Telangana: Newcomer versus veteran in Nagarjuna Sagar bypoll; BJP hopes to give tough fight

TRS is confident that its welfare schemes along with the development initiatives taken up in the constituency and across the state by the KCR-government are enough to see the party candidate sail through comfortably.

Going to polls on April 17, byelection to Telangana’s Nagarjuna Sagar assembly constituency is essentially a fight between a 7-time Congress legislator and son of the TRS leader who defeated the former in 2018. The BJP’s performance, which claims to be the main challenger to the ruling dispensation in the next general elections in 2023, will be keenly watched.

The election was necessitated due to the sudden demise of sitting MLA Nomula Narsimhaiah on December 1 last year. While the Congress party was quick to name K Jana Reddy (74) as its candidate on the day the Election Commission of India issued the poll notification, the TRS and BJP chose to name their candidates Nomula Bagath Kumar (37) and Dr. Panugothu Ravi Kumar Naik (36), respectively, only a day before the last date for filing nominations

Bagath Kumar, son of Nomula Narasimhaiah, is an engineer-turned-MBA who is currently practicing as an advocate at the Telangana High Court. Dr. Ravi Kumar Naik, hailing from the ST community, has worked as a government civil surgeon before joining the BJP recently.

TRS is confident that its welfare schemes along with the development initiatives taken up in the constituency and across the state by the KCR-government are enough to see the party candidate sail through comfortably. A TRS victory is a foregone conclusion, was the earliest remark made by Bagath after his candidature was finalised a couple of days ago. While Bagath is said to be seeking a sympathy vote in the name of his late father, the TRS party’s workers would like to state that the young leader had been working amidst people of the constituency for the last 7 years and stood out during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

“Jana Reddy is the past and Bagath Kumar is the future. We have details of all the works implemented and based on what needs to be taken up, we have a vision for the constituency. We are banking on this,” stressed Manne Krishank, a TRS party spokesperson and its social media coordinator. One of the key successes of the TRS government, he said, is that the region does not face a shortage of drinking water as well as irrigation purposes.

Congress on the other hand feels that people would vote for Jana Reddy to have a strong people’s voice in the assembly against the government.

Congress leader and AICC spokesperson Dasoju Sravan is quick to note that there is mounting anti-incumbency against the TRS party and its supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao and cited the same as the reason for the party’s delay in announcement of its candidate. “The CM’s image and the party’s acceptance levels among the public are on the decline. There is a severe unemployment crisis in the state today and the people of the Nagarjuna Sagar constituency are facing it. There is widespread migration from the constituency due to lack of jobs,” he alleged.

Nagarjuna Sagar constituency has been a traditional Congress stronghold. Jana Reddy had won the seat seven times from 1983. He, however, lost to Narasimhaiah by 7,771 votes in 2018.  This time, leaving nothing to chance, Reddy has already been campaigning in the constituency for the last two months. It is his long-standing reputation and the goodwill that the Congress party traditionally enjoys in the region which is touted to work in their favour. “Congress will win comfortably despite the dubious efforts of TRS. BJP is nowhere in the competition. And once Jana Reddy is back in the assembly, he will use all his might to expose the misgovernance of KCR,” Sravan pointed out.

Meanwhile, much is at stake for the BJP which claims to be the principal opposition party to TRS. After wresting the Dubbak assembly seat from TRS in an upset victory last November, and topping it up with a performance upping its numbers from 4 to 48 at the cost of TRS in the 150-member GHMC council, BJP appears to have lost momentum. Even as the party named Ravi Kumar Naik as its official candidate at the last moment, its other leader K Niveditha had already filed her nomination papers to contest. Niveditha, the wife of BJP’s Nalgonda district president K Sridhar Reddy, had fought from the segment in 2018 and secured less than 2 percent votes. Hoping to contest again on a BJP ticket, she had started campaigning in December itself. Kadari Anjaiah Yadav, another BJP leader quit the party on Tuesday after being denied the ticket and joined TRS.

P Ravi Kumar Naik belongs to the ST community which has a sizable population in the constituency. Brushing aside infighting and dissent in the party, state spokesperson K Krishna Saagar Rao said that the party wanted someone from the oppressed communities to contest on its ticket. “We wanted to reach out to the people who have been forgotten and taken for granted. We have given the community an option to rally together and choose someone to represent them,” said Rao.

Political analyst Prof K Nageswar feels that BJP lost steam, after remarkable electoral performances in Dubbak assembly bypolls and GHMC council polls, due to its deliberate miscalculations. “In Nagarjuna Sagar segment, the battle is between TRS and Congress. The BJP’s loss in recent graduate MLC elections has belied the political narrative that BJP is the political alternative to TRS. Unlike in Dubbak and GHMC polls, the BJP has no narrative to offer,” opined the professor. While TRS is seeking votes based on its welfare schemes, Congress is pinning hopes on its candidate Jana Reddy’s electoral track record.

In a contest expected between the Congress and TRS, the BJP still hopes to give a tough fight and make it triangular.

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