The local body polls, which will be held from 6 May (in three phases) in Telangana, will be a survival test for a severely weakened Congress, given that now 11 of its 19 MLAs have defected to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).
While the TRS is looking to win a majority of the local body polls, the Congress is hoping to at least give it a tough fight, and has even taken undertakings from its candidates that they will not defect or will resign from their position if they do so.
The battle for the Congress is an uphill task, as it has been losing its MLAs to the TRS after the state assembly elections that were held last year in December. The TRS swept the polls, winning 88 of the 119 seats, while the grand old party won 19. However, 11 Congress MLAs have already defected to the TRS, which is now looking to poach a few more opposition MLAs.
“We are going to bounce back. There will be ballot paper (in the elections) and in each area, everybody is working on his or her own," said a senior Congress leader, who did not want to be quoted. He conceded that the TRS, led by chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao, is still trying to poach a few more Congress MLAs as well.
“What is it that we can do? We have gone to the HC and asked speaker to disqualify people who defected. And we have also asked all those who are contesting on a Congress ticket to give an undertaking that if they defect, they will resign from their post," the Congress leader said, and added that his party is going to give the TRS a tough fight in some of the 17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana as well.
However, the local body or Zilla Parishad Territorial Constituencies (ZPTC) and Mandal Parishad Territorial Constituencies (MPTC) elections have not been devoid of any controversies this time. The Telangana state election commission (TSEC) last week voided the election process of the Gaggalapally MPTC as it was found that TRS candidate Dodla Eeshwar Reddy “forcibly gave money ( ₹10 lakh) to Congress candidate Dodla Venkata Narayan Reddy to withdraw from the election.
In the upcoming elections, out of the total 539 ZPTCs, 538 will be going to polls (legal issues to be settled in one seat), while 5,816 out of the total 5,857 MPTCs are going for polling in three phases starting 6 May. TRS leaders, who did not want to be quoted, said that their party will win at least 350 to 400 of the MPTC posts, and a majority of the ZPTC posts as well.