After suffering a major setback in the form of defections, the upcoming Huzurnagar assembly seat bye-election, on 21 October, in Telangana will be a test for the Congress to assert itself as the main opposition in the state. The contest is likely to be a hard fought battle, as the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) will be looking to further weaken the grand old party by winning the seat, held by Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) president N. Uttam Kumar Reddy until recently.
The bye-poll was necessitated after Uttam vacated the seat post successfully winning the Nalgonda Lok Sabha constituency during the 2019 general elections. His wife, Padamathi Reddy, who had unsuccessfully contested from the Kodad assembly seat (in the 2018 state polls) is likely to be the Congress candidate for the bye-election. After the date was announced, TRS nominated Sanampudi Saidireddy, who lost the same seat to Uttam the last time, as its candidate.
“Winning this seat will be important, as it was held by Uttam Kumar Reddy, who didn’t win with a very big margin. Saidireddy gave a tough fight to him, which is why he was declared as the candidate again. Plus, Uttam has been winning from the last three terms, and defeating him will be a major fall for the Congress," said a TRS leader, who did not want to be quoted.
In the December 2018 Telangana elections, the TRS won 88 of the 119 seats, Congress 19, All India Majilis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) 7, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) 2 and the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) one. Since then, 12 Congress MLAs defected to the TRS earlier this year, while some other leaders, like former minister D. K. Aruna, jumped ship to the BJP (both before and after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls).
For the Congress, winning will also be a matter of prestige, especially after the BJP won four Lok Sabha seats, one more than the grand old party (out of 17), in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The TRS, led by party president and chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR), won 9, while the AIMIM won 1. Since then the perception is that the BJP is emerging as the alternative to the ruling party.
TPCC general secretary M. Vikram Goud however said that the Congress will definitely win the Huzurnagar seat, as big leaders from Nalgonda district, under which it falls, have also thrown their weight behind whoever the party will nominate. “It is a sitting seat for us, and Congress has been winning it from many years. The ruling TRS has not been letting opposition MLAs speak in the assembly, and the voters of Huzurnagar will give KCR a befitting reply," he added.
Political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy said that the bye-poll will indeed be an important one, given the vicissitudes the Congress has been through recently, especially after defections. “This time around, senior leaders Congress like Jana Reddy and Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy have also said they will support the candidate, which is in fact great for the Congress. On the other hand, losing it will be a major loss of face for it as well, and it will be further demoralized," he opined.