Telangana bye-election: Jolt to ruling TRS as BJP bags Dubbaka Assembly seat

The BJP’s win is a strong foothold for the party in Telangana. 
BJP win in Dubbaka to push for a strong foothold for the party in Telangana. 
BJP win in Dubbaka to push for a strong foothold for the party in Telangana. 
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In what came as a jolt to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), BJP's Raghunandan Rao won the bye-election to Dubbaka Assembly constituency with a razor-thin majority. The bye-poll came after the death of the ruling party's sitting MLA Solipeta Ramalinga Reddy.

The Dubbaka bye-election has taken center stage for the last two months, though it was held under unexpected circumstances, as Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao's second term comes close to completing two years.

While BJP gave its ticket to senior leader Raghunandan Rao, a long-time Dubbaka MLA aspirant, TRS decided to field late Solipeta's wife Sujatha, who secured the second position. Congress candidate Cheruku Srinivas Reddy remained in third place. The Dubbaka constituency witnessed a record 82.63% turnout.

Solipeta Ramalinga Reddy, a seasoned journalist-turned-politician known for his wide base especially among marginalised communities, held the Dubbaka (erstwhile Dommata) seat four times for the TRS. Incidentally, Raghuanandan Rao is also a journalist-lawyer turned politician who began his career in the TRS party. 

With Raghunandan Rao's victory, the number of BJP MLAs in the Assembly grew to two. The BJP's narrow victory can be credited to the party’s all-out attempts to remove the TRS from Dubbaka, as it believed that the win would garner mileage in the upcoming Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections.

Despite laments and sharp takedowns laced with communally-provocative speeches from the BJP, neither KCR nor TRS working president K Tarakarama Rao (KTR) campaigned in Dubbaka. Instead, they left the field to state Finance Minister Harish Rao.

Though it began as a three-corner fight, it ultimately ended with a battle between two, as the BJP emerged as a second player by posturing itself as the Hindu party.

The TRS had banked on certain measures and welfare schemes to appeal to voters, such as pension for vulnerable sections, including the elderly, widows, beedi workers, and Rythu Bandhu assistance for farmers. The BJP top brass blamed the TRS for alleged misuse of funds from the Centre and misgovernance. BJP’s Raghunandan Rao alleged that development was being focused only on Siddipet, Gajwel and Sircilla constituencies, which Harish Rao, KCR and KTR represent.

Cash seizure by the police from alleged “allies” and relatives of the BJP candidate also triggered a row. Observers say Nizamabad MP Arvind Kumar and Bandi Sanjay's addresses had painted a communal precedent for days to come.

In between, the Congress tried to push in, but the focus was still on the fight between TRS and BJP. Congress still blames the media for not giving them enough space as compared to TRS and BJP.

However, observers see the Dubbaka victory as a significant stage to the political narrative in the state. Palwai Raghavendra Reddy, a senior political analyst and observer said, "As a ruling party, winning Dubbaka for TRS was very important. Now, with the BJP’s victory, it will continue its aggressive mode and showcase it as a failure of KCR's government in the run up to GHMC elections."

He further noted, "The Dubbaka bye-polls were a test case for BJP. Now with this, they will further their narrative in the days to come.”

Manikanta Pallikonda, a political science research scholar and a columnist, stated that BJP’s win is a foothold for the party in Telangana. Manikanta said that the Dubbaka win will offer a map for the BJP on the specific social engineering that it wants to adopt.

He observed, "Though it is a thin margin victory for BJP, it is mostly about breaking the caste configuration, mainly of Other Backward Class whom BJP claims as its backbone."

According to the National BC Welfare Association, which pushed for the fielding of BC candidates by all parties in Dubbaka bye-polls, the constituency's populace constitutes 94% marginalised sections, which include BC, SC and STs. 

In Dubbaka, despite its 64% of BC population, no party fielded a BC candidate.  

Foreseeing a fierce shift in the political language on the Telangana landscape, Manikanta stated, "With this margin, the BJP will further legitimise their political language in Telangana."

The results have also shown that Congress is continuing to see a decline. 

Around this time in 2019, TRS won a thumping victory in the Huzurnagar bye-election, emptying the sitting Congress position. In the general elections, it lost 3 MP seats in northern Telangana to BJP.

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