BJP makes surprise gain in Telangana by-poll in a blow to TRS

The unexpected victory has given a big boost to the saffron party, which has made Telangana its main focus as part of its ‘Look South’ mission for the 2024 general elections.

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The BJP ran an aggressive campaign focusing on the TRS’ family rule, allegations of corruption, dictatorial style of functioning of the chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and his "inept" handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The BJP has made a surprise gain by winning the by-election in Telangana’s Dubbak Assembly constituency. The saffron party has wrested the seat from the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) with a slender margin of 1,470 votes.

The unexpected victory has given a big boost to the saffron party, which has made Telangana its main focus as part of its ‘Look South’ mission for the 2024 general elections. In the 2019 parliamentary elections, it bagged four out of 17 seats in the state, including Nizamabad, where the TRS supremo and chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s daughter K Kavitha was defeated.

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The by-poll verdict came as a big blow to the TRS, which has never lost a by-election in the last six years.

The BJP ran an aggressive campaign focusing on the TRS’ family rule, allegations of corruption, dictatorial style of functioning of the chief minister and his “inept” handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

BJP candidate M Raghunandan Rao secured 62,772 votes as against 61,302 votes polled by TRS candidate Solipeta Sujatha, widow of former MLA S Ramalinga Reddy, whose death necessitated the by-poll.

With this victory, the strength of the BJP in the state Assembly has gone up to two. At present, T Raja Singh, representing Ghoshamahal constituency in the city, is the lone BJP member in the 119-member House.

The defeat was particularly humiliating for the TRS as it had won the seat with a massive margin of 62,500 votes in December 2018 elections.

The party fielded the deceased MLA’s widow Sujatha despite she being a political novice with no public image and poor communication skills.

Worse, KCR did not address even a single public meeting and entrusted the task of securing victory to his nephew and state finance minister T Harish Rao, who single-handedly led the party campaign.

On the other hand, the BJP, which has been making all out efforts to emerge as the potential alternative to the TRS in the state, pulled out all stops to wrest the constituency.

It was a formidable challenge for the saffron party, as Dubbak is tucked between two important Assembly constituencies — Gajwel, represented by the chief minister himself, and Siddipet, represented by Harish Rao. Even Siricilla, represented by KCR’s son K T Rama Rao, is not very far.

It was a matter of prestige for the TRS to win the seat. However, BJP candidate Raghunandan Rao turned the geographical location of Dubbak to his advantage, telling people how the constituency remained under-developed, while the adjacent constituencies represented by KCR’s family members flourished.

The BJP also cashed in on the resentment among the people of several villages of Dubbak, which are going to be submerged under Mallannasagar reservoir as part of the Kaleshwaram project on Godavari river.

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Lack of employment opportunities for the youth and poor handling of the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic were also among the factors that hurt the TRS.

However, the by-poll outcome is unlikely to have any impact on the TRS’ strength in the Assembly since it already has more than 100 out of the 119 seats. But the defeat will  hit the morale of the party, which has acquired the image of being invincible.

Though the state Assembly elections are still three more years away, the Dubbak result will have a cascading effect on the party’s prospects in the elections to Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, in which the BJP will look to upset the applecart of TRS-MIM combine.

TRS working president K T Rama Rao said his party would respect the people’s verdict and do a thorough introspection of what went wrong in Dubbak. “We don’t get jubilant with victories nor do we get upset with defeats. But, definitely, the Dubbak result is a wake-up call to the party leaders and cadre,” he said.se gain in Telangana by-poll, blow to TRS

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