In Dubbaka, bye-election turns prestige battle for Telangana’s political bigwigs

While campaigning for the bye-election ends on Sunday evening, voting for the bye-election is scheduled for November 3.
Congress campaign in Dubbaka
Congress campaign in Dubbaka
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For the last three months, Telangana’s Dubbaka Assembly constituency has been bustling with activity. Development activities have been visibly happening and every other day leaders from across the political spectrum have been heading there to campaign for their parties. With bye-elections in sight, Dubbaka suddenly seems to have become every politician’s destination. To put it in the words of a resident of Dubbaka, “Leaders who we have never seen, suddenly seem to be falling at our feet to be given a chance.”

Until recently, Dubbaka had been represented by 57-year-old Solipeta Ramalinga Reddy, who belonged to the ruling TRS. He passed away in the first week of August due to a cardiac arrest. His death has necessitated bye-elections to the constituency with polling to take place on November 3. The high-voltage campaigning in Dubbaka ends on Sunday evening.

Dubbaka is located in Medak district of Telangana. It is one of the ten Assembly constituencies in Medak district. This constituency during normal election time would hardly be at the centre stage with neighbouring Gajwel and Siddipet hogging all the limelight. Gajwel being Chief Minister’s K Chandrasekhar Rao’s constituency and Siddipet being represented by T Harish Rao, Finance Minister and the nephew of CM KCR. This bye-election, however, all roads lead to Dubbaka, and the people of this constituency are enjoying the attention that it is receiving.

Anuradha, a woman who runs a small shop outside her house belongs to the weaver’s community. During a conversation, she spoke very sadly about the lack of jobs. She said, “I have two sons who have completed their education but have no jobs. They tried a lot but didn’t get jobs. We had requested Ramalinga Reddy for a job. He always asked us to never pay a bribe for a job. We followed what he said, but my sons never managed to get a job.”

Two BHK houses in Dubbaka ready for inauguration

While Anuradha spoke about a mother’s worry about having two sons at home, both educated, sitting idle without a job, several others in Dubbaka seemed to echo her worries. Another resident of the poll-bound constituency who cultivates lands he owns said, “Out of ten, there are 7 positives about KCR and 3 negatives. KCR’s schemes like Rhythu Bheema, Rhythu Bandhu, incentives for a girl child, ambulance facility, KCR kit etc have been well received by the people. As farmers who live by the fruits of our labour we are happy. Our children who are educated and don’t have jobs are infuriated. They have all been struggling to find jobs. Despite this, I still don’t think that the TRS will lose. They will win, but with a reduced majority.”

The same elderly man goes on to say how KCR has always favoured his native village of Chintamadaka. In July last year, during a visit to the village, KCR had announced that he would transform the village into a ‘Bangaru Tunaka’ (golden nugget). He had also announced that he would give Rs 10 lakh worth benefits to each of the 2000 families of Chintamadaka. This announcement doesn’t seem to have gone down well with many residents of Dubbaka, Chintamadaka’s neighbour. Residents questioned as to why they were being sidelined and deprived of benefits and why only the CM’s native village was being favoured. They said, this announcement made last year would have a ‘far-reaching’ effect on the upcoming bye-election.

Ramu owns a chicken shop at Dubbaka town. He says his family, who has never thought about voting for anyone other than CM KCR, is in two minds this time around. He said, “If you count my brothers and my extended family members, we have around 150 votes within our family. We have always voted for CM KCR from the beginning. But the youth are angry and disappointed. Within the family itself, we are in two minds. While we want to give the BJP a chance, we still haven’t lost hope completely on the TRS.”

BJP Telangana chief Bandi Sanjay campaigns with candidate Raghunandan Rao (left)

In the same breath, Ramu explained how it is important for someone who wins continuously to even lose sometimes. “Only if they lose once, will they know the value of victory,” remarked Ramu.

N Linggam owns a hardware shop in town. He said it would be wrong to say development has not taken place. He said, “We wouldn’t say that development has not taken place. There has been development, but we want a change this time. This is the best time to give someone else a chance, because this is a bye-election. Even if they fail, the 2.5 years will not cause as much damage as giving them a full term. Based on their performance after this bye-election, their fate will be decided in the next elections.”  

The last two elections in 2018 and 2014 were won by the journalist-turned-MLA Ramalinga Reddy of the TRS. He worked as a journalist for 25 years before he joined politics in 2004. The same year he contested from Dommata and won. In 2008, he won the bye-election from the same constituency. Although in 2009 he shifted to Dubbaka constituency, he lost the election. 

In 2014 and 2018 he won from the Dubbaka Assembly constituency. In 2018, Ramalinga Reddy won by a majority of 62,500 votes. In terms of votes garnered, Maddula Nageshwar Reddy of the Congress came second, while M Raghunandan Rao from the BJP secured around 22,595 votes. 

Fast forward to 2020, the fight in Dubbaka seems neck-to-neck between the BJP and the TRS. Raghunandan Rao of the BJP earlier belonged to the TRS. He was suspended from the TRS on allegations of meeting with Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu. Following which he joined the BJP and since then he has been contesting the legislative assembly elections from Dubbaka constituency.

This is the first election after Bandi Sanjay took over as the Telangana BJP Chief and also the first after G Kishen Reddy made it to the Union Cabinet as MoS Home. Hence the BJP has taken it as a prestige issue to ensure the party wins this election. 

TRS has fielded Ramalinga Reddy’s wife Solipeta Sujatha as their candidate and hope the sympathy vote and CM KCR’s charm will do the trick and help them emerge victorious. The Congress on the other hand has fielded Cheruku Srinivas Reddy, the son of late minister Cheruku Muthyam Reddy.

‘TRS neglected Dubbaka’

Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) President & MP Capt N Uttam Kumar Reddy alleged that the TRS Government neglected the Dubbaka Assembly constituency. He said Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao, Ministers Harish Rao and KT Rama Rao focussed on their constituencies Gajwel, Siddipet and Sircilla. But they never looked at adjoining Dubbaka Assembly segment and did nothing for its development. He said Ramalinga Reddy was completely ignored by CM KCR, Harish Rao and KTR. He himself admitted on the floor of the Assembly he was unable to develop Dubbaka due to lack of cooperation from the local authorities.

TPCC Chief Uttam Kumar Reddy and other senior leaders campaigning. Photo credit: P Anil Kumar 

Addressing Congress leaders, in-charges and cadre of Dubbaka Assembly constituency through an online meeting on Saturday, Uttam Kumar Reddy said, “The Congress campaign has been successful so far and the party has been able to reach all the voters in every polling booth. The Congress party has been getting an overwhelming response from the voters and its candidate Srinivas Reddy will register a comfortable victory in the by-elections to be held on November 3.”

Though the TPCC Chief is confident of a comfortable victory, the reality on ground seems far from different. Even those who speak against the TRS, seem to forget that Congress is even an option. In Lachchapeta village, sitting below the shade of a huge tree, three elderly men are busy in a conversation. Rajaiah is one among them. When asked about the response the grand old party was receiving in Dubbaka he said, “Congress is not even an option that is being considered by the people. The main problem is that the party doesn’t have a face. Uttam Kumar Reddy is the chief but we don’t understand and relate to what he says. Revanth Reddy is another name. They have all been campaigning here, but even in terms of campaigning, they only stand third.”

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