Hyderabad: In the hotly contested Huzurabad bypoll, BJP’s Eatala Rajender, a former aide of Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao, secured 1,06,780 votes, defeating Telangana Rashtra Samiti’s (TRS) Gellu Srinivas Yadav who got 82,712 votes and Congress’ Balmoor Venkat Narsing Rao who got 3,012 votes.
The bypoll results are a boost for the BJP, which has till now been an insignificant player in Huzurabad. The results also indicate there is growing anti-incumbency against the TRS.
In the 2018 assembly elections, the BJP candidate from the Huzurabad assembly constituency secured only 1,683 votes, fewer than NOTA (2,867 votes). Eatala Rajender, who was then with the TRS, won. Besides Huzurabad, the TRS also won the remaining six Assembly constituencies under the Karimnagar Parliament seat.
Experts, however, say the results will arithmetically not make any difference to the 119-member Telangana Assembly, where 103 seats belong to the TRS. But the saffron party’s efforts to sell the narrative of it, and not the Congress, being the key opposition party in the state will be strengthened.
Similar to the Dubbaka bypoll in November last year, where BJP candidate Madhavaneni Raghunandan Rao won, thereby setting up a base for the saffron party, Huzurabad bypoll too was a candidate-based election.
“More than BJP’s victory, this is Eatala’s individual victory and, of course, since he is associated with BJP, it will obviously boost the party. It is being looked at as the candidate’s individual victory rather than party’s, so this does not make a major difference to the party’s position. But it is a boost to them morally. They climbed a political high ground with this,” senior political analyst Telakapalli Ravi told ThePrint.
The collapse of the Congress also contributed to Eatala’s strength, added Ravi.
In the 2018 Assembly election, the Congress secured 61,000 votes. Its candidate Kaushik Reddy recently joined the ruling TRS, making it difficult for the Congress to find a suitable replacement.
Although the TRS fielded its student wing chief Srinivas Yadav as the candidate in the Huzurabad bypoll, the focus was entirely on the rift between the ex-minister and KCR, which made the bypoll a grudge match.
Who is Eatala Rajender?
Rajender, a six-time MLA from Huzurabad, joined the TRS in 2003 and rose to become a close aide of KCR.
He joined the BJP in June this year, ending his decades-old association with the TRS, after he was sacked by the CM following land grab allegations.
“For the ruling party, this loss is a setback. Despite KCR’s efforts, strategies to not lose the election, they still lost. What worked for Eatala is sympathy factor (after him being sacked from his minister post) and resentment for KCR’s party and general discontent. The ruling party now has to be careful that they cannot let this continue for next year in the run-up to Assembly elections,” Ravi said.
BJP seeks to expand its footprint
In what was being seen as a battle of prestige, KCR remained at the forefront of the election campaign.
In a bid to woo the Dalit community, the CM, ahead of the bypoll, launched a Dalit Bandhu scheme which promised cash assistance of Rs 10 lakh to eligible families from the Dalit community for their empowerment. The party also backed KCR’s many welfare schemes for the OBC community.
It is estimated that there are about 50,000 voters (roughly 20 per cent of the total vote share) from the Dalit Community in the constituency and about 1.3 lakh OBC community voters.
Eatala, who belongs to OBC sub-caste Mudiraju, meanwhile, began the campaign even before the party had formally announced his name.
The saffron party, buoyed by a surprise win in last year’s Dubbaka bypoll, has been trying to expand its footprint in the state. After the Dubbaka bypoll, the bJP also improved its tally in the Hyderabad Municipal poll — it won 48 of 150 wards in the civic body, 10 times more than what it won in 2016. The ruling party, meanwhile, fell short of the halfway mark.
The BJP, however, failed to retain its seat in the Graduates MLC poll in March and put up a flop show in the Nagarjuna Sagar Assembly bypoll in May.
(Edited by Neha Mahajan)