Although the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) won the Munugode by-election after a close race with the BJP, the true story from the polls is the Congress story.
In a state that was once a major source of its electoral power, the election results showed the party’s downward spiral as it held two consecutive terms as center leader in 2004 and 2009.
Although former Congress president Sonia Gandhi is often credited with the founding of Telangana – even as TRS leader and chief minister KCR – after Telangana split from Andhra Pradesh, Congress in 2014 failed to make political gains from it.
The anger over the division of the country and the loss of Hyderabad ensured that Congress was also wiped out in Andhra Pradesh.
In the 2018 Telangana elections, the party won 19 out of 117 parliamentary seats. Uttam Kumar Reddy became MP and resigned from MLA in 2019. That same year, 12 MLAs turned to the ruling TRS, which already had an absolute majority, leaving Congress with just six seats.
The insurgents split the Legislative Party, thereby avoiding penalties from the anti-defection law. Congress has been humiliated by losing its position as an opposition party in parliament.
It was in this context that Munugold started to become a test case for National to prove it was still in reckoning in the state.
Munugode is a stronghold of Congress, won by Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy in 2018. Mr Reddy quit the party and joined the BJP in August this year.
Congress chose Palvai Sravanthi, whose father served in the region for a long time. They also want 120,000 female voters to support her at a time when TRS and BJP are seen as big bets on alcohol.
But in the face of TRS and BJP, Congress has no money to spend. Its leadership’s attention is divided between the polls that passed the state a week before the election and Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Chodo Yatra.
Although in the state, Rahul Gandhi stayed away from the Munughod movement. Senior leaders dismissed it as “just a poll” – a stark contrast to the TRS, whose struggles appear to depend on it for the survival of their government.
Even if the disclaimer doesn’t see the polls as trendsetters in the parliamentary elections, and Congress is far ahead in third place in Munugode, it looks like the party will even lose the narrative in the race to form a government in 2023. .
What worked for TRS, political analysts said, was working with the Communist Party of India (CPI) in a congress with considerable left-wing party influence.
Anger over former MLA Komatireddy Rajagopal switching sides also helped TRS as it garnered votes from those who wanted to see him defeated.
Locals say Mr Rajagopal won votes not because of the BJP but because of his own image and the goodwill he has earned through his generous allocation of funds.
Many say TRS is unlikely to win if Mr Rajagopal runs again as a congressional candidate or as an independent.
It’s a win-win for TRS. They managed to stop the BJP. Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy has a lot of influence in Nalgonda along with his brother Komatireddy Venkat Reddy and as such has been cut and Congress may also take drastic action, possibly even expelling rebel brothers, senior leaders and MPs.
BJP is also unlikely to be too unhappy, even if it only lost after a good fight. Even though there were no significant cadres or leaders in Munugode, they managed to come in second, just relying on a leader who could influence voters on their own.
This will help them build the narrative and perception that they are running to challenge TRS in the 2023 election, leaving Congress far behind.
A victory, however, could have given the BJP a huge boost, building momentum for the party to attract and bring in new talent from other parties, making up for its lack of cadres and leadership in various regions.