Munugode bypoll: Results could provide a twist in the tale with caste, gender, turnout affecting calculations

Did BSP play spoilsport for BJP in its tug-of-war with the TRS? Did the Congress mange to woo enough women voters?

BySumit Jha

Published Nov 03, 2022 | 9:00 PMUpdatedNov 04, 2022 | 8:10 AM


Voting for the high stakes Munugode Assembly constituency bypoll concluded on Thursday, 3 November, following a high-pitched campaign by political parties. Riddled with allegations of voter inducement from day one, crores of rupees are suspected to have been spent by parties competing with each other in the run-up to the election.

Punters taking bets on the bypoll outcome had predicted the odds of election as “TRS-BJP-Congress — 1-2-3”, meaning TRS was poised to win the bypoll with BJP trailing in second and Congress a far third. This dynamic, however, may have changed due to the aggressive campaigns by political parties over the last week. In short, Munugode may throw up a surprise result that may not be in line with the predicted 1-2-3.

At the start of the by-election campaign, it was a three-way contest between the BJP, the TRS, and the Congress, but as the campaign picked up momentum, Munugode seemed like a straightforward contest was between BJP and TRS.

But, whether it was due to the Bharat Jodo Yatra’s domino effect or a surge in support for Revanth Reddy following an audio tape purportedly of Congress MP Venkat Reddy seeking votes for his brother and BJP candidate Raj Gopal Reddy, Congress’ campaign came right back on track to give competition to both TRS and BJP over the last two weeks.

The Congress’ push for women voters in the last leg of its campaign too is expected to affect the outcome.

BSP: A dark horse in the race

After a year of campaigning in Telangana and prepping the ground for Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), celebrated former IPS officer BSP state chief RS Praveen Kumar decided to field a candidate for the Munugode election. The party fielded Andoju Shankara Chary, a Backward Class (BC) leader from the constituency.

BC communities make for more than 50 percent of the voters in the Munugode constituency and TRS, BJP and Congress have all fielded non-BC candidates.

“BSP’s campaign in the constituency is all about BC representation. If BCs are more than 50 percent in Munugode why did the major parties not think of the community while considering candidates? Our aim is to highlight the discrimination by all three parties for the last 50 years when either a Reddy or Velama — both upper caste — have represented the constituency despite the large BC population,” said a BSP worker who was campaigning in the constituency.

The BJP has no great vote base of its own in Munugode, but is dependent on some common support from BC communities and its candidate and former Congress MLA Komitireddy Rajagopal Reddy’s own vote base, which also largely includes BC communities.

The BSP has attempted to divide that vote bank. While BSP may not garner huge vote share, it could potentially damage the BJP’s prospects.

TRS’ display of being BC leaders’ favourite

The trumpet for the Munugode election was blown when Rajagopal Reddy resigned from the Congress and as MLA from the constituency and joined the BJP.

Quick to learn a lesson from the backlash it received from BC communities after announcing the Dalit Bandhu scheme during the Huzurabad byelection — that won over Dalits but distanced the BCs — TRS has course-corrected ahead of Munugode bypoll.

Given that major leaders of the BJP in Telangana hail from the BC community — from state president Bandi Sanjay Kumar, BJP OBC Morcha national President K Laxman, or last elected MLA Eatala Rajender — the party appeals to every BC category in the state.

Mindful of this, the TRS initiated several programmes to appeal to the SCs, STs and BCs in the state.

First, TRS appealed to the Union Government to name the new parliament building after Dr BR Ambedkar and then went on to name the new Secretariat in Telangana after him. The Chandrashekhar Rao government also announced a hike in ST reservations from 6 to 10 percent in the state.

After polls were announced, aware of Dalit Bandhu Scheme keeping its Dalit vote in place, TRS inducted several BC leaders to its fold to portray itself as the “top pick” for leaders from the community.

Former MLC K Swamy Goud, who joined BJP in 2020, returned to TRS. So did Sravan Dasoju who was once in TRS and later joined Congress and a month ago joined BJP, only to return to the TRS. Similarly, former Rajya Sabha MP, Rapolu Ananda Bhaskar also quit the BJP and joined the TRS.

No sympathy for Rajagopal Reddy

The sympathy wave BJP got for Eatala Rajender during the Huzurabad byelection in 2021, is missing for Rajagopal Reddy in Munugode.

“If Rajagopal Reddy was not getting respect in Congress, or if he was not getting anything done for Munugode, he could have contested independently; he did not have to join the BJP. He joined BJP to get the government contracts,” Nagesh Raju, a resident of Chandur in Munugode constituency, told South First.

The narrative that Rajagopal Reddy got tenders worth ₹18,000 crore to join BJP has trickled down to the grassroots in Munugode and comes as a shot in the arm for other parties. TRS, BSP and Congress have repeatedly evoked the narrative that Rajagopal Reddy resigned for his own personal benefit and not for the people of Munugode.

“He was an MP of this area, he was an MLC, before this he was an MLA. Till now, what has he done? Every politician is the same, they forget their constituency but he used to come and visit constituency once in a month or two. Showing work done by his NGO is publicity, but on the ground he didn’t do anything as MLA. How can we connect with him? Palvai Govardhan Reddy (former Congress MLA) and K Prabhakar Reddy (former TRS MLA), both were connected to the constituency. They are our local leaders,” Rajender Srinivasulu a voter in Munugode told South First.

Transfer of Congress votes

With TRS and BSP eyeing the BC votes, Congress — that lost its candidate as well as a portion of its vote bank to BJP when Rajagopal Reddy resigned — took up a different route: Women voters.

It was last day of campaigning in Munugode, a kilometer away from the main junction, thousands of women were flocking to attend Congress’ Mahila Garjana. All the chairs in the campaign ground were filed with the women of the constituency.

Having fielded a woman candidate, Congress State President Revanth Reddy asked the women of Munugode to support Sravanthi.

“We have handed over our daughter to you. Whether you nourish her or kill her is left to you,” Revanth said in an emotional appeal. This was also Congress’ opportunity to put up a show of strength to woo the other half of the population in the constituency.

When the byelection was necessitated in Munugode, the BJP expectation was that as the Congress was quite weak on the ground, Rajagopal Reddy would be able to lure a good chunk of its votes to the saffron party.

During the last election in 2018, Congress got around 48.89 percent of the votes while BJP only 8 percent votes.

With the sentiment of being ditched by a leader for money and also the goodwill of former MLA and MP Palvai Govardhan Reddy going with its candidate Palvai Sravanthi, Congress is banking on its loyal voters sticking with the party and providing a twist to the Munugode tale when the results are declared on 6 November.