As the race hots up for Nalgonda Lok Sabha seat, sitting Congress MP Gutha Sukhender Reddy seems to have an edge over others in a multi-cornered contest. But his rival and TRS nominee P. Rajeswhar Reddy is determined to turn the tide in his favour as a no-holds barred campaign intensified in this sprawling constituency.

Describing it a “nominal contest”, Mr. Sukhender Reddy told The Hindu during one of his campaign meetings in Miryalaguda Assembly constituency that he would win hands down. “Last time, I secured 1.52 lakh votes in spite of the grand alliance formed by TDP, TRS, CPI(M) and CPI (he defeated veteran CPI leader Suravaram Sudhakar Reddy). But this time round, my margin will be the highest in Telangana that is, more than two lakh votes,” he predicted. Although the Congress is affected by group politics in the district, Mr. Sukhender Reddy has managed to maintain good relations with all his partymen and this is likely to help him in neutralising any negative fallout. “I have been in the constituency for the past five years and maintained good relations with people. I fought for Telangana cause and we achieved it.”

On fluoride problem in the district, the Congress leader claimed that a Rs.1,200-crore scheme to provide protected water to every affected village was on the anvil. Besides, irrigation water was being provided to several lakh acres under various projects.

With four strong leaders of the Congress in fray from four of the seven Assembly segments – K. Jana Reddy (Nagarjunasagar), Uttam Kumar Reddy (Huzurnagar), R. Damodar Reddy (Suryapet) and Komatireddy Venkat Reddy (Nalgonda), Mr. Sukhender Reddy is placed in an advantageous position compared to others. The other Assembly constituencies under this Lok Sabha seat are Devarakonda, Kodad and Miryalaguda.

The TDP candidate Tera Chinappa Reddy, an industrialist, is also in the fray and the party has a strong presence in all the seven Assembly segments. However, a TDP strong rebel, K. Bhupal Reddy, has filed his nomination papers in Nalgonda Assembly segment after the seat was given to the BJP in the alliance. Similarly, a BJP candidate has filed nomination as rebel in Suryapet Assembly constituency. The presence of rebels is likely impact the electoral chances of Mr. Chinappa Reddy.

Denying that he was facing a “tough opponent” in Mr. Sukhender Reddy, TRS nominee and educationist Rajeshwar Reddy maintained that youth, students, women and employees have decided to vote for the TRS as Telangana State was achieved because of the movement launched by its president K. Chandrasekhar Rao fourteen years ago.

Charging both the Congress and Telugu Desam regimes for keeping Telangana backward for 60 years, he asked: “Why should people give a role to the Congress/TDP in new Telangana”. Citing the fluoride issue, he wondered why the Congress leaders did not solve the problem. He said the TRS has a vision and is committed to provide protected water to every household in the next five years.

Veteran CPI(M) leader and former MLA Nandyala Narasimha Reddy, who is also in the fray, claimed that he stood better chances as the Congress nominee had “failed”. He charged Mr. Sukhender Reddy with not getting more funds and pointed out that Marcherla-Nalgonda railway line sanctioned 10 years ago was yet to take off.

He also faulted Mr. Reddy for not getting a medical college for Nalgonda although the Central government announced one such institution for every district.

Though his party opposed Telangana, it was no more an issue. He said the Congress ruled for several years, but did not develop Telangana. It would be the same if they returned to power.