MLC polls come at a time the BJP is emerging as the principal opposition replacing Congress in Telangana.


The biennial elections to Telangana’s legislative council slated to be held on 14 March assume significance in view of Chief Minister K. Chadrasekhar Rao (KCR) fielding former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao’s daughter Vani Devi as his TRS candidate to defeat the sitting BJP MLC N. Ramachander Rao.

Telangana goes to MLC elections for two seats from the graduates’ constituency. Vani Devi is fighting from the Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy and Mahabubnagar districts (HRM) seat, while the other one is the Nalgonda, Warangal and Khammam (NWK) districts seat. Currently, the NWK seat is with TRS as its candidate Palla Rajeswar Reddy is seeking re-election. TRS supremo and CM KCR has taken these MLC elections as a matter of prestige as they come at a crucial stage when BJP is emerging as the principal opposition replacing Congress in Telangana. When the elections were held to these two seats six years ago in 2015, the HRM graduates seat went to BJP’s Ramachander Rao, a lawyer by profession and a seasoned Sangh Parivar man.

Then TRS candidate Devi Prasad, a prominent government employees’ leader, lost the election despite the ruling party marshalling its entire force behind him. Even Rajeswar Reddy had to struggle hard to win the seat as the counting of votes went on till several rounds of preferential votes. Rajeswar Reddy, an educationist whose institutions include a private university, is a close confidant to KCR.

This time, CM KCR is confident of retaining the NWK seat as Rajeswar Reddy is rich with resources and ahead in campaigning, but not sure of defeating BJP in Hyderabad seat. The CM announced Rajeswar Reddy’s candidature on 7 February, but couldn’t finalise a candidate for the Hyderabad seat till 21st of the month, two days before filing of nominations.

At one stage, it was rumoured that TRS would not field a candidate for the seat, but back former MLC Prof K. Nageswar, who is sponsored by the two Left parties–CPI and CPI (M)–to defeat the BJP. But, a section of top leaders, including party working president and minister K.T. Rama Rao, insisted that being a ruling party, TRS should field its own candidate for the seat of Hyderabad city. Several names have come up for this candidacy from within the party, but KCR, after weighing all options, has picked 68-year-old Vani Devi, third daughter of late Prime Minister PV. As KCR’s government is currently conducting year-long celebrations of the birth centenary of PV, this selection is touted to be a token of acknowledgement of the late leader’s legacy.

Vani Devi, who runs a cluster of educational institutions including a fine arts college–the Sri Venkateswara Fine Arts College in Jubilee Hills in Hyderabad–was initially mentioned as a candidate for MLC under the Governor’s nomination quota, under which three seats were filled two months ago. KCR has surprised all by now fielding her as TRS candidate in these polls. According to TRS calculation, Vani Devi, who, too, belongs to the Brahmin community, is supposed to cut into the vote bank of Ramachander Rao. The other prominent contestants here is Congress candidate G. Chinna Reddy, a former minister, and Prof K. Nageswar, who is in the fray as an Independent, among 92 others.

Unfazed BJP has launched an attack on TRS for using Vani as a tool to win the MLC elections. BJP state president and MP Bandi Sanjay has asked how could CM KCR, who is friends with the AIMIM whose MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi threatened to demolish PV’s memorial on the banks of Hussain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad, claim to be safeguarding the legacy of the late PM? Ramachander Rao is confident of winning the seat for a second time and has launched a slogan–Let’s respect PV, but defeat TRS in these elections. Vani, on the other hand, has appealed to voters to give her a chance to serve the public as an MLC. The HRM MLC seat has an electorate of around 5.32 lakh, while the NWK seat has 5.20 votes.

While BJP and TRS are in the race to win these seats, Congress is trailing behind to prove its strength by alleging a secret plot between the two. Telangana Congress working president and MP A. Revanth Reddy said that late PV was an icon for Congress as he remained with the party till his demise. However, the Congress is clearly shocked at Vani’s entry into TRS. The MLC elections will have resonance in the Nagarjunasagar Assembly by-election that is expected to be held sometime in April as the Election Commission will announce the schedule soon. TRS is keen on retaining the seat in the bypoll which comes in the wake of loss of the Dubbaka Assembly by-election and the poor show in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation polls two months ago.