Congress’ poor show in Telangana Lok Sabha polls: Did BJP beat the party in appropriating BRS votes?

Telangana CM gave an elaborate account of how the BRS votes had shifted to the BJP in several Assembly segments.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Jun 08, 2024 | 8:00 AMUpdatedJun 08, 2024 | 8:00 AM

Congress performance in Telangana Lok Sabha polls

The Congress’ performance in recent Lok Sabha elections in Telangana sharply fell short of its expectations.

The party hoped to pick up at least 10 to 14 seats of the total 17 but had to contend with just eight. The party was overconfident that the erosion that was sure to take place in the BRS vote bank would shift in its favour. But it went the BJP way, indicating a grey area in the Congress’ election management. The Congress should also introspect how the BJP beat it in impressing the people more.

Compared to its performance in 2019, its show now is better. It won only three seats then – Malkajgiri, Nalgonda and Bhongir but won eight seats now.

After the party steam-rolled to power in the Assembly elections vanquishing the BRS in the process, the party’s expectations grew higher by the time Lok Sabha polls arrived. Congress leaders felt that the momentum the party had acquired in the Assembly elections would see it through in the Lok Sabha polls.

However, as is always with any election, the X-factor that lurks in a corner came to the forefront, throwing a spanner in the Congress’ works. The BJP, which came from behind, dealt a blow to the Congress. It fed on the BRS votes voraciously, so much so that the party could easily overtake the Congress in the eight seats it won.

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Vote share in Lok Sabha polls

The Congress secured a vote share of 40.10 percent in the recent Lok Sabha elections. In the Assembly polls, it was 39.40 percent. This means that the Congress vote share remained more or less constant but the BRS votes shifted to the BJP, helping it pick up eight seats in the Lok Sabha elections, denting the Congress’ prospects.

The BRS had a vote share of 37.35 in the 2023 Assembly elections. In the recent Lok Sabha elections, it slid to 16.68 percent. It means that 20.67 percent of BRS votes had moved to the BJP.

Telangana Chief Minister A Revanth Reddy has admitted that the performance of the Congress was not very satisfactory. He said: “We have been working 18 hours a day. Now, the results have shown that we have to work 20 hours a day to impress the people with better performance.”

The party lost Malkajgiri, which Revanth Reddy himself had represented in the outgoing Lok Sabha. The party also lost Mahbubnagar, of which Revanth Reddy’s’ native Assembly segment of Kodangal is a part. BJP’s DK Aruna won the seat but she had to earn each and every vote as the Congress nominee Challa Vamsichand Reddy had fought till the very end before going down. Revanth Reddy had addressed more than 10 public meetings in the Mahbubnagar Lok Sabha constituency and yet the party lost the seat.

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Telangana CM takes responsibility for party’s performance

Revanth Reddy admitted that he would take responsibility for not only Malkajgiri and Mahbubnagar but also for all the seats that the party had lost. “I am the chief mister and the PCC president. I am responsible for both good and bad. Anyway, the party’s performance, though not very spectacular is nonetheless better. Our score went up to eight from just three in the 2019 elections. The vote share of the party in the Lok Sabha elections was 40.10 percent, which is an increase from 39.40 percent in the assembly elections six months ago. The party lost because of the nexus between the BRS and BJP. The BRS, with the sole intention of defeating the Congress, joined hands with the BJP, not caring that in the process it is committing a political hara-kiri.” he said.

Interestingly, the Congress could not put up a better show even in the segments it won in the Assembly elections. But compensating for the loss, it had won with a majority in seats which it lost in the assembly elections. The net result was that the Congress secured a majority in exactly 64 Assembly segments, its score in the Assembly elections.

Apart from maintaining its majority in 49 segments which it won in the Assembly elections, Congress also forayed into 12 Assembly segments which the BRS had won in the Assembly polls and in the segments that the CPI, AIMIM and BJP had won.

The Chief Minister gave an elaborate account of how the BRS votes had shifted to the BJP in several Assembly segments to prove that the BRS had undermined the prospects of Congress’ candidates at the hustings.

He pointed out that in Siddipet, which is part of the Medak Lok Sabha seat, the BRS got only 2.500 votes. Ever since the formation of BRS in 2001 and till 2023, in every election, the BRS had been getting a huge majority ranging from 25,000 to 1.2 lakh in the segment. This time, Siddipet sitting MLA T Harish Rao had ensured that all the BRS votes went to the BJP candidate, alleged the CM. The result was that the BJP’s M Raghunandan Rao won the election, defeating the Congress nominee Neelam Madhu.

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Did Congress act in time? 

In seven of the eight seats that the BJP won, the BRS lost security deposits which is a clear indication that that the saffron party had cannibalised the BRS. There might not be merit in the Congress allegation that the pink party deliberately transferred its votes to the BJP which in a practical sense may not be possible and the fact remains that the BJP appropriated BRS votes. For the BRS, the situation calls for a serious review of why it lost the trust of the people if it did not transfer the votes deliberately as the Congress is alleging.

Though Congress knew that the BJP might cannibalise the BRS votes, it did not act in time to prevent the haemorrhage. The party seemed to have been quite confident that a major portion of the BRS votes would remain with it so that the BJP would not have the opportunity to grow stronger. Had the Congress managed to get the BRS votes, it would have won a few more seats. But it was the BJP which took away a large chunk of votes enough to help it win eight seats.

Cut to the quick with Revanth Reddy’s allegations, both Eatala Rajender and M Raghunandan Rao who won from Malkajgiri and Medak seats respectively said that their victory was not due to an understanding between the BJP and the BRS. They maintained that people had voluntarily voted for the saffron party, choosing it over BRS and Congress. Though it was expected of the BJP leaders to speak on these lines, the fact remains that the Lok Sabha elections had dealt a death blow to the BRS and raised red flags in the Congress’ election management.

(Edited by Neena)