Hyderabad: Both the ruling Congress and main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh were set to lose to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in by-elections to 12 assembly seats in the Telangana region.
Giving strength to the movement for carving a separate Telangana state out of Andhra Pradesh, TRS has won seven of the 12 seats and was leading in four more constituencies, according to poll data available on Friday evening. It is set to improve its tally in the region by one seat over the April 2009 polls.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secured one seat.
Results were declared by the afternoon in seven constituencies where electronic voting machines had been used. Paper ballots were being counted in the other constituencies, of which the results for one were declared late evening.
The 12 seats had been vacated by lawmakers to press their demand for a separate state. All have won or are leading in their respective seats, including Ch. Ramesh of TRS, who had contested as a TDP member in the previous election. Except for the loss to TDP, there is no change in the strength of the political parties in the state assembly.
Political analysts describe the results as a vote for TRS’ Telangana movement but not as a major loss to the Congress or the TDP. “The ground-level situation is entirely different in the Telangana region, where more than 90% of panchayats are in the hands of (the) Congress and TDP and they may regain their lost ground quite quickly,” said C. Narasimha Rao, an independent political analyst.
“For the time being, TRS was successful in making the voters treat the bypolls as (a) referendum for a separate Telangana state by re-electing the candidates,” he added.
Both the Congress and the TDP said the results were not a sign of weakening bases for their parties in the region.
“The sentiment for a separate Telangana state is quite strong and the by-election outcome should not be seen as Congress’ defeat. The people of the region favoured those who sacrificed their posts for the cause of Telangana,” said D. Srinivas, Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee president and losing candidate from Nizamabad urban constituency.
TDP legislator A. Revanth Reddy said, “We should understand that the by-elections were held in special circumstances and the victory of TRS and BJP candidates should be seen as the victory of sentiment for Telangana state and not as defeat of other parties.”
T. Harish Rao, TRS leader and nephew of party president T. Chandrasekhar Rao, said he hopes the results will convince the justice Srikrishna committee of public support for a Telangana state. The Union government-appointed panel looking into the division of Andhra Pradesh has to submit its report by the end of the year.
Senior Congress leaders from the Telangana region, including Parliament members Madhu Yashki Goud, Gutta Sukhender Reddy and Ponnam Prabhakar, said the results were a referendum in favour of a Telangana state. They urged the party high command at the Centre to expedite the process of carving out a new state.
Supporters of former chief minister late Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s family, now rallying behind his son and Parliament member Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, blamed the party’s poor show on what they said was the absence of a strong leadership at the state level.
Jagan Mohan Reddy strained ties with the Congress leadership after it refused to name him chief minister following his father’s death in a helicopter crash in September. His backers have since then criticized chief minister K. Rosiah and are threatening a split in the party at the state level. “Had the high command utilized the services of the only charismatic leader now in the state party, Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, we would have easily won at least three to four seats and improved the party’s performance in other seats as well,” said Pulla Padmavathi, a Congress legislator.