Voting for the Munugode Assembly bypoll in Telangana began at 7 am Thursday. The bypoll was necessitated by the resignation of sitting MLA Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy from the Congress party in August.
Reddy is now contesting on a BJP ticket and is challenged by former TRS MLA Kusukuntla Prabhakar Reddy. The Congress has fielded late leader Palvai Govardhan Reddy’s daughter Palvai Sravanthi. Forty-four more candidates are in the fray.
The Munugode village in Nalgonda district, not very far away from the state capital Hyderabad, has seen intense campaigning that lasted nearly three months.
Apart from seizures of cash and liquor and allegations of voter inducement by various means, the campaign phase also saw the ruling party making allegations of attempts by BJP agents to poach four of its MLAs. In turn, the BJP accused the TRS of misusing power and government machinery to allegedly tap the phones of its leaders.
Even after the campaign phase ended on Monday evening, the BJP alleged that ruling party’s cadre and leaders were overstaying in the constituency instead of vacating as per the Election Commission’s instructions.
Though a victory at Munugode is inconsequential in terms of numbers in the state legislative assembly where the ruling party has 104 of the 119 MLAs, the bypoll has turned out to be a battle of prestige and precursor to the general elections scheduled for next year. Congress is hoping to hold ground and retain Munugode though its sitting MLA deserted the party. After Reddy’s resignation, Congress has five MLAs. With two wins at earlier bypolls in Dubbaka and Huzurabad, the BJP now has three MLAs in the Assembly.
A win at Munugode will help it establish itself as a serious contenteder and an alternative to the TRS in 2023 election. AIMIM, which been an ally to the ruling TRS, has seven MLAs. A win at Munugode will help TRS cement its national ambitions after rechristening itself as Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS). It also has the support of the CPI and the CPM at Munugode this time, which is advantageous as the left has won the segment five times in the past.
All three major political parties — the TRS, the BJP, and the Congress — are confident of a win in the constituency.
While the TRS is banking on the goodwill generated by its various welfare schemes and the popularity of the chief minister to win the by-poll, BJP is confident of Rajagopal Reddy’s goodwill and influence over voters of the constituency. Congress’ Shravanthi, being the only woman candidate fielded by major political parties, is confident of securing the women vote.
Of the 298 polling stations in Munugode, only 35 are in urban areas.
The election commission has identified 105 polling stations as sensitive. Of the total 2,41,855 electors, 1,21,662 are male voters and 1,20,126 are female voters. The result will be declared on Nov. 6.