The rank and file of both the TRS and BJP agree that the contest in Huzurabad is neck-and-neck and whoever wins it will be by a narrow margin.

A collage of CM KCR and Eatala Rajender
news Ground Report Wednesday, October 27, 2021 - 18:57

Around seven kilometres from Huzurabad town lies Illandukunta, a village where Ailamma Goud runs a small hotel. Distance has not disrupted the political tension that rents the air as the fervour from an upcoming bye-election spills into surrounding areas. It’s a battle of egos in Huzurabad, as former Health Minister Eatala Rajender — a key figure in the Telangana agitation for separate statehood along with Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, prepares for his first test since his departure from the TRS.

Serving a plate of hot idlis, Ailamma tells this reporter, “A lot of us are very happy with Eatala. Because of him, our property values have gone up because of the development in our village. He deserves to be given another chance.”

Ailamma has an employee to help her with the washing of utensils and other small chores at her makeshift hotel. Hearing the political talk, the employee butted in — she’s quite happy with TRS. “I have been getting pension on time from KCR. Though I did not get the Dalita Bandhu money yet, I know someone who has received it. I am sure the others will also get the money soon. Farmers have also benefited from KCR’s schemes.” 

The fact that Ailamma and her employee, two women who have spent several years working together, are divided about their preference is an indication of how Huzurabad may vote in this bye-election.

‘A battle of egos’

A few km from Huzurabad, a tent set up on the road is swarming with security personnel. Local police in coordination with paramilitary force personnel are seen stopping and checking vehicles entering the constituency. With just a few days to go for the high-stake bye-poll slated to take place on October 30, election fever is at its peak in the constituency. 

Srinivas, a medical store owner in Huzurabad, feels Eatala should have chosen to contest as an independent candidate.  Eatala Rajender was dropped from the Cabinet on land-grabbing charges. The six-time MLA, who was with the TRS for close to two decades, then decided to embrace the BJP. And in Huzurabad, he’s up against TRS youth wing president Gellu Srinivas Yadav, aiming to put an end to the winning streak of the former minister. As Backward Class (BC) voters constitute nearly 50% of the total electorate, KCR picked a BC candidate to contest against Eatala. 

“If he was clean and if he really had the guts to take on the ruling party, then Eatala should have contested independently. He chose to join the BJP because he felt he needed protection. He was removed because he was not clean,” says Srinivas. 

Not far from Srinivas’s store, Congress workers are raising slogans in support of their candidate, Balmoor Venkat Narsing Rao, the state president of the National Student Union of India (NSUI). 

Congress workers campaigning for Balmoor Venkat

“Venkat Balmoor has no chance here. Moreover, he was declared as the candidate by the Congress party very late. Had he been declared earlier, it would have still made a difference. If it was Kaushik Reddy he would have at least stood a chance,” added Srinivas. And Srinivas is not the only one to feel this. A large section of locals feel that if Padi Kaushik Reddy had again contested from the Congress instead of changing parties to the TRS, he would have won the election effortlessly.

Former TPCC Chief and MP Uttam Kumar Reddy campaigning for Balmoor Venkat

Three villages away from the town, in Chelpur, BJP workers can be seen wearing t-shirts with Eatala Rajender’s photograph and going door-to-door as part of their campaign. Speaking to TNM, Katakkam Sammayya, an influential person who heads a temple in the village says, "People sympathise with Rajender. When he changed his party, we also changed ours. Our support is because of the work he has done. He has always been accessible. When someone approaches him, he clearly says whether it can be done or not. If he says it will be done, he will ensure it is done.”

BJP cadre campaigning for Eatala Rajender in Huzurabad

Yesobu, a farmer who cultivates cotton in Illandukunta says he was grateful to Eatala. “Eatala's work deserves gratitude. See the villages in the rest of the state and see ours. Just because he changed his party he cannot be brushed aside.”


A little inside Illandukunta, Eatala Rajender is busy addressing a gathering. Dozens of vehicles were part of his entourage. People from Hyderabad had joined him in large numbers in a show of strength. Even as BJP flags were put up everywhere, Eatala’s public meetings were starkly different from other BJP meetings. It is npt Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Home Minister Amit Shah who are the attraction for the people of Huzurabad. It was Eatala himself.

Eatala Rajender during a public rally

Speaking to TNM between rallies, Eatala claims this time, a lot of money has been poured into this election. 

“Never before has there been a situation where several hundred crore rupees have been spent in a single constituency. No situation where government orders were passed to entice people by spending thousands of crores. This has been going on for nearly six months now — so many dawats, sops, expenses... But in the end dharma and justice will win, and not evil forces with money bags. Huzurabad is going to prove that to everyone.”

Maramma, a woman in the crowd, is one of the many who has come to express her support to the leader. She remembers when Eatala had last come to the town. “Eatala usually comes home on an important occasion. When a five-year-old died also he had come to express his condolences. He has a personal rapport with everybody and this is his strength.”

Finance Minister Harish Rao campaigns for TRS candidate Gellu Srinivas

Meanwhile, to counter Eatala’s home advantage, the TRS is pinning its hope on its welfare scheme and highlighting how Eatala has not done enough for the constituency. 

“We are telling the people that Eatala Rajender has not done enough for them in six terms while he could have done much more. If he could only do this much for Huzurabad when he was in the Cabinet, how much can he really do in the opposition? This is what we are asking the people,” a local TRS leader tells this reporter.

A similar ground-level strategy

For the last four months, TRS in-charges and youth leaders have been camping in the various wards of Huzurabad. Speaking to TNM, a TRS leader actively involved in the party’s preparation ahead of the polls says, “We have a WhatsApp group for every village. For every 100 voters, we have one person in charge. Now, the battle is neck-to-neck, whoever wins will do so only by a small margin.”

Ravinder Reddy has been in the BJP from 1984. He is presently the district Kisan Morcha Vice President. The BJP hardly had any presence in Huzurabad. In 2018, its candidate P Raghu polled only 1,683 votes, which was less than NOTA votes (2,867). However, Rajender joining has bolstered the party. Rajender has been winning Huzurabad for TRS since 2009

Speaking to TNM, he says, "There is acceptance to the new entrant in the party because the cadre wants a seat more than they want a ticket. I feel the battle is 60:40 as of today.”

According to another source in the BJP, the party is worried that a lot of people may end up voting for the car — the symbol of the TRS, simply because they’re used to seeing it next to Eatala’s name for many years. “We are carrying dummy EVM machines and explaining in every village that Eatala and car symbols are no longer the same. We are just hoping people don’t get confused on the day of voting,” he says. 

The allegations of bribery have also cast a cloud over this bye-poll. A local resident in Huzurabad told TNM that both the BJP and TRS are offering around Rs 5,000 to every person ahead of the polling. “Those who are apolitical are receiving money from both the TRS and the BJP,” the local resident claims.

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