While Congress has fielded Palwai Sravanthi Reddy, BJP’s ‘new’ entrant will be Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy, whose exit from the Congress and subsequent resignation as the Munugode MLA had necessitated the bye-election.

Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy, Palwai Sravanthi Reddy, and Kusukuntla Prabhakar ReddyKomatireddy Rajagopal Reddy, Palwai Sravanthi Reddy, and Kusukuntla Prabhakar Reddy
news Politics Friday, September 16, 2022 - 19:42

The bye-election to the Munugode Assembly seat in Telangana is likely to become a Reddy vs Reddy tussle, with all contesting political parties deciding to field candidates from the caste group. This is despite the miniscule Reddy population of less than 5% in the constituency, compared to the Backward Classes (BC) that constitute a numerically stronger 60% of the electorate.

While the Congress party has fielded Palwai Sravanthi Reddy, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s ‘new’ entrant will be Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy, whose dramatic exit from the Congress and subsequent resignation as the Munugode MLA had necessitated the bye-election in the first place. Though the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is yet to officially announce their pick, keeping the field open to assess caste dynamics, its senior functionary Kusukuntla Prabhakar Reddy is likely to be fielded to take on the Reddys from rival parties. Reddys are a land-owning dominant caste, constituting roughly 4-5% of the state’s population.

A highly placed source in the TRS told TNM that Kusukuntla is one among the three to four candidates being considered for the party ticket in Munugode. At least two BC candidates are among the ticket aspirants. However, it is speculated that Kusukuntla is more likely to get picked, given that the candidate will be taking on two Reddy contenders whose political influence and wealth are gigantic. If this is indeed the case, it would be yet another example of the systematic exclusion of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and BC communities from the state’s political realm, made possible by the uneven playing field of election expenses.

It may be noted that in the 2018 Assembly elections, Komatireddy was the richest MLA candidate in the state, with recorded properties worth over Rs 300 crore. His critics have also alleged that he had shifted his loyalties to the BJP eyeing massive business interests. 

Though Munugode, located in the erstwhile Nalgonda district, is considered a bastion of Communist politics, it has never completely been free from the political grip of the Reddys, irrespective of the winning party. This time, while the Left parties (CPI and CPI(M)) have expressed their support to the TRS, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is preparing to field a BC candidate as announced earlier. “The TRS, Congress and the BJP have turned the Munugode bye-election into a Reddy caste affair. The BSP will only field a BC candidate,” a state-level leader of the party said. 

Like BSP, the BC Rajyadikara Samithi is also planning to nominate a BC candidate. “All political parties think that they can manipulate the backward classes without giving them political representation. They are not bothered about social justice. Change is not possible unless the people revolt against such caste monopoly in political systems,” said Dasu Suresh, Convenor of the BC Rajyadikara Samithi. 

According to Pottepaka Sandeep Kumar, a Hyderabad-based political observer, the selection of candidates in Munugode is merely the replica of a statewide phenomena seen in unreserved Assembly or Parliamentary segments. “The Reddys are given seats irrespective of the size of their population. But at the same time, BC candidates are denied party tickets with the claim that their community does not have a strong vote base,” he said.

Besides, the recent trend of spike in electoral expenses makes the parties too look for prosperous candidates, who incidentally are Reddys, barring a few exceptions, in Telangana, Sandeep pointed out. “The Reddys, being a dominant caste for decades, have occupied positions that influence the decision-making of almost every prominent political party in the state. The TRS, Congress and the BJP are no exceptions,” he said.

Munugode is one of the seven Assembly constituencies in the Bhongir Lok Sabha segment, which is currently represented by Venkat Reddy, Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy's brother, who is still in the Congress. The constituency has already turned into a political battlefield, with parties amping up the heat with visits by national-level leaders, meetings with cadres, crowded dawats (high-end non-vegetarian dinners with alcohol) and more. 

With over 2.30 lakh voters, the Munugode bye-election can prove to be a litmus test for political parties a year ahead of the general elections. But at the same time, the scene playing out in the constituency also underscores the political clout of the Reddys.

 
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