Hyderabad: In a major setback to the Congress, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) won the Huzurnagar assembly by-election with a thumping margin of 43,358 votes on Thursday. TRS candidate Shanampudi Saidi Reddy, 1,13,094 votes, leaving the Congress’s N. Padmavathi Reddy, far behind at about 69,737 votes.
While winning or losing one by-poll will not make a big difference to the TRS, which now has 104 MLAs in the state assembly, the win is likely to set the tone for the upcoming municipal polls, likely to be held in November.
The result comes as a shock for the Congress, given that both sides were expecting a neck-to-neck contest, and also that Huzurnagar has been a traditional seat for the Congress, which it has been winning from decades. The win also establishes the supremacy of Rao, who had been recently dealing with some disgruntled MLAs. The bye-poll result was also another positive for the TRS, which took a beating in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls after it won only 9 out of the 17 parliamentary seats (Congress won 3, while Bharatiya Janata Party won 4).
“The margin of the TRS’s win is what surprised me most, and not the victory itself. It effectively means that Congress has failed miserably with regard to communication. Had it worked well with the TSRTC unions, and had gone across all households, door-to-door, then at least it would have hurt the TRS’s prospects. The Congress is not able to communicate with people," said political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.
The bye-election was also a test for the BJP, which has been staking claim as the main opposition in the state after winning four Lok Sabha seats. However, its candidate Dr. Kota Rama Rao, managed to just get only 2,639 votes, showing that the saffron party is yet to make inroads in traditional Congress bastions. Moreover, the ongoing indefinite bus strike by the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) was also expected to impact the by-election results.
The strike, which began from 5 October, and is being led by the TSRTC unions against the state government (to implement certain demands including pay hikes and merger of the TSRTC with the state government) was also a test of Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao’s popularity, which seems to have remained intact. The TRS had won 88 of the 119 assembly seats in the December 2018 state elections, while the Congress, which was leading a grand alliance with other opposition parties, managed to win just 19. However, 12 of its MLAs have since then defected to the TRS, which now has 104 MLAs in the assembly.
The Huzurnagar bye-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 Padmavathi Reddy was given the Congress ticket, while the TRS fielded Saidireddy, who lost the seat during the 2018 state elections by a margin of over 7,000 votes.