BJP’s Eatala Rajender is leading the ruling TRS after each round of counting for the by-elections to Telangana’s Huzurabad assembly constituency is extending that lead.
At 3.31 pm he is nearly 5,000 votes ahead of Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s Gelu Srinivas Yadav and Congress’s Balamur Venkata Narasimha Rao is third with less than 1,500 votes.
The fight for Huzurabad is being keenly watched as Mr Rajendra – who won the seat in the 2018 election – quit the TRS in June over allegations of corruption related to land-grabbing charges.
He has denied all the allegations.
The then Health Minister, Mr. Rajendra (who also previously held the Finance portfolio) was dropped from the cabinet, after which Huzurabad resigned as MLA and left Telangana Rashtra Samithi. He joined the BJP a few days later in Delhi in the presence of party chief JP Nadda.
The performance of Mr. Rajendra, considered one of the prominent leaders who spearheaded the movement for a separate Telangana along with Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, is being watched with interest.
Eatala Rajender is a four-time MLA from Huzurabad, having won it in every election created before the 2009 elections. In this by-election, more than 86 percent voting was recorded in this seat.
The bypoll is now a matter of prestige for both the TRS and the BJP, leading the Congress to allege that both were wooing voters for cash payments. Although there is not even half a term left before the full election, the result here could affect the political development in the state.
The TRS wanted to win because a decisive victory for Mr. Rajendra could give hope to other disgruntled leaders that they too can challenge KCR’s leadership and win if they jump to the BJP.
Interestingly, he chose student leader Gelu Srinivas Yadav, who is considered politically heavy, to take on Mr. Rajendra. The concern that the loss of a senior leader would be an embarrassment to the party may also play a role in TRS calculations in this regard.
Telangana Finance Minister Harish Rao, who is also the chief minister’s nephew, was made the election in-charge of the ruling party and neither KCR nor his son KT Rama Rao campaigned there.
Winning Huzurabad was crucial for the BJP after winning the Dubak by-election and performing well in the municipal elections in Hyderabad. A victory here could give momentum as it looks to emerge as a challenger to the TRS in the 2023 assembly elections.
The Congress demanded the postponement of the elections held on Saturday.
“TRS and BJP are buying votes worth Rs 6,000 and Rs 10,000. Huzurabad bypoll has become costliest in the country… It is being debated on TV channels in Telangana. Democracy has no meaning if votes are to be cast. Can be bought,” said spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.