By: Konatham Dileep
This is one question bothering most Telanganites at this moment. With both TRS and BJP trying to contest from Mahabubnagar, some independent Telangana activists are not sure who to support in this byelection.
Telangana political JAC has tried to intervene and settle the matter amicably, but as things stand now, it looks clear that both these parties are going to stick to their respective positions. Leaders of TRS and BJP have been offering their versions of why they are contesting this byelection.
So, who is right? Let’s examine:
The byelection to the Mahabubnagar assembly constituency was necessitated by the untimely death of local independent MLA Rajeshwar Reddy. He was an erstwhile BJP leader who had joined the PRP before 2009 elections. But when Rajeshwar Reddy was denied a ticket by the PRP leadership, he contested as an independent and won the election.
Here is how the vote tally looked like in Mahabubnagar assembly elections:
IND : 38,247
TRS+ : 33,100
Cong : 22,544
PRP : 11,088
LSP : 1,987
BJP : 1,972
BSP : 1,443
It is clear from the above statistics that BJP fared very badly in the 2009 elections managing to get only about 1,972 (1.6%) votes and standing behind parties like Loksatta party.
Even in the 2009 Parliament elections, while TRS candidate K. Chandrasekhar Rao polled 56,182 votes from Mahabubnagar assembly segement, the BJP candidate Kuchakulla Yadagiri Reddy managed to get only 3,592 votes.
The state leadership of BJP feels that their party has gained considerably in the past two years because of their active participation in the Telangana statehood agitation. This is an indisputable fact. Let us try to analyze how big the gain is.
We have one MLC election and two recent election surveys that will help us understand the BJP’s position in the Mahabubnagar assembly constituency.
A survey purportedly done by Lagadapati Rajgopal in Jan 2012 also reinforces the poor standing of BJP. The survey predictions were based on the presumption that Mrs. Vijayalakshmi, the widow of late Rajeshwar Reddy would contest as Congress candidate. The survey predicted that Congress would clinch the seat riding on the sympathy wave. TDP and TRS were placed second and third. BJP was not even mentioned as a significant force here.
And the second survey done by Centurion Data Strategies, predicted that TRS would get 53% of vote share followed by TDP (25%), Congress (16%). BJP’s vote share was less than one percent.
It is clear from the above statistics that while BJP might have a favorable image in the minds of people, it is not in a position to win in Mahabubnagar.
Telangana Rashtra Samithi on the other hand has already demonstrated its strength in the two byelections that were held in 2010 and 2011. TRS has not only won 2 seats from its opponent TDP, it has also ensured that TDP lost deposit in those seats.
Moreover Mahabubnagar has a large number of minority voters (about 25,000) and having Syed Ibrahim as TRS candidate there would not only help win that seat but also send a strong positive message to minorities across Telangana.
In a latest development, Congress has denied ticket to Smt Vijayalakshmi and she has decided to contest as an independent. This has improved the chances of TRS candidate further.
TRS also reminds that any attempt to somehow push BJP ahead in this seat would only lead to a repeat of what happened in the 2011 MLC elections.
The only cause for concern among Telanganites is that TRS should have declared its candidate only after consulting the Telangana JAC. The premature announcement of Syed Ibrahim as Mahabubnagar TRS candidate has definitely made at least some Telangana activists unhappy.
By giving the party ticket to Yennam Srinivas Reddy, an Ex-TRS leader, who later joined the Congress and has jumped into BJP only a few days back, BJP has only proved that it does not even have a proper candidate to contest the election. Then why is BJP so keen to contest this seat when it does not have a proper home grown leader to contest from this seat?
This only vindicates the TRS argument that it is the rightful contender for Mahabubnagar seat.
To sum up, it looks like the BJP state leadership was a bit carried away by seeing the crowds at the recent Telangana Poru Yatra taken up by state president Kishan Reddy.
The recent remarks by Kishan Reddy on TRS and some leaks to media that they would contest from Station Ghanpur, also show that the party is overestimating its strength in Telangana region.
There is nothing inherently wrong in BJP’s strategy of trying to strengthen its political base by piggybacking on the statehood agitation. But the ham-handed approach of BJP leadership is a matter of concern. Being a national party, the party should have taken a more patient and long term approach than look for short term electoral gains. The party should have concentrated on winning more Loksabha seats in 2014 and not one assembly seat in a byelection. Failing to do so only shows the shortsightedness of its state leadership.
Having taken the lead in announcing the candidate, TRS should leave no stone unturned to win this seat. For Telangana activists, it makes more sense to rally behind the TRS candidate than the BJP candidate.