With less than three weeks to go for the by-election for Telangana’s Munugode Assembly constituency, major parties in the fray are flexing money power to buy the loyalties of rival leaders.
The parties are splurging lakhs of rupees, two-wheelers and even four-wheelers to lure the leaders of the rival parties to their ranks.
Videos of brand new four-wheelers rolling into the constituency are circulating on social media.
The parties are also facing dissent from their own ranks for spending lakhs of rupees to buy second-run leaders from others.
Village-level public representatives, incharges and those who can influence voters are said to be in high demand. They are reportedly being offered anywhere between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 15 lakh to switch loyalties.
The constituency is already drawing attention due to allegations against BJP candidate Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy that he quit the Congress and joined the saffron party after his company was given Rs 18,000 crore contract by the Centre.
The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is claiming that Rajagopal Reddy has promised to BJP leadership that he would spend Rs 500 crore to win the by-election.
The TRS has already urged the Election Commission of India (ECI) to disqualify Reddy from the contest, citing his own ‘admission’ during an interview to a TV channel that his company bagged Rs 18,000 crore contract
TRS leader and the state’s Finance Minister T. Harish Rao has claimed that the BJP is using money power to buy leaders from other parties and also voters. According to him, the BJP is distributing cars and motor cycles among leaders of other parties to lure them to join the saffron party.
“TRS has information that 200 Brezza cars and 2,000 motorcycles have been booked through various agencies. We have formed teams to trace those who get these cars and motorcycles and lodge complaints with police and the Election Commission,” he said.
A TRS leader posted a video of four Scorpio vehicles on Twitter. He claimed that 30 Maruti cars were also purchased for distribution.
The BJP, however, has denied the allegation and hit back at TRS for resorting to misuse of power and distribution of money and liquor to woo voters.
BJP state president Bandi Sanjay Kumar has claimed that TRS is making plans to distribute Rs 30,000 to each voter in order to buy their votes.
Sanjay has even alleged that the TRS was funding the Congress campaign to split anti-government votes.
Political analysts say that Munugode bypoll may turn out to be more expensive than the Huzurabad bypoll held late last year.
Both TRS and BJP had accused each other of spending hundreds of crores to win Huzurabad.
The TRS government had also come under flak for implementing Dalit Bandhu scheme in Huzurabad before the by-election.
This time the government has not announced any scheme but both the major parties are trading allegations of using money power for a win.
The circumstances of by-elections in both the constituencies are more or less similar. Huzurabad bypoll was necessitated by resignation of Eatala Rajender, who quit TRS and joined BJP after he was dropped from the Cabinet by Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao following allegations of land grabbing.
The TRS received a big jolt as Rajender won the seat. This was the second victory for BJP, which had wrested the Dubbak seat from TRS in 2020.
The Munugode seat was won by Rajagopal Reddy of Congress in the 2018 elections. However, since 2019 he has been targeting his own party and praising BJP. In July this year, he finally resigned from the Assembly and quit the Congress party. At a public meeting addressed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Munugode on August 21, he joined the BJP.
Unlike in Huzurabad where it was a direct fight between TRS and BJP, Munugode is likely to witness a three-cornered contest with Congress party going all out to retain the seat.
Both the TRS and Congress are targeting Rajagopal Reddy over the Rs 18,000 crore contract. This has become the main poll issue as both the parties are accusing him of selling himself to BJP and imposing by-election on people of Munugode.
The TRS has fielded Kusukuntla Prabhakar Reddy, who had lost to Rajagopal Reddy in 2018 by over 23,000 votes.
The Congress has given ticket to Palvai Sravanthi, daughter of former MP Palvai Govardhan Reddy.