Hyderabad, Nov 2 (IANS) The stage is set for polling in the by-election to Dubbak Assembly seat in Telangana’s Siddipet district on Tuesday.
While the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is confident of retaining the seat with a huge majority, the opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are trying to give a tough fight to the ruling party.
Both Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao and his son K. T. Rama Rao, seen as the second-in-command, stayed away from the campaign in an indication that the TRS considers this as a cakewalk.
The campaign for the party was led by Chandrasekhar Rao’s nephew and Finance Minister T. Harish Rao, a popular leader with a huge mass base and who comes from the same district.
Harish Rao, who set new record of victory margin in every election in Siddipet constituency since 2004, almost single-handedly ran the campaign taking on the entire state leadership of both the Congress and the BJP canvassing for their respective candidates.
KCR, as Chandrasekhar Rao is popularly known, has assigned him the task of ensuring party’s victory by over one lakh votes.
A total of 23 candidates are in the fray for the bypoll, necessitated by the death of S. Ramalinga Reddy of the TRS in August this year due to ill-health.
The TRS has fielded Ramalinga Reddy’s widow S. Sujatha. She is locked in a three-cornered contest with Congress’ Cheruku Srinivas Reddy and BJP’s M. Raghunandan Rao.
While Srinivas Reddy had defected from the TRS to the Congress early last month, Raghunandan Rao had unsuccessfully contested the polls from the same constituency in 2014 and 2018.
The TRS is seeking a mandate on the basis of the performance of its government during last six years.
Harish Rao, who had been visiting the villages even before the poll announcement, urged people to vote for Sujatha to enable her to continue the development works undertaken by her husband, who was elected twice from the constituency – 2014 and 2018.
He is so confident of the TRS victory that at almost every election rally, he remarked that Congress and BJP are fighting for a second position.
Congress and BJP leaders in their campaigns targeted the TRS government for its failures on various fronts. This is the second by-election where both the opposition parties are trying to project themselves as an alternative to the TRS.
While the outcome in Dubbak will make no difference to TRS which has 105 legislators in the 119-member Assembly, Congress is fighting for its prestige after suffering series of defections following 2018 elections and the last year’s defeat in Huzurnagar constituency, which was vacated by state Congress chief Uttam Kumar Reddy following his election to the Lok Sabha.
The BJP, which had finished a poor third in Huzurnagar, is also making every effort to put up a good show. After impressive performance by winning four Lok Sabha seats in 2019 elections, it failed to repeat this in the local body elections and Huzurnagar by-poll.
The BJP’s campaign in Dubbak, however, was marred by controversies. In a big embarrassment to the party a couple of days before the polling, Rs 1 crore was seized from a relative of its candidate in Hyderabad. The police alleged that Raghunandan Rao’s brother-in-law was carrying the money to Dubbak for distribution among voters.
This was second incident in less than week. Earlier Rs.18.67 lakh was seized from another relative of the BJP candidate in Siddipet town. The police claimed that BJP workers escaped with over Rs 12 lakh of the seized cash.
The BJP, however, tried to turned the tables on the TRS by alleging that the money was planted to implicate its candidate in a false case.
A total of 1,98,756 voters, including 1,00,778 women, are eligible to cast their votes. The election authorities have set up 315 polling stations and made arrangements in compliance with Covid-19 norms. Polling will be held from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Returning Officer B. Chenanaiah said more than 5,000 revenue and police officials were deployed as part of the elaborate arrangements to ensure peaceful and smooth conduct of the polling process.
The authorities have allotted the last hour for Covid patients to cast their votes. They have so far identified 73 patients.
The election officials also identified 6,150 elderly voters. Out of these, 1,550 are more than 80 years old. The returning officer said 1,340 have opted for the postal ballot.