Hyderabad: In a major setback to the Congress, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has taken a major lead of over about 18,000 votes in the Huzurnagar assembly seat byelection on Thursday. TRS candidate Sanampudi Saidireddy, according the Election Commission of India (ECI) website, secured over 50,000 votes, leaving Congress’ N. Padmavathi Reddy trailing behind at about 32,000-odd votes.
The result comes as a surprise given that both sides were expecting a neck-to-neck contest. The result of the byelection is expected to set the political mood for the foreseeable future, especially for the TRS, which had taken 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 byelection is 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 Kota Rama Rao, managed to just get over 1,000 votes, showing that the saffron party has 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 bye-election results.
In fact, a day earlier on 23 October, KCR had announced that the state government is ready to conduct the municipal elections, which have been due from the last few months. The result of the Huzurnagar byelection will put the TRS back in the driver’s seat, especially since the assembly segment has traditionally been a Congress stronghold from decades.
The strike, 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) is also a test of Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao’s popularity, which has so far 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 103 MLAs in the assembly.
The Huzurnagar byelection 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.