Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad, Telangana's capital, is set to witness a three-cornered contest as the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) appears to have an edge in its bid for a first-time win in this Lok Sabha constituency, which has traditionally elected either Congress or BJP candidates.
Eighteen years after TRS came into being and five years after Telangana state became a reality, TRS, for the first time, looks in a position to capture the key constituency in the state capital.
A total of 28 candidates are in fray in Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad, but the main contest will be among the TRS, BJP and the Congress. The BJP is facing a tough task in retaining Secunderabad, the only seat it won in Telangana in 2014 while the Congress is making every effort to recapture its former stronghold.
Anjan Kumar Yadav, a two-time MP from Secunderabad, is again contesting again on a Congress ticket while the BJP has fielded G. Kishan Reddy, a three-time MLA from Amberpet, one of the seven Assembly segments falling under the constituency.
Kishan Reddy, former president of the party's Telangana unit, was defeated from Amberpet in the in December 2018 Assembly polls.
The TRS is looking to open the account with a political novice, 32-year-old T. Sai Kiran Yadav, son of Telangana minister T. Srinivas Yadav, who represents Sanathnagar Assembly segment in the same parliamentary constituency.
The TRS is hoping to get the support of backward classes, Muslims and Christians, who are in sizeable numbers in this constituency with over 19.68 lakh votes.
Interestingly, Anjan Kumar Yadav, who was elected in 2004 and 2009, is also banking on these sections. However, the series of defections by 10 MLAs and several leaders to the TRS have left the Congress demoralised.
The BJP may find the going tough as it has dropped Bandaru Dattatreya, an outgoing MP who served as Minister of State for Labour and Employment in the Modi government till September 2017. Interestingly, TRS is trying to cash in on what it calls the humiliation meted out by the BJP to Dattatreya, who comes from a backward class.
Secunderabad was a Congress stronghold till 1991 when Dattatreya wrested the seat for the first time. He was returned from this constituency in 1998, 1999 and 2014. In 2014, when BJP had contested the elections in alliance with the TDP, Dattatreya had defeated his nearest rival Anjan Kumar Yadav with a massive majority of over 2.54 lakh votes, garnering 33.62 percent votes.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) candidate N. Mohan Rao was at third spot polling 1.45 lakh votes. TRS had finished fourth with 1.43 lakh votes.
This time MIM is backing TRS in Secunderabad and 15 other constituencies in the state while TRS is engaged in a friendly contest against MIM's Asaduddin Owaisi in Hyderabad.
Secunderabad is one of the seats which TRS never won since it was floated by K. Chandrashekhar Rao in 2001. In 2009, it had finished sixth.
In 2014, TRS had won just one out of the seven Assembly segments while the TDP-BJP alliance bagged five seats and MIM was victorious in one segment. However, two TDP MLAs, including Srinivas Yadav, defected to the TRS.
The TRS subsequently made major inroads as it captured the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, winning 99 seats in the 150-member body in 2016. In the recent Assembly selections, TRS and its "friendly" MIM swept the Secunderabad constituency. The TRS bagged six seats while the MIM retained one.
Comparative figures of 2014 Lok Sabha and 2018 Assembly elections also indicate that the TRS has an upper hand. The votes polled by the ruling party have gone up from 1.43 lakh to 4.29 lakh. The votes secured by Congress have marginally increased from 1.83 lakh to 2.04 lakh. However, BJP's votes slumped from 4.38 lakh in 2014 to 1.72 lakh in 2018.
A key element of this election is the absence of the TDP, which decided to stay away from the polls in Telangana. Though TDP never won Secunderabad, its support was crucial for BJP's victories in 1999 and 2014. The Congress is trying to get the support of TDP cadres.
Younger than Hyderabad by 215 years, Secunderabad is known for its distinctive and more modern lifestyle, cosmopolitan culture and architecture. It houses dozens of defence establishments with the Secunderabad Cantonment Board (SCB) looking after the vast military interests.
In 1806, Nizam III Mir Sikandar Jah, the ruler of then Hyderabad State had allocated Secunderabad, the area to the north of the Hussain Sagar Lake, for a British Army cantonment. The area was named after Sikandar Jah and it remained under the direct rule of the British till 1948 when Operation Polo resulted in its annexation to the Indian Union.