TRS retains Nagarjuna Sagar Assembly constituency in Telangana

Published : May 03, 2021 19:41 IST

Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao (right) with Nomula Bhagat, the TRS candidate who won the Nagarjuna Sagar Assembly byelection. Photo: The Hindu Archives

For the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which was optimistic of igniting a saffron wave and emerging as the main political challenger in Telangana, the results of the April 17 byelection to the Nagarjuna Sagar Assembly constituency whose results were declared on May 2 came as cruel shock. The BJP suffered the ignominy of its candidate losing his deposit.

The seat was retained by the ruling K. Chandrashekar Rao-led Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). Nomula Bhagat, the pink party’s candidate, polled 89,804 votes and trounced K. Jana Reddy, his Congress opponent and former Minister, by a margin of 18,872 votes. The BJP’s Panugothu Ravi got just 7,676 votes. The once-powerful Telugu Desam Party (TDP) was relegated to the fourth place with just 1,714 votes. The TRS secured 47 per cent of the total votes polled, while the Congress and the BJP got 37.16 per cent and a measly 4.02 per cent respectively. The TDP secured 0.9 per cent of the votes polled.

For the Congress, which ruled undivided Andhra Pradesh for decades and has been facing an existential threat, the results came as a welcome surprise. The party, which has in recent years been systematically decimated thanks to Chandrashekar Rao’s strategy of encouraging defections from that party, proved that it was still a political force to reckon with and that its place as the main opposition has not been usurped by the BJP.

With this win, the TDP’s strength in the 119-member Telangana Assembly goes up to 102 legislators; the Congress has six, the BJP two and the All Indian Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has seven. Two independents have aligned themselves with the TRS.

The byelection was necessitated by the sudden demise of the sitting TRS legislator Nomula Narasimhaiah. Chandrasekhar Rao had personally nominated Narasimhaiah’s son Nomula Bhagat as the party’s candidate for the byelection. The Congress’ Jana Reddy had lost to Nomula Narasimhaiah in 2018 as well.

Despite being a byelection, it attracted a lot of attention as it came after the debacle suffered by the ruling TRS last November in the Dubbaka byelection, which was won by the BJP by a margin of 1,079 votes. The Dubbaka debacle was a rude awakening for the government since the BJP had triumphed despite not having any organisational network in the State. After the win, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had put out a tweet calling it a “historical victory”. The BJP had also made impressive gains in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections, cutting into the TRS’ seats in a big way, winning 48 of the 150 wards. The BJP had even proclaimed then that it was an alternative to the TRS.

The lessons of the Dubbaka debacle seemed to have hit the TRS hard. In the run-up to the Nagarjuna Sagar Assembly constituency election, the “pink party” deployed a large contingent of its leaders, including several Ministers and legislators, as part of their election campaign. The Chief Minister himself addressed two public meetings in the constituency.

For Chief Minister Chandrashekar Rao, the Nagarajuna Sagar victory, the fact that the TRS now has the largest-ever number of seats in the Assembly (102 out of 119) and the recent victories of Mamata Banerjee, M.K. Stalin and Pinarayi Vijayan in the West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala Assembly elections respectively could signal the revival of his dream to play a role on the national political stage. Chandrashekar Rao has in the past tried to bring together anti-BJP leaders under one umbrella with himself as the fulcrum. Both in 2018 and 2019, he had had a series of meetings with Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, the father-son duo of H.D. Deve Gowda and H.D. Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s M.K. Stalin.