Ground Report: Aspirations fly high in prestigious Huzurabad where caste norms stalk public roads

The constituency gained prominence after the former BRS leader, Eatala Rajender, switched allegiance and added one more to the BJP's strength in Telangana Assembly.

BySumit Jha

Published Oct 27, 2023 | 10:00 AMUpdatedNov 09, 2023 | 4:15 PM

For women like Sumakka in the Huzurabad constituency, the challenges they face daily require greater importance than the political debates of their male counterparts. (Sumit Jha/South First)

With the Telangana Assembly elections 2023 just weeks away, South First is bringing you ground reports from key constituencies. This series brings you voices from the ground, the mood of the voters, and issues that matter — as well as those that don’t.

The tea stall owner stirred the boiling milk, his eyes glued to a small television set. And then his excitement boiled over with a shriek.

“I told you, Eatala will not leave this constituency,” he looked around at his customers around him, his face glowing with pride and sweat.

Some among his unintended audience were still watching the TV, forgetting to sip the tea they held in paper cups. The all-male group at Jammikunda in the Huzurabad Assembly constituency soon got engrossed in an animated political discussion on the prospects of Eatala Rajender of the BJP getting re-elected.

About six kilometres away in Chelpur village, politics was the last thing on Saroj’s mind. She represented the constituency’s women, more concerned about the daily challenges they faced in their lives than the political rhetoric reverberating all around.

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Saroj’s concerns

Outside the veterinary hospital, Saroj looked accusingly at her herd of goats, some of them bleating as if in protest against the folly of halting on the dusty land with sparse grass.

Saroj outside the veterinary hospital. Her husband and goats are also seen. (Sumit Jha/South First)

Saroj outside the veterinary hospital. Her husband and goats are also seen. (Sumit Jha/South First)

The 55-year-old goatherder was crestfallen for the third time in as many days. Saroj was to get a free saree but by the time she herded her goats from the fields to the panchayat office nearby, she was late. The office had run out of sarees.

“They told me that they have run out of stock, and the new stock would arrive the next day. I went for three days, but didn’t get a saree,” Saroj did not hide her disappointment of not having a new saree for Saddhula Bathukamma, the last day of the nine-day festival.

Saroj did not want to buy one from the market. “The cheapest one costs ₹250, and it may not of good quality. If I want a good one, it will cost at least ₹500. I’m not sure whether I should buy one or not. I will ask my son,” she sounded confused.

The Huzurabad Assembly constituency — spread over Karimnagar and Hanamkonda — was decked up in flowers when South First went past the Dr BR Ambedkar statue that welcomes visitors to the town. The Deccan region was celebrating Bathukamma — the festival of life that salutes feminity.

The saree Saroj mentioned was part of the Telangana government’s initiative to distribute them to all women above 18 during the Bathukamma festival. The rationale was to empower the disadvantaged communities and to boost their self-esteem during the state festival.

It was also meant to support the weavers.

Also read: The importance of Dalit voters in Telangana

Samakka’s too…

Sexagenarian Samakka sat on rocks arranged like a half-wall under a tree in the Rajapally village. She was worried over the quality of the saree received this year. She brought out the saree to drive in her point.

Samakka showing her Bathukamma saree, as her neighbour looks on. (Sumit Jha/South First)

Samakka showing her Bathukamma saree, as her neighbour looks on. (Sumit Jha/South First)

“I belong to the Padmashali community of weavers. Instead of providing the promised good quality silk sarees, the government has been providing these inexpensive polyester five-metre sarees for the past two years,” Samakka told South First.

Samakka has stopped weaving due to ill health. “The election is to he held soon. The government should have provided a better saree this year,” she added.

The 60-year-old’s political concern was over the five-metre polyster saree. Unlike the menfolk, she did not know the political parties by their names. But she knows the symbols and has heard that Eatala would be contesting “on a Flower”. He was earlier “in a Car”.

Saree was not the only point of discussion. Ahead of the 2021 byelection, necessitated by the resignation of Eatala from the BRS to join the BJP, Finance Minister T Harish Rao promised 5,000 two-bedroom houses for the poor in Huzurabad. While houses were distributed in several other constituencies, those constructed in Huzurabad have not been allotted.

Samakka lives in an asbestos-roofed brickhouse with naked walls. “I don’t have a proper house. Can you help me secure a home for myself,” the woman enquired, like many others who believed outsiders, especially from Hyderabad, could be of help.

The woman has a small piece of land. Ever since her husband’s death, she has been living with her Registered Medical Practitioner (RMP) son.

She exuded hope. The Dalit Bandhu scheme has bettered many lives in the village.

A house seemed to be the dream of the poor, while the middle class, especially the youth, aspired for employment.

Also read: Eatala Rajender says he will contest from two seats

Young aspirations

Being a hub for education, Huzurabad has a sizable number of educated job aspirants.

Teacher Sujana at her husband's shop. (Sumit Jha/South First)

Teacher Sujana at her husband’s shop. (Sumit Jha/South First)

Private school teacher Sujana was at her husband’s stationery shop. The young mother puts in extra hours at the shop since her salary alone cannot help both ends meet, She has been preparing for the Telangana State Public Service Commission (TSPSC) examinations to land a better-paying government job.

“After 2015, the government initiated recruitment for the first time. However, you’ve seen how poorly it’s been executed. The Group-I TSPSC examination was twice cancelled. The Group-II examination has been postponed, and many of us who have been preparing for these exams for years, are forced to wait,” Sujana shared the common sentiment of the educated youth across the state.

Srinivas Ginnorapu, with a Master’s degree in English Literature, teaches at a private junior college. He opined unemployment was the primary concern of the people in the constituency.

“Many of us possess professional or technical qualifications, but we don’t come from privileged backgrounds where we can simply travel to Hyderabad, attend 10 interviews in two months, and secure a job by the third month, albeit with a low salary. We’ve spent years preparing for white-collar government positions that offer stable income and family security,” Ginnorapu told South First.

He agreed that the government has recruited police sub-inspectors and constables. “But not all prefer the police force,” he added.

Sujana felt that the government has been promoting self-employment rather than providing stable employment. “Self-employment isn’t sustainable or secure, and many of us are not inclined to fall into that trap,” she noted.

Ginnorapu also expressed frustration at the government focusing more on contractual employment. “After two years, you may be asked to leave. If I’m 45, will I be able to find another opportunity? It’s disheartening that in the past eight years, the government has been unable to directly recruit young people,” he pointed out.

Also read: BRS manifesto aims to steal the thunder from Congress guarantees

Divided by caste

After Eatala Rajender resigned from the TRS (now BRS) in June 2021, Chief Minister K Chandrashekar rolled out the transformative scheme, the Dalit Bandhu Scheme, in Huzurabad before the byelection. Consolidation of Scheduled Caste (SC) community votes was perceived to be his intention for launching the scheme from Huzurabad.

Srinivas Ginnorapu teaches at a private junior college and also looks after the family's fertilizer shop which they opened using the fund from teh Dalit Bandhu Scheme. (Sumit Jha/South First)

Srinivas Ginnorapu teaches at a private junior college and also looks after the family’s fertilizer shop which they opened using the fund from the Dalit Bandhu Scheme. (Sumit Jha/South First)

The scheme offered ₹10 lakh each to beneficiary families to find a livelihood of their choice, so they could eradicate poverty

“My family received ₹10 lakh and we opened a fertiliser, pesticide, and seed shop,” Ginnorapu said.

Saroj, too, has benefited from the scheme. “We recently received ₹5 lakh, and my son started a shop selling painting materials. The officials informed my son that the remaining ₹5 lakh would be credited after the election,” she said.

Ginnorapu said the scheme, besides helping them find a livelihood, elevated their status in the community. However, societal acceptance of their self-sufficiency and honorable living has not been accepted graciously.

He recalled an incident he had faced at a procurement centre. A man at the procurement centre was full of disdain., “This man has received Dalit Bandhu,” he smirked.

The college lecturer described how one could discern from the individual’s expression, his disbelief over a Dalit family getting ₹10 lakh. He added that individuals from upper castes often made disparaging comments about the Dalit Bandhu scheme.

“They frequently question how we could have received Dalit Bandhu. Furthermore, many people do not buy items from our shops,” Ginnorapu said.

South First witnessed caste discrimination in the village. While Saroj, a Mala Dalit, was standing in front of the veterinary hospital, a man casually reminded her that she was on a BC (Backward Classes) road!

Huzurabad Assembly constituency.

Huzurabad Assembly constituency in numbers. (Click image to enlarge)

Ground reality

A constituency that had consistently favored TRS (now BRS) since 2004 shifted its allegiance in the 2021 by-election, voting in favor of Eatala, who contested as a BJP candidate.

It was a big win for the BJP, which had bagged only 1,683 votes — or 0.95 percent — and was left trailing behind the NOTA (None of the Above) option in the previous election. However, in the 2021 by-election, the BJP secured 51.96 percent of the votes, entirely due to the charisma of Eatala.

The BRS’s Gellu Srinivas Yadav secured 40.38 percent vote share.

The upcoming elections have intensified the competition between the BJP’s Eatala and BRS’s Padi Kaushik Reddy. Kaushik Reddy had initially contested on a Congress party ticket in 2018 but later shifted his allegiance to the BRS, and became a member of the Legislative Council (MLC) in 2021.

The voters perceive that the BRS has focused on the region by undertaking infrastructure development such as road construction and ensuring timely paddy procurement, all to win the segment.

“We have been seeing Kaushik Reddy regularly in the constituency for the past three months. Before the election dates were announced, he distributed jute bags to the people. The youth are enthusiastic about him,” a shopkeeper in Jammikunta said.

Also read: Sonia Gandhi powers Congress’ 6 poll guarantees

Dark horse in the race

However, the Congress party is the dark horse in the race. Voditala Pranav Babu, a BRS leader and protege of Kaushik Reddy, has parted ways with the party and joined the Congress.

Unlike the 2021 by-election when the Congress candidate Venkat Belmoor was relatively unknown to the people, Pranav is known and has made a positive impression. “He is young, looks sincere, and speaks to everyone quietly,” noted the Jammikunta shopkeeper. Kaushik Reddy’s language has often landed him in controversies.

Pranav has been introducing the Congress party’s schemes to the people, and many appeared aware of the party’s six guarantees. However, the party has not yet officially announced his candidature.

Issues like unemployment dog the constituency, and rumours of about half of the people not receiving the Dalit Bandhu benefits are rife. Additionally, Eatala’s caste, Mudhiraj, which represents around 25 percent of the population, has a significant vote base in the constituency.

On the other hand, the poor and minority communities are happy that the ‘Car’ government is launching schemes like Asara Pension and Rythu Bandhu.