Munugodu bypoll shatters plans of BJP in Telangana

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Hyderabad: Failure of BJP to repeat its Huzurabad success in Munugodu has dealt a blow to its efforts to emerge as the only viable alternative to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and gain a psychological edge ahead of the next year’s Assembly elections.

It’s no secret that imposing a by-election in Munugodu was a calculated move by the BJP to ride on Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy’s popularity in the constituency to score a hat-trick of bypoll victories and send a message that it alone can defeat the KCR-led government.

The importance attached to this bypoll by the BJP was evident from the fact that Union Home Minister Amit Shah had personally visited Munugodu to welcome Rajagopal Reddy into BJP and urged people to elect him. Shah had also predicted that within a month of Rajagopal’s win, the TRS government in the state would collapse.

The BJP was confident as a similar strategy had paid off in Huzurabad last year. Eatala Rajender, who had defected to the BJP after being dropped from the state Cabinet, won the seat as BJP candidate in the election held last year. This was a personal victory for Rajender, who has been representing the seat since 2009.

Cashing in on the public support he enjoyed in the constituency, Rajender retained the seat. However, the BJP used this win to project itself as a potent political force which can challenge TRS.

Huzurabad win came a year after the BJP won the first by-election in Dubbak by a narrow margin to wrest the seat from TRS. After this win, though considered by many as a flash in the pan, BJP started to see a realistic chance of emerging as a key force.

This was followed by BJP’s impressive performance in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Election (GHMC). The party, which roped in its top central leaders including Amit Shah and party president J P Nadda, running an aggressive campaign, drastically improved its tally in the 150-member municipal body to 48 from just four in the previous elections.

In the 2018 Assembly elections held a few months before they were originally scheduled, TRS had retained power by winning 88 seats. BJP could win just one seat. It finished second in only nine constituencies and in most of the seats its candidates forfeited the deposit.

However, BJP sprang a surprise in Lok Sabha elections held a few months later. The party not only retained Secunderabad but also wrested three other seats from TRS – Karimnagar, Nizamabad and Adilabad.

The victories in Dubbak and Huzurabad Assembly by-elections and the good show in GHMC polls further boosted the morale of the saffron party. It increased the focus on the state with ‘Mission 2023’ to come to power in Telangana and make it the second gateway to South India for the party after Karnataka.

As part of this strategy, BJP held the national executive in Hyderabad in June this year. A series of visits by top leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and J. P. Nadda to Telangana before and after the national executive lifted the spirits of BJP cadres.

With KCR stepping up its attacks on Narendra Modi and BJP and deciding to enter national politics, the BJP leadership tried to take the fight to his home turf to checkmate him.

Luring Rajagopal Reddy to join its ranks and imposing a by-election in Munugodu is believed to be a part of this strategy.

The TRS went all out to prevent a repeat of Huzurabad and thus put brakes on the saffron surge. KCR’s party exposed’ Rajagopal Reddy citing his own admission in an interview that his family firm Sushi Infra bagged Rs.18,000 crore contract from the Centre.

TRS working president K. T. Rama Rao went to the extent of claiming that Rajagopal Reddy assured Amit Shah that he will spend Rs 500 crore to win the bypoll.

The arrest of three alleged BJP agents in Hyderabad on October 26 while trying to buy four MLAs of the TRS caused embarrassment to the saffron party in the midst of the poll campaign.

Though the BJP leaders called the MLAs poaching case a drama orchestrated by KCR due to fear of defeat in Munugode, the saffron party has gone on the defensive.

KCR claims to have not only foiled the BJP’s conspiracy to topple his government but also collected evidence of its plans to topple governments in Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan.

With KCR determined to press for a thorough investigation into the explosive admissions made by the BJP agents and taking the issue to the national level by appealing to the Chief Justice of India, other Supreme Court judges and chief justices of all high courts to save democracy in the country, the BJP may find the going tough in foreseeable future.

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