Ever since Sunday evening when India Today TV-Axis My India exit poll mentioned Karimnagar as one Lok Sabha constituency where the BJP could win in Telangana, B Vinod has been a worried man. The senior Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leader and the sitting MP from Karimnagar is a confidant of K Chandrasekhar Rao’s side and was by the chief minister’s side when he visited Chennai to meet DMK president MK Stalin earlier this month.
BJP leaders say its candidate Bandi Sanjay has done exceedingly well in three of the seven assembly segments – Karimnagar, Vemulawada and Choppadandi. Which means Vinod would have had to make up in Siricilla, Manakondur, Husnabad and Huzurabad. In 2014, Vinod had won Karimnagar by a margin of over 2 lakh votes.
The TRS suspects match-fixing between the BJP and the Congress at the candidate level to defeat the TRS even though the two parties are sworn enemies at the national level. During the election campaign there were reports about Ponnam Prabhakar of the Congress having virtually given up, giving rise to suspicion about a deal.
There are reports that similar understanding was arrived at in Nizamabad and Mahbubnagar though it would have needed an enormous amount of ground-level messaging to ensure the Congress vote was transferred to the BJP in these constituencies. For the record, the Congress denies any attempt at conceding ground to the BJP. But D Arvind of the BJP is very confident of his chances in Nizamabad and told Filter Kaapi soon after polling that he will upset KCR’s daughter, Kavitha.
Internally, the Telangana BJP is going by a survey conducted by the Mumbai-based Prabodhan Research group which puts the BJP ahead only in the Secunderabad Lok Sabha constituency. It has given the BJP an `A’ ranking here against `B+’ for the TRS.
Venugopal Rao of the Centre for Psephology Studies (CPS) who conducted the opinion polls for KCR and predicted 16/16 for the TRS with the 17th seat in Telangana going to the MIM, pooh-poohs talk of the BJP or the Congress winning any seat. But this has not prevented the Congress from pinning its hopes on three seats – Bhongir, Nalgonda and to an extent, Khammam. Three Congress heavyweights – former Sports minister Komatireddy Venkat Reddy, PCC chief Uttam Kumar Reddy and former Union minister Renuka Chowdhury – contested from the three seats respectively.
Chevella and Malkajgiri were two seats the Congress was initially hoping to win because of formidable candidates in Vishweshwar Reddy and Revanth Reddy respectively. But post polling, it had its doubts about Chevella. This is because while Vishweshwar Reddy, the sitting MP who moved from TRS to Congress before the December 2018 assembly elections, is reported to have done well in the rural pockets of Chevella constituency, the urban areas are reported to have ditched him. The IT crowd and the non-Telugus settled in Serilingampally have apparently voted for the TRS not swayed by its candidate Ranjith Reddy but because of TRS working president, KT Rama Rao who was IT minister earlier.
But the Vishweshwar Reddy camp is not disheartened by this prognosis. It points out that he did not get the urban Chevella vote even in 2014 because the TRS then was seen as a party of agitators. But he still won because he swept rural Chevella five years ago. This seat promises to be a tough fight.
The TRS went out of its way in Malkajgiri mounting a very strong campaign, even though its candidate Rajasekhar Reddy is a newcomer to electoral politics. Having ensured Revanth Reddy’s defeat in Kodangal in the assembly elections, the TRS wanted to ensure he does not gain entry to the Lok Sabha either. But Revanth is confident and has reportedly even started working on what he will speak in Parliament on.
KCR would be disappointed if the TRS wins even one seat less than 16 in Telangana because it would be a dampener for his national ambitions. The party had gone to the election campaign talking of Mission 16. For the Congress, mauled by the desertion of 11 of its 19 MLAs, only a decent showing can be a facesaver. Ditto for the BJP whose strength in the assembly elections came down from five MLAs to one.