugode by-poll will set the tone for next year’s assembly elections and if the BJP can win this seat, it has fair chances of wresting power from the TRS,” analyst Karri said.