With just a week left for elections to two seats of Telangana State Legislative Council, ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and opposition BJP and Congress have intensified their campaign to woo over 10 lakh graduates who are eligible to cast their votes.
The stakes are high for TRS, which is facing a tough task to retain Warangal-Khammam-Nalgonda seat and also to ensure victory of former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao’s daughter S. Vani Devi in Hyderabad-Rangareddy-Mahabubnagar constituency.
The major parties and independents are busy in intensive campaign to reach out to graduates for March 14 elections.
The significance the ruling party is attaching to the polls is evident from statements of its leaders during last few days.
Ministers and other TRS leaders campaigning for the party candidates have been stressing up on the cadres to ensure their victory to protect the party.
Perhaps aware of the odds TRS is facing, civil supplies minister Gangula Kamalakar told party incharges that if the party is safe we will be safe.
Finance Minister T. Harish Rao and some other ministers also stated that the victory in MLC elections will be key for the future of the party and the state.
The ruling party is facing a challenge from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is upbeat following its victory in by-election to Dubbak Assembly seat in November and its impressive performance in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) polls in December.
As the two constituencies cover 70 Assembly segments, nearly 60 per cent of all segments, the outcome of MLC polls is likely to be indicative of the mood of voters ahead of 2023 polls.
Chief Minister and TRS President K. Chandrasekhar Rao has already asked party MPs, MLCs, ministers and MLAs of the assembly constituencies to stay put in their respective segments until the campaign comes to an end.
Though 90 per cent of the 70 seats are held by TRS, the TRS chief is not taking any chances. He has asked even those party leaders who lost the 2018 Assembly elections to reach out to voters in their respective Assembly segments and campaign aggressively.
KCR, as Rao is popularly known, directed the ministers and party incharges to ensure that P. Rajeshwar Reddy get elected again from Warangal-Khammam Nalgonda seat. He also asked the party leaders to take keen interest to make sure that Narasimha Rao’s daughter is elected from Hyderabad-Rangareddy-Mahabubnagar.
KCR has asked the party leaders to counter the opposition propaganda and inform the graduate voters that over 1.32 lakh jobs were given in the government sector during last six years and another 50,000 would be filled up soon. He also told them to highlight on welfare schemes implemented by the TRS government.
BJP is making all out effort to retain Hyderabad-Rangareddy-Mahabubnagar constituency and wrest the other seat from TRS.
Unlike GHMC polls when several central leaders of BJP campaigned actively for the party, the saffron party has not roped in central leadership for MLC elections. However, the entire state leadership is taking an active part in canvassing.
Union minister of state for home G. Kishan Reddy, who is campaigning for the party candidates, alleged that TRS is misusing official machinery and spending money. He claimed that the Chief Minister personally planning the TRS campaign.
“Never before a Chief Minister got involved so much in a graduates constituency election. The TRS wants to stop us even if it means defeat of their own party candidate,” he said addressing a public meeting.
He was confident that BJP’s N. Ramchander Rao will retain Hyderabad-Ranga Reddy-Mahabubnagar. He pointed out that Rao had won the poll in 2015 when the TRS popularity was high. He claimed that since then the political climate has undergone a change with all sections of people ‘sick and tired’ of the ‘corrupt and dictatorial family regime.’
The issue of jobs has already generated political heat during the campaign. While industry minister and TRS working president K. T. Rama Rao released the details of 1.32 lakh jobs provided during last six years, BJP and Congress termed this as an ‘utter lie’.
Congress leader Sravan Dasoju and BJP’s Ramchander Rao even dared Rama Rao for a public debate. In a move to garner political mileage, the Congress and BJP leaders reached the venues on the date and time announced by them and alleged that Rama Rao is running away from debate.
On the other hands, Rama Rao is attacking Centre everyday for doing injustice to Telangana by not releasing funds. He slammed the Centre for shelving Information Technology and Investment Region (ITIR) project for Hyderabad and for also going back on the promise to set up Rail Coach Factory at Kazipet.
KTR, as Rama Rao is popularly known and BJP leaders are trading barbs over the issue. Refuting the criticism by state BJP chief Bandi Sanjay Kumar, the TRS leader dared him to make the Centre sanction ITIR and Rail Coach Factory.
Joining the issue, Telangana Congress working president and Malkajgiri MP A. Revanth Reddy threw a challenge to KTR to join him in an indefinite hunger strike at Jantar Mantar in Delhi demanding revival of ITIR project, Kazipet rail coach factory and implementation of other assurances made to Telangana in the AP Reorganisation Act.
Congress has fielded former minister G. Chinna Reddy from Hyderabad-Ranga Reddy-Mahabubnagar and S. Ramulu Naik from Warangal-Khammam-Nalgonda.
Multi-cornered contest in both the constituencies has made it difficult to predict a clear winner. In Hyderabad-Ranga Reddy-Mahabubnagar, the entry of Professor N. Nageshwar Rao as an independent candidate has made the contest wide open. Nageshwar Rao represented the seat twice in the past and is considered popular among voters, whose numbers have doubled to 5.17 lakh since the previous election.
In all, 179 candidates have filed nominations for Hyderabad-Rangareddy-Mahabubnagar seat.
The entry of Professor M. Kodandaram of Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) in Warangal-Khammam-Nalgonda has made the poll battle interesting.
Kodandaram had played an active role in Telangana statehood movement with Chandrasekhar Rao but parted ways after he was sidelined by the TRS following formation of Telangana as a separate state in 2014. A bitter critic of KCR’s policies, he floated the TJS.
A record number of 78 candidates, many of them independents, are in the fray for Warangal-Khammam-Nalgonda Graduates’ constituency.
The CPI, the TDP, the AAP and several smaller parties have also fielded their candidates.