Battle lines are drawn for the by-election in Munugode Assembly constituency in Telangana.
It will be a three-cornered contest in the November 3 bypoll, whose outcome will be crucial ahead of the next year’s Assembly elections in the state.
The by-election will be a battle of prestige for all three main contestants – ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and opposition Congress and Bharatiya Jana Party (BJP).
The Assembly seat fell vacant following the resignation of Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy, who quit Congress to join BJP.
As a win in the byelection is expected to give a psychological advantage ahead of the 2023 battle, the key players are going all out to register a victory.
After wresting Dubbak and Huzurabad from TRS in last two years, BJP is looking to score a hat-trick of bypoll victories. The ruling party, which wrested Huzurnagar from Congress and retained Nagarjunasagar, is leaving no stone unturned to stop the saffron surge.
The Congress is desperate to retain Munugode to register its first bypoll win since the 2018 elections.
The BJP has fielded Rajagopal Reddy as its candidate while TRS has nominated K. Prabhakar Reddy, who had won the seat in 2014 polls but lost to Rajagopal Reddy in 2018.
The Congress has fielded a woman. Palvai Sravanthi is daughter of former MP Palvai Goverdhan Reddy.
A total of 47 candidates remained in the fray after the late date for withdrawal of nominations ended Monday.
As many as 130 candidates had filed their nominations of which 47 were rejected by the election authority on technical grounds. Of the remaining 83 candidates, 36 withdrew their nominations before the deadline on Monday.
All the 36 who withdrew their nominations had filed their papers as independents.
Besides the candidates of three main political parties, contestants from 11 smaller parties are in the fray. The other parties include Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
The remaining are independents. They include some unemployed students of Osmania University and those displaced by Cherlagudem reservoir.
Christian evangelist and Praja Shanti Party founder K. A. Paul is also contesting as an independent. He had earlier announced that former Maoist ideologue and revolutionary balladeer Gaddar will be the candidate from his party but the latter is reported to have opted out.
Praja Shanti Party was derecognised by the Election Commission of India (ECI) last month.
Meanwhile, the poll officials said three Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) will have to be used at each polling booth due to presence of a large number of candidates. Since each EVM or ballot unit can accommodate only 16 candidates, the authorities will have to deploy three EVMs.