Telangana bye-polls: Polling begins in Telangana's Huzurabad constituency

The post fell vacant after the resignation of Eatala Rajender after he was dropped from the state cabinet by CM K Chandrasekhar Rao.
A voter getting inked before voting
A voter getting inked before voting
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Polling was underway amid tight security in the by-election to the Huzurabad Assembly constituency in Telangana on Saturday. Polling started at 7 a.m. at 306 polling centres across the constituency in Karimnagar district. Election officials said the process will continue till 7 p.m. A little over 2.37 lakh voters are eligible to cast their votes. The Election Commission of India (ECI) made elaborate arrangements to ensure free and fair polling. Telangana Chief Electoral OfficeR Shashank Goel said 20 companies of central forces in addition to the personnel from State police were deployed as part of the elaborate security arrangements.

A total of 30 candidates are in fray in the bypolls, caused by the resignation of Eatala Rajender after he was dropped from the State Cabinet by Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao following allegations of land grabbing. Rajender resigned from both Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the state Assembly to join Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Rajender, who had been representing Huzurabad seat since 2009, is contesting as a BJP candidate. He is locked in an interesting contest against Gellu Srinivas Yadav of TRS.

Yadav is the chief of the ruling party's student wing TRS Vidhyarthi. The Congress party has nominated 29-year-old political novice B. Venkat Narsing Rao, chief of the state's NSUI unit, as its candidate.

The constituency saw a long and bitter campaign with both TRS and BJP accusing each other of using money, liquor and other gifts to lure voters. TRS president and Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao and his son and TRS working president K. T. Rama Rao stayed away from the campaigning.

KCR was planning to address a major election rally in Hanamkonda district abutting Huzurabad in view of the restrictions over huge gatherings in the constituency. However, the TRS could not organise the meeting as the Election Commission extended the model code of conduct to Hanamkonda district as well.

The TRS chief slammed the poll panel saying it was crossing its limits. He also criticized the Election Commission for stopping implementation of Dalit Bandhu scheme in Huzurabad though the scheme was launched before the announcement of poll schedule.

Under Dalit Bandhu launched on pilot basis on Huzurabad, every Dalit family will get a Rs 10 lakh grant to take up any business of its choice. KCR's nephew and Finance Minister T. Harish Rao led the TRS campaign, targeting BJP for neglecting Telangana and also for mounting fuel prices. He and some other TRS ministers slammed Rajender for joining BJP after ditching TRS, which gave him a ticket in every Assembly election since the party's inception in 2001 and twice making him the minister. They alleged that he joined the saffron party to save his skin following allegations of encroaching the lands of farmers.

On the other hand, Rajender claimed that his fight is for self-respect and to end the autocratic rule of KCR. BJP's state chief Bandi Sanjay, Central Minister G. Kishan Reddy and party's central leader incharge of party affairs Tarun Chugh campaigned for Rajender. They targeted KCR for autocratic' and family rule' and claimed that only BJP can provide a viable alternative to TRS.

The Congress party was late in launching the campaign and announcing its candidate. Its state president Revanth Reddy, Legislature Party leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka, MP Uttam Kumar Reddy, former MP Madhu Yashki, Mohammed Ali Shabbir and others participated in the campaign, targeting both TRS and BJP.

In 2018, Rajender had retained Huzurabad, defeating his nearest rival Kaushik Reddy of Congress by over 43,000 votes. The TRS candidate had polled 1,04,840 while Congress candidate secured 61,121 votes. BJP candidate P. Raghu polled only 1,683 votes, which was less than NOTA votes (2,867). Kaushik Reddy recently quit Congress and joined TRS. The ruling party has rewarded him with a nomination to the Legislative Council.

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