New wave, new wins: Newcomers in Telangana Assembly

The third Telangana Assembly has 50 newcomers of 119 elected members, with 15 doctors, four of them orthopaedicians. The women and men who are a part of the youthful energy that has swept the electorate this year want to focus on infrastructure, education, and health, write Ravi Reddy and P. Sridhar 

Updated - February 08, 2024 04:10 pm IST

Published - December 08, 2023 08:06 am IST - Hyderabad

Sirpur MLa Palvai Harish Rao during his campaign in the constituency

Sirpur MLa Palvai Harish Rao during his campaign in the constituency


Twenty-four years ago, Palvai Harish Babu, then 18, was studying medicine in Osmania Medical College, Hyderabad. He remembers September 15, 1999 clearly: he had just got up to start his day when the phone rang — at the time a landline. The family of four lived in the modest Sirsilk Mills Officers quarters in the industrial town of Kagaznagar, in Kumaram Bheem Asifabad district (then Adilabad), about 280 km from Hyderabad. 

The caller broke the news that his father, Palvai Purshotham Rao, a three-time MLA, had been shot by People’s War Group, Naxalites. Harish Babu ran out of the house even as his wailing mother, Palvai Rajyalaxmi, tried to find out what was happening. When he reached Dr. Madhu’s Hospital on the Railway Station Road in Kagaznagar, he saw his father’s bullet-riddled body. Three of this father’s bodyguards also lost their lives. 

Elections to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly were just three days away when the killing of the soft-spoken Purshotham Rao, popularly called the ‘Prajala Manishi’ (people’s man), sent shock waves through Andhra Pradesh. Until 1989, Purshotham Rao had been an independent MLA. In 1999 he chose to contest on a Telugu Desam Party (TDP) ticket, the party then in power. 

“Ours is a modest simple middle-class family and my father always used to keep us away from politics. I never had a chance to think of politics,” says Dr. Harish Babu, fresh from his win in the Sirpur constituency, on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket. In the immediate aftermath, “My mother reluctantly entered the fray to fight the by-election after his death. She won the elections. Even at that time, I never thought about entering politics,” he says. His older sister Shravanthi has kept away from politics, and his mother never stood for elections again. He went on to finish a post-graduate degree in Orthopaedics from Sri Ramachandra University in Chennai. 

Today, he and 50 others below 50, are a part of a group of first-time MLAs, voted in as representatives of change to Telangana’s third Assembly. Most are highly educated, with 15 doctors, of who four are orthopaedics specialists. There are techies, like Lasya Nandita,36 years, a software engineer, who won her maiden election from Secunderabad SC constituency, once represented by her father late G. Sayanna. Some newcomers are NRIs, like Madan Mohan Rao, 54 years, the first-time legislator from Yellareddy constituency in Kamareddy district, who owns software companies in America. But there are those who have worked to get an education and live in the communities they represent. BRS MLA from Alampur Vijayudu comes from a humble background and used to supervise the MGNREGS What unites them is a clarity of vision for their constituencies, and a clear action plan based on development. 

Immediate plans 

“It was only in 2009 that I began to explore the possibility of trying my luck in politics,” Dr. Harish Babu, now 44, says. At the time he was caught between choosing politics and a professional life. “I thought, ‘What will happen if I fail in politics?’ So, I decided to take up medical profession and worked in Hyderabad. Then, I felt the need to be with the people of the Sirpur constituency,” he says of what is considered a backward area. “I returned to Kagaznagar and set up a 100-bed Praja Life Care Hospital, which became my lifeline. This gave me the chance to come closer to the people and know their problems better,” he says. 

In 2018, he contested on a Congress ticket from the Sirpur constituency and lost the polls to sitting MLA Koneru Konappa from the Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS). “For seven years, I worked relentlessly for the people and even spent 45 days in jail for agitating for Podu land rights to the Adivasis,” he recalls. It is the seasoned Konappa he defeated. 

“My immediate task is to get the ₹11,000 crore greenfield national highway laid from Tandur to Kautala, covering a distance of 65 km. This will be the gateway to the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra and an alternative route to enter the neighbouring State. Five backward mandals in my constituency will get good road connectivity,” he says. 

Another priority is the demand for the revival of the Pranahita project that will harness water from the Pranahita tributary of the Godavari river, benefiting five constituencies in East Adilabad, Dr. Harish Babu says.. 

Women stand strong 

Dr. Chittem Parnika Reddy, 30 years, from the Congress, whose father, Chittem Venkateswara Reddy, a youth Congress leader, was also killed by Naxalites, has been elected from Makthal. Venkateswara Reddy and his father, former MLA Chittem Narsi Reddy, were gunned down in Narayanpet in Mahabubnagar district on August 15, 2005. Dr. Parnika Reddy, who is studying paediatrics, was 13 years old then. 

Former Minister and BJP National Vice-President D.K. Aruna, Dr. Parnika Reddy’s aunt, says she is a reluctant politician. “My niece was not interested in politics, but circumstances brought her into the electoral battle. Her brother, Chittem Abhijay Reddy, was six months short of 25 years, and not eligible to contest the elections,” she says. 

Another woman, Yashaswini Mamidala, 26, of the Congress party, who won against the Panchayat Raj Minister and the six-time MLA Errabelli Dayakar Rao by a thumping margin of 47,634 votes in Palakurthi in Jangaon district, is one of two youngest legislators in this Assembly. Working at her husband’s California-based private firm, she says, “I will donate my MLA’s salary for the development of the constituency.”  

From paper boy to MLA 

Vedma Bhojju, 37, a Raj Gond Adivasi, went from a newspaper delivery boy to a stringer of a vernacular daily, and is now a legislator of the ST-reserved Khanapur Assembly seat in Telangana’s tribal heartland, Nirmal district. He won on a Congress ticket. 

Bhojju, who holds a degree in law and has M.A. and B.Ed degrees too, is an Adivasi from Kallurguda, a tribal hamlet in Adilabad district’s Utnoor mandal. He defeated the BRS nominee, Johnson Naik Bhukya, the owner of a US-based IT consultancy, by a margin of 4,702 votes. Bhukya is a college mate of the BRS working president K.T. Rama Rao. His victory has helped the Congress win the seat after nearly three decades. 

As an Adivasi student leader, Bhojju actively spearheaded a mass movement to press for a university in the tribal region and safeguard the rights of Adivasis under the Adivasi Hakkula Porata Samithi. He coined a slogan urging voters to choose between “a poor man and a rich NRI (Bheedavadu and Dhanavanthudu/American Babu)”. 

The new legislator, at the helm of the Telangana State movement and agitations for Adivasi rights, has set his sights on the improvement of road connectivity, housing, irrigation, health, and education in Khanapur. 

“I will strive to ensure the setting up of a Government college in the constituency, repairs to the Kadem dam, and augment irrigation facilities in the tribal region,” the newly elected legislator asserts, reiterating his party’s resolve to implement the six guarantees promised in the manifesto. 

“I come from an impoverished family and my parents still live in the Indiramma [Indira Gandhi] house allotted to us by the then Congress government [in the erstwhile combined Andhra Pradesh],” says Bhojju. He says he lived in the watchman’s room when he was trying to get a degree in Adilabad. 

Not seen so many new comers

Former Legislature Secretary of Telangana, S. Raja Sadaram, says he has not seen such a wide range of educationally qualified legislators. “In my 42 years of service in the Legislature, the only time there was a vast range of professionals was in 1982 when N.T. Rama Rao’s TDP won the maiden election,” he says.

Data compiled by the Forum for Good Governance, a Hyderabad-based non-profit, points out that 80 new members of the Telangana Assembly have cases against them. While few are related to crime, some pertain to ones filed during the statehood agitation. Data shows 50 Congress MLAs, 19 BRS, seven BJP, and four Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), have cases against them. In the previous House, 65 members had cases against them. Of the new entrants, five have cases filed against them. This is despite Supreme Court directions that political parties not give tickets to those with criminal antecedents. 

M. Padmanabha Reddy, president of the Forum for Good Governance, said he was hopeful for the future, with so many new entrants and their diversity. “A senior legislator could orient these 50 MLAs on the conduct of the House, so they can raise their voices wherever necessary,” he says. 

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