BJP’s Dubbak by-poll win serves a warning to TRS in Telangana
The BJP caused a major upset in Telangana by edging out the ruling TRS in Dubbak assembly seat by-polls by a narrow margin and provided further evidence of its emergence in the state as the chief political opponent to the ruling party that has so far been dominant in the state since its creation.
The TRS lost to the BJP by a little over 1,000 votes in the see-saw contest between BJP candidate M Raghunandan Rao and TRS rival Solipeta Sujatha.
The by-poll, held on November 3, saw close to 82% voter turnout and was necessitated due to the death of sitting TRS MLA Solipeta Ramalinga Reddy in August this year. TRS candidate Solipeta Sujatha is Reddy’s wife. Though 20 other candidates were also in the fray, it was always expected that TRS, BJP and Congress would be the only serious contenders for the seat.
While the result of this by-poll will have no impact on K Chandrasekhar Rao-led TRS’s dominance in the state assembly—party has 100 MLAs in the 120-member House-- but winning the Dubbak seat was important for it to convey that it remains unchallenged in the state and a loss will not only dent its aura but also give the Opponents (read the BJP) hope of dethroning the party in the near future.
The timing of the result, ahead of the upcoming Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections, is likely to reignite debate if the BJP had finally got its act together in the state to not only replace the Congress as the principal Opposition party but also become a serious challenger to the ruling party.
In the 120-member house, which includes a nominated Anglo-Indian legislator, Congress has six MLAs while the BJP has just one MLA but the saffron party’s cornering of nearly 20% of popular votes in the last Lok Sabha polls has shown that it’s strength cannot be judged on its numerical presence in the state assembly alone.
The rise in BJP’s vote share from 7% in the last assembly election to over 19% in 2019 helped the saffron party win four Lok Sabha seats in the state, serving TRS a reminder of its potential. The TRS managed to win only nine LS seats and the Congress won three.
The BJP not only retained the Secunderabad seat but was able to expand in the north. The party was responsible for handing out a shock defeat to chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s (KCR) daughter K Kavitha, who lost to BJP’s Arvind Dharmapuri in Nizamabad. Not just that, it also won the Adilabad and Karimnagar seats, traditional TRS strongholds.
Whispers in the corridors of powers attributed BJP’s strong showing in north Telangana, a TRS heartland, in the Parliament elections to the alleged help from the Congress. In the process, the party had nearly doubled its vote share from 10.5% in 2014 LS polls to 19.5% in 2019. However, it must be noted that the BJP was in an alliance with the TDP in the 2014 elections.
Further evidence of party’s rising clout in Telangana was delivered earlier this year in the urban body elections in January-- the last electoral test before the next Assembly elections—when the BJP’s vote share fell by 5% in comparison to the share garnered in Lok Sabha polls but it was still two times more than the votes it polled in the last Assembly elections.
The BJP seems to be filling the void left by the Congress, which was weakened by the TRS poaching two-thirds of its MLAs and several MLCs soon after the 2018 Assembly elections.
The BJP’s potential rise in the state with a significant Muslim presence is also attributed to religious polarisation in the aftermath of passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and the backing for a National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Political experts have also pointed to AIMIM’s promise of 12% reservation to Muslims as a reason for potential reverse polarisation in BJP’s favour.
They also count the Reddy community-- around 12% of Telangana’s population -- as among a major reason for the BJP’s growth. The Reddys were previously aligned with the Congress but said to have gravitated towards the BJP after the grand old party’s decline in the state.
A senior BJP leader had divulged that the BJP’s game plan was to rope in leaders from the dominant Reddy and Munnuru Kapu communities to consolidate.
The BJP’s central leadership, too, has been gung-ho about the party’s chances in Telangana and are eying the 2023 Assembly elections for dethroning the TRS. Union home minister Amit Shah had declared last year in July that formation of a BJP government in the state is certain. The party is also hoping to attract more disillusioned leaders from the Congress and the TDP to the BJP.