Assessments from ground zero suggest BJP faces strong headwinds in Munugode

With ex-Congress MLA Rajagopal Reddy as its candidate, the BJP seems to be believe it will post an easy win in Munugode. It could be wrong.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Sep 06, 2022 | 9:00 AMUpdatedSep 06, 2022 | 1:21 PM

Bandi Sanjay with Amit Shah and K Rajagopal Reddy

For the BJP, winning the Munugode byelection in Nalgonda district in Telangana is likely going to be a case of easier said than done. The battle is quite different from the Huzurabad and Dubbaka byelections, which it won comfortably in the recent past.

BJP insiders say this is what the party has come to realise based on briefings and assessments it has received from those who have extensive knowledge of the constituency.

These briefings have also suggested the way forward for the party, if it is to overcome the challenges it faces in Munugode .

Among the challenges is the timing of the byelection itself, which, from the BJP’s perspective, should ideally be in January. As there is time till February, delaying it till January would help as it would be difficult for the Congress to sustain its tempo, given its internecine quarrels and its inability to raise funds for a long campaign.

Secondly, it is not clear how many of former Congress MLA Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy’s supporters are still with him after his defection to the BJP, whose candidate he would now be.

A third challenge is of convincing people that the Rajagopal Reddy did not switch parties so that he could bag contracts for works in the region, but that he quit as he was prevented from developing the constituency.

Rajagopal Reddy-BJP disconnect

Party insiders believe Rajagopal Reddy should make a serious bid to carry along all sections of the BJP in the constituency. However, he is yet to touch base with Gangidi Manohar Reddy, who contested elections in the constituency unsuccessfully on the BJP ticket in 2009, 2014, and 2018. This may prove costly for him.

Those with knowledge of Munugode say it would be mistake if BJP leaders think that Rajagopal Reddy would win the seat just because he won it 2018. What the BJP is overlooking is that in 2018, he won the seat on Congress ticket. Now he is the party’s nominee. The traditional Congress voters in the constituency may not forsake the grand old party and vote for Rajagopal Reddy this time.

Rajagopal Reddy resigned as Telangana Assembly legislator in August. (Rajagopal Reddy/Facebook)

On top of this, Rajagopal Reddy lacks finesse and makes enemies quickly — he is reportedly gruff with his followers.

The Munugode experts have, in fact, cautioned the BJP against building a narrative that winning the seat is as easy as snatching candy from a child.

If the saffron party had won Huzurabad, it was because the party acted as a cohesive unit, determined to defeat the TRS nominee at any cost. But in Munugode, that kind of determination is not visible and, on top of it, it is possible that the Congress voters, instead of shifting their loyalty to Rajagopal Reddy, might look at the TRS.

In Dubbaka, the BJP appropriated 17 percent of TRS votes and three percent of Congress votes, while in Huzurabad, the numbers were 13 percent and 34 percent, respectively. This makes it clear that in each by-election, the transfer of votes to the BJP is happening differently.

In this light, it is being suggested that the party should accordingly redraw its strategy to suit the dynamics of the Munugode byelection.

Mistake to write off Congress

Another fundamental mistake the BJP is making is to write off the Congress. There is still a lot of steam left in the Congress in Telangana, is the assessment, and it might end up with a decent number of votes.

According to the feedback from the villages, about 20 to 25 percent of Congress voters might not support Rajagopal Reddy. They want to defeat Rajagopal Reddy, even if it helps the TRS win the seat.

It would do Rajagopal Reddy good to bear in mind that money alone cannot help him win the by-election. In Huzurabad, the ruling TRS had reportedly distributed ₹6,000 per vote, and yet lost.

Countering the TRS

The party has been advised to counter all attempts of the TRS to misuse official machinery. They should act as a check on the attempts to purchase voters with inducements like money and liquor.

The Munugode experts advising the party believe the BJP should actively work to neutralise the Communists by fomenting anti-TRS and anti-Congress sentiment, given that there is anger among CPI and CPI(M) supporters after both parties pledged their support to the TRS.

The party should ensure the Communists, who are a significant factor in the constituency, do not vote either for the TRS or the Congress, especially as they would not vote for the BJP anyway.

On the positive side, the assessment is that the BJP has better visibility now with state president Bandi Sanjay Kumar’s padayatra and on account of the prime minister’s image.