To borrow a Ravi Shastrism, Huzurnagar as on writing this post on 17 October, will go down to the wire. The constituency in Suryapet district of Telangana will vote on 21 October, the byelection necessitated by the resignation of state Congress chief Uttam Kumar Reddy who had won from Huzurnagar by 7000 votes in the December 2018 assembly election. Subsequent to his election as Nalgonda MP, he resigned and now his wife Padmavathi is the Congress candidate.
Padmavathi incidentally lost from Kodad in 2018 and she is up against Saidi Reddy, who lost to Uttam Reddy. This election therefore is about one of the losers turning a winner on 24 October.
Here are the five factors that will impact the battle of Huzurnagar and decide the winner.
1. Fatigue factor with Uttam Kumar Reddy : He has been elected thrice by Huzurnagar, in 2009, 2014 and 2018. While there is the comfort of familiarity and an acknowledgement of the work done by him as Housing minister in Kiran Kumar Reddy’s cabinet till 2014, there is also a feeling that perhaps it is time for change. More so when electing Padmavathi would only mean adding to the opposition’s miniscule strength in the Telangana assembly while electing a ruling party candidate could translate into some goodies for Huzurnagar. That is the TRS narrative being marketed in the constituency.
2. The TRS overdrive : Just about the entire Telangana cabinet has campaigned in Huzurnagar, an indication of how seriously K Chandrasekhar Rao is taking this bypoll. The chief minister too will be addressing a public meeting on 17 October, hoping to tilt the scales in favour of Saidi Reddy. KCR realises that having lost four Lok Sabha seats to the BJP and three to the Congress in the 2019 elections, Huzurnagar gives him the opportunity to show that when it comes to Telangana assembly, he is the one who matters.
Update : The public meeting was cancelled, ostensibly because of adverse weather.
3. The RTC strike : The Congress has been hoping this will be a major poll issue given that the TRS government has been found wanting in the way it has dealt with the strike so far. Thirteen days into the strike, the people have been put to inconvenience, school and colleges have been forcibly shut and the Telangana High court too has slammed the government for not doing enough to defuse the stalemate.
But on the ground, that is not the overwhelming sentiment. In fact, there is little sympathy for RTC workers despite the suicides by two employees and the loss of jobs to 48000 striking people. This is because they went on strike during the Dussehra festival, which is the biggest festival in Telangana and voters of Huzurnagar have not forgotten how it put them in trouble. That has gone against them and by extension, the Congress which is backing the RTC employees.
But this could change given that the Telangana bandh on 19 October will precede voting day. This could still be the X-factor in this election.
4. Money power : This is the second X-factor. Both the TRS and Congress admit it is finally money power that will decide the winner. “It finally boils down to the money, biryani and liquor,” says a local leader. Another leader admits Diwali has come early to Huzurnagar.
5. BJP is not a player in Huzurnagar : There was apprehension that match-fixing between the Congress and the BJP, like was seen in Nizamabad, could tilt the scales against the TRS. That however, is unlikely to happen given that the BJP candidate has been left to fend for himself in Huzurnagar and won’t have many votes to transfer to Congress even if there is an understanding.
Surveys commissioned by both the TRS and the Congress suggest their respective candidates may just about scrape through, with the margin of victory less than the 7000 vote lead Uttam Kumar Reddy secured in December.