It’s not going be a cakewalk for any of the Telangana parties in the Parkal byelection in Warangal district, the hotbed of the separate state movement.
In what could come as a surprise, if not a shocker, to Telangana protagonists, YSR Congress candidate Konda Surekha is expected to put up a tough fight. In fact, as things stand today, she is said to be marginally ahead of the TRS, though it is possible that the situation may change as the polling date draws closer.
Despite her protestation that she quit the Assembly for the cause of Telangana, Surekha is seen as having sacrificed her post in support of Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, who is remembered in the region for carrying a United Andhra placard in Parliament.
Surekha herself faced a hail of stones from Telangana supporters when the MP sought to visit Mahabubabad as part of his Odarpu Yatra less than two years ago.
Viewed against this background and the landslide victories for the TRS in bypolls that have taken place in Telangana, one would expect Surekha not to be in the reckoning now. But that apparently is not the case.
The Konda family excites extreme loyalty and enmity in Warangal. Surekha and her husband, Murali, have taken care to nurture a large band of followers, making it a point to visit every marriage or funeral and doling out financial assistance.
On the negative side, they are seen as a couple who would go to any extent to cut down their rivals to maintain their stranglehold in the constituency.
Surekha has so far been elected to the Assembly thrice — twice from the erstwhile Shayampet segment and once from Parkal. Last time out in 2009, a division of votes due to the Praja Rajyam candidate helped her romp home by a margin of 12,000 votes against a TRS candidate then backed by the TDP.
According to more than one survey done in Parkal in recent days, the Telangana vote is expected to be divided between the TRS and BJP, placing Surekha in a good position to benefit from the vote split.
Unlike in the recent Mahbubnagar byelection where the BJP, on a pro-Telangana plank, won the seat, it is likely to be either the TRS or Surekha in Parkal.
The two pro-Telangana parties, the TRS and BJP, together have close to 40 per cent of the vote but the split between them may put Surekha, who is said to have the backing of close to 30 per cent of the vote, in an advantagious position.
In particular, she seems to be taking away a good chunk of the BC vote which is exactly 50 per cent of the total 1.89 electorate. The Congress and TDP are tipped to do relatively poorly.
What is also baffling Telangana supporters is the vitriolic campaign that the TRS and BJP are waging against each other, which is to Surekha’s advantage.
‘Statements made by TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao over the past few weeks show that he is hand-in-glove with Jagan. On a day when the BJP moved a private member’s bill in favour of Telangana in the Rajya Sabha last week, KCR attacked us and not Jagan.
What do you expect us to infer from this?’ said BJP spokesman N V S S Prabhakar. But Telangana supporters say KCR is not so naive as to act in a way to give Surekha the edge.
A loss in Parkal, coming close after the Mahbubnagar defeat, would be a setback to the Telangana movement. Only the maverick leader would know what he is up to.