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TRS wins Munugode bypoll, defeats BJP by 10,113 lead

Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) won the Munugode Assembly bypoll in Telangana on Sunday. After the completion of 15 rounds of counting, TRS candidate Kusukuntla Prabhakar Reddy emerged the winner with a majority of 10,113 votes over the nearest candidate Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy of BJP.

According to final figures, TRS polled 96,598 votes and was followed by BJP (86,485) and Congress (23864). A total of 2,25,192 votes were polled and 47 candidates were in the fray. NOTA polled 482 votes.

Addressing the media, TRS working president KT Rama Rao thanked the voters of Munugode for choosing “development and self-respect” and blamed the BJP for forcing a byelection in the constituency.

Rao said hundreds of crores of rupees, constant political drama, fake campaigns, and physical attacks on their leaders could not prevent a TRS victory. He added that despite the deployment of 15 CRPF units, 40 teams of Income Tax department officials and fake claims of money seizure from associates of TRS leaders, and use of election symbols such as road roller and chapati maker (which TRS has been calling as identical to its own), BJP could not defeat the TRS.

The bypoll held Thursday was necessitated by sitting MLA Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy’s resignation from the Congress in August to join the BJP. Reddy contested the byelection on a BJP ticket against former TRS MLA Kusukuntla Prabhakar Reddy. The Congress fielded late party leader Palvai Govardhan Reddy’s daughter Palvai Sravanthi and 47 candidates were in the fray in total.

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With about three rounds of counting to go, BJP candidate Reddy thanked the voters and his supporters signalling that he was conceding defeat. Speaking to the media, he said he considered himself the winner as the TRS deployed its 19 ministers and more than 80 MLAs for the campaign against him. According to him, the BJP fought hard and had an upperhand till the campaign ended on October 31. He said the TRS tried every trick it had to lure the voters and terrorise the opponents. He also alleged abuse of government machinery by the TRS and said that the result was proof of it. Adding that the people are with the BJP, he said he would continue to fight for them.

On Sunday morning, the strong room with polled electronic voting machines (EVMs) stored at Telangana State Warehousing Corporation godowns in Arjalabavi, Nalgonda, was opened in the presence of the observer, contesting candidates and election agents at 7:30 am. The counting of the votes began at 8 am with the counting of postal ballots. Votes polled on the EVMs were taken up after the counting of postal votes.

On Saturday, Chief Electoral Officer Vikas Raj said all arrangements were in place and three-layered security has been provided at the counting of votes. While the inner core area is being manned by central forces, the outer two layers are fortified with the state police, he said.

According to him, a total of 2,25,192 votes were polled registering 93.13 per cent (postal ballot not included) in 298 polling stations. This has been a record voter turnout for the seat. “686 Postal ballots were cast by voters aged 80+ and Persons with Disabilities (PwD). Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System for service voters received by RO, till 8 am Sunday, would also be counted along with postal ballots,” Raj said in a statement.

As for the arrangements, 21 tables are available and counting will be completed in 15 rounds. In each round of counting, the Observer will cross-check the result of 2 randomly selected polling stations with the result sheet on the table. After completion of EVM counting, mandatory counting of 5 (five) randomly selected VVPATs slips will be taken at VCB (VVPAT counting booth).

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 Assembly elections scheduled for next year.

The Congress is hoping to hold ground and retain Munugode though its sitting MLA deserted the party. After Reddy’s resignation, the Congress has five MLAs in the state Assembly. With two wins at earlier bypolls in Dubbaka and Huzurabad, the BJP now has three MLAs in the Assembly.

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A win in Munugode will help it establish the BJP as a serious contender and an alternative to the TRS in the 2023 election. AIMIM, which has 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 helpful 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 bypoll, the BJP is confident of Rajagopal Reddy’s goodwill and influence over voters of the constituency. Congress’s Shravanthi, being the only woman candidate fielded by major political parties, is confident of securing the women’s vote.

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The TRS tied up with the Left parties which supported it in a bid to keep the BJP out. The constituency has over 60 per cent Backward Classes population and both the TRS and the BJP tried to consolidate their votes. The TRS deployed 14 state ministers and at least 50-60 MLAs to cover the constituency by highlighting and amplifying the state’s “national role model” schemes like Rythu Bandhu, Dalit Bandhu, free power to the farm sector and farm insurance. The BJP campaigned on “failed promises’’ and alleged corruption in the K Chandrashekar Rao-led government.

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