How Congress vote share dropped to an all-time low in Huzurabad

The Congress party, which had garnered over 60000 votes in 2018, managed to get only 3012 votes in its favour this time.
Telangana Congress leaders Revanth Reddy and Balmoor Venkat
Telangana Congress leaders Revanth Reddy and Balmoor Venkat
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Around four months ago, in a meeting with ministers and senior party leaders to discuss the Huzurabad bye-election, Telangana Chief Minister KCR set two targets for his party, the TRS. One was to defeat the BJP and the other was to ensure that the Congress did not even get its deposit back. Though the first target could not be met, the pink party did manage to accomplish the second – the Congress party’s vote share fell to an all-time low in the constituency.

The Congress announced Balmoor Venkat as its candidate several weeks after the other two parties had already begun campaigning. Many felt that the decision to field a student leader in a prestige battle between two heavyweights – KCR and Eatala Rajender – showed that the party had written itself off in the bye-election. Eventually, it won only 3,012 out of the total of 2,05,053 votes polled. As this was the first election after Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee President Revanth Reddy took over the reins of the party, many expected that he would spring a surprise. However, even before the election it was clear that the Congress had no significant chance in Huzurabad.

Addressing the media after the result was announced, Revanth Reddy urged party cadre not to be upset. He said, “The Huzurabad bye-election has caused huge disappointment among our party workers. There’s no need to be disappointed. One single bye-election cannot decide the party’s future. This bye-election happened in unique circumstances, as everyone knows.”

In the 2018 elections in Huzurabad, Congress candidate Padi Kaushik Reddy won more than 60,000 votes and managed to come second to Eatala Rajender, who had then contested from the TRS. This time, Kaushik’s decision to shift to the TRS weeks before the bye-election put the Congress in a tight spot with no known face popular enough to sway the election in their favour. When TNM visited Huzurabad days before the bye-election, many locals felt that if the Congress fielded Kaushik again he would have given Eatala a tough fight.

The “outsider” factor

Balmoor Venkat, who has lived in Hyderabad for several years for his studies and as part of the National Students’ Union of India’s (NSUI) activities, was considered an outsider by the people of Huzurabad. One of the local residents had told TNM, “Who is Balmoor? He is a non-local. How will he even understand and represent our issues?” People had also conveyed similar apprehensions about the TRS candidate, Gellu Srinivas Yadav. Though his parents are from Huzurabad, Srinivas has also been based out of Hyderabad for several years. Eatala Rajender clearly scored big on this aspect.

Balmoor Venkat had to hit the ground running ever since his name was finalised for the election. Despite losing, the party president was all praise for the student leader. “Even though Balmoor Venkat’s candidacy was announced late, he toured every village and went to every doorstep, and reached out to every citizen. He should not be disappointed over the loss either. In a short time, he reached out to the public extensively, made sure the party’s voice was heard, responded to people’s issues. He proved himself a student leader. I have full faith that Venkat will be a leader for the Congress and the whole state in the future.”

Result is Eatala’s victory and not BJP’s

Speaking to TNM, AICC spokesperson Dr Dasoju Sravan said that the Huzurabad result was Eatala’s victory and not the BJP’s. He said, “Huzurabad was a clash between two personalities, not political parties. Sympathies worked there. People have seen Eatala as a prodigy nurtured by KCR and then being destroyed by him and they did not like it. He managed to keep his vote share intact. The Congress lost because people saw the bye-election as a major battle between KCR and Eatala.”

Taking responsibility for the defeat, Revanth Reddy assured the people that he would work with more commitment. “Balmoor Venkat will not lament over the defeat. From tomorrow itself, he will be available for Huzurabad constituents. He will fight for their issues, fight for students, unemployed youth and farmers. No need to be excited over victory or depressed over defeat. I take full responsibility for the results. I will give more time to solve people’s issues, unite with party workers and fight on behalf of the people. I will get full information on these election results, examine them and plan future party activities,” he said.

Enemy’s enemy becomes friend

After the results were announced, many pointed out how the Congress had actually helped the BJP secure more votes by not putting up a strong fight in Huzurabad. For the Congress, an enemy’s enemy was a friend. Hoping to see the TRS defeated, the Congress knew that the BJP would be able to take on CM KCR’s candidate.

Former Congress MP Ponnam Prabhakar, who had watched over the party’s Huzurabad campaign, said he wasn’t surprised by the result. He had contested the Lok Sabha election in 2009 from the constituency and polled around 43,000 votes. He said, “The result is Eatala’s victory and not the BJP’s. Bandi Sanjay might claim that the BJP has emerged victorious, the truth is that it is Eatala who gave them the win.”

Revealing that the Congress had expected the result, the former MP said, “Uttam Kumar Reddy ruined the party for his relative’s sake in the last election. Now, Revanth Reddy or whoever is at the helm of affairs, it is irreparable.”

Dismissing allegations of a tacit understanding between the Congress and BJP, senior BJP leader and spokesperson NV Subhash told TNM, “How can BJP join hands with Congress? It’s a baseless allegation, as the principal opposition party to BJP is the Congress party. TRS-Congress-MIM, Congress-TDP have joined forces to defeat the BJP, so it is impossible that the Congress and BJP will work together. A Congress Mukt Bharath is what people are looking forward to.”

Subhash claimed that the Congress has lost prominence in Telangana as the people have lost confidence in the grand old party. “The Congress had conceded defeat in the bye-election before the polling itself. It’s very clear that they will not survive in the next elections as there is no visible leader at the national level and only corrupt leaders in Telangana. The people of Telangana are fed up with the Congress as its MLAs are hopping one by one to the TRS after being bought by KCR for a hefty price. So people don’t have any confidence in the Congress,” he added.

Speaking to TNM, P Pavan Kumar, senior journalist and political analyst, said that Eatala had managed to polarise voters across party lines in Huzurabad. “It’s quite surprising that except for two or three rounds, Eatala polled a majority in all the other rounds. This means polarisation of voters has happened across party lines. This also implies that the Reddy community, which is known to strongly back the Congress, supported Eatala. Here, the indirect support enjoyed by Eatala hints at possible polarisation in the 2023 Assembly elections too,” he said.

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