Riding high on a strong regional sentiment, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), and its lone electoral ally, the BJP, headed for a clean sweep of all the 12 seats in the Assembly by-elections on Friday and inflicted crushing defeats on the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
Results were officially declared in seven constituencies but, going by their surging majorities, TRS candidates are firmly on course to win the remaining five.
The BJP won the only seat it contested when Y. Lakshminarayana, justified his ‘giant-killer' sobriquet by defeating for the second consecutive time APCC president D. Srinivas from Nizamabad Urban by a comfortable margin of 11,983 votes. TDP candidate A. Narsa Reddy was routed polling just 1,793 votes.
Till late in the night, the election authorities could declare the results of only those seats where electronic voting machines (EVMs) were used. Counting in the rest was a painstaking process as the Election Commission was forced to use newspaper-sized ballot papers after the TRS fielded dozens of candidates as independents to express its opposition to EVMs.
Voters comprehensively rejected the TDP which failed to poll even one-sixth of the valid votes needed to retain the security deposit in at least seven constituencies whereas the Congress candidates lost their deposits in two places. Both parties tried to draw solace by saying that TRS candidates had merely retained the Assembly seats they won in May 2009. These MLAs had resigned in February this year to protest against the terms of reference of the Justice Srikrishna Committee constituted to hold consultations on the situation in Andhra Pradesh.
Chief Minister K. Rosaiah and TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu did not campaign in the by-elections, the latter on the plea that he was preoccupied with the more important issue of opposing the ‘illegal' Babli project built by Maharashtra. In contrast, TRS president K. Chandrasekhar Rao steadfastly focussed on electioneering without allowing himself to be distracted by the Babli row even though it threatens to adversely affect five districts in Telangana.