Telengana byelections

Telangana byelections: Crucial win for BJP’s Eatala Rajender in Huzurabad

Published : November 02, 2021 21:48 IST
In a decisive jolt to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wrested the Huzurabad Assembly constituency, byelections for which were held in Telangana on October 30.

In a decisive jolt to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wrested the Huzurabad Assembly constituency, byelections for which were held in Telangana on October 30. The seat had fallen vacant after the resignation of Eatala Rajender, former Finance Minister in the Telangana cabinet and one-time confidante of Chief Minister Kalvakuntla Chandrashekhar Rao. Rajender, who had earlier won the seat four times, shifted allegiance to the BJP a month after he was accused of land-grabbing and unceremoniously dumped from the cabinet.

Rajender defeated his closest rival, the TRS’s Gellu Srinivas Yadav by a margin of 24,068 votes, with the Congress’ candidate, the National Student Union of India (NSUI) State president Balmoori Venkat Narsing Rao coming a poor third. While Rajender secured a total of 1,06,780 votes at the end of the final round of counting, Gellu Srinivas Yadav polled 82,712 votes. In all, there were 30 candidates in the fray.

As much as 86.3 per cent of Huzurabad’s electorate of 2.37 lakh turned up to exercise their franchise on October 30. This voter turnout amply reflected the political importance of the Huzurabad seat, which had become a battle of egos between Rajender, who had joined the BJP in the presence of party chief J.P. Nadda, and his erstwhile colleagues in the TRS, including its founder Chandrashekhar Rao.

For the TRS, winning the Huzurabad seat was crucial, since a loss would give the BJP more steam to their campaign in the State. More tellingly, it would embolden detractors and disgruntled leaders in the TRS to raise their voice against Chandrashekhar Rao, who continues to run the regional party like his fiefdom. For the BJP, which had won the Dubbak byelection by a slender margin in November 2020 and had performed well in the Hyderabad municipal elections in December 2020, this win will surely brighten its political fortunes of becoming the main challenger to the TRS in the State, ahead of the 2023 Assembly election.

Interestingly, the TRS chose Srinivas Yadav, a student leader, to counter Rajender, who is considered a political heavyweight. Neither the Chief Minister, nor his son and heir apparent, K.T. Rama Rao, campaigned for the party in the Huzurabad Assembly constituency.

The run-up to the byelection witnessed politicians from the three main political parties in the fray, the ruling TRS, the BJP and the Congress, shrilly accused each other of paying cash for votes. Billed as the costliest election in Telangana’s short history, the byelection was reported to be replete with several incidents of cash and liquor flowing freely across the constituency.

Manickam Tagore, Member of Parliament and All India Congress Committee in-charge for Telangana, shared a video purportedly of money being distributed in an envelope emblazoned with the photo of the BJP candidate and the party symbol. On election day, in several villages across the constituency, voters, especially women, staged boisterous protests demanding cash for their votes. On October 27, a group of people, including several wailing women, gathered outside the Kamalapur Mandal office protesting that they had not been paid for their votes. Voters alleged that the parties, especially the TRS and the BJP, were distributing amounts ranging between Rs.1,500 and Rs.8,000 for every vote. Right until closing hours of campaigning, the State Election Commission had seized Rs.3,50,01,027 in cash and valuables (including liquor worth Rs.7,13,440 and gold and silver worth Rs.10,60,000) from the Huzurabad constituency.

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