Hyderabad: The upcoming 21 October by-election for the Huzurnagar assembly seat in Telangana will be a test for the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) claim as the main opposition in the state. The saffron party has been staking claim as Opposition against the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) post the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, during which it managed to win four out of the 17 seats.
The BJP’s tally during the general elections was one more than the Congress, which is still considered to be the main opposition. While the main contest in the by-election is between the TRS and Congress, if the BJP manages to gain a deposit (or 20% of the vote share, what it got overall in the state during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls), it will be able to prove that it is indeed replacing the Congress as the opposition.
In the 2018 state polls, the BJP candidate managed to secure just 1,500 votes in the Huzurnagar seat, and managed to win in just assembly segment (getting about 7% of the total vote share). The Congress, which was leading an alliance along with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS), won 19 seats, while the TRS won 88 seats (TDP won two assembly seats).
The Huzurnagar seat, however, will be an uphill task for the BJP, given that it is a Congress stronghold. “In any election we fight to win. Huzuragar is not an assembly segment where we got a good voting percent earlier. But we are asking the people to look at us like as an alternative, as voting for the TRS winning is not going to make any difference. Our pitch to the people is to give us a chance, so we can get central funds," said BJP’s Telangana chief spokesperson Krishna Saagar Rao.
The Huzurnagar by-election was necessitated after sitting MLA and Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) president N. Uttam Kumar Reddy resigned as he successfully contested and won from the Nalgonda parliamentary seat during the 2019 general elections. His wife Padmavati Reddy is likely to be given the ticket for it, while the TRS announced the candidature of Sanampudi Saidireddy, who had lost to Uttam in the 2018 polls by over 7,000 votes. The BJP has put up Dr. Rama Rao as a contender in the bye-election.
TDP, which has been severely weakened over the last five years in Telangana, is also contesting the seat and is likely to split some of the votes. Another BJP leader, who did not want to be quoted, said that the BJP’s chance of securing a good chunk of votes is likely to get affected due to the TDP also contesting. It is also to be seen if the ongoing indefinite bus strike (since 5 October) by employees of the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation affects the ruling TRS’s prospects.
“I don’t think they will be able to get votes there, because the candidate put up the BJP is a practicing doctor and not a seasoned politician. He is also belongs to a Backward Class community, which does not have more than 20,000 to 30,000 votes. But this time, the margin of the winner will be very close, perhaps even about 5,000, which will be a fight between the TRS and Congress," said Prof. E. Venkatesu, a faculty member from University of Hyderabad’s political science department.