Hyderabad: The electoral race for the member of the Legislative Council representing the Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy and Mahbubnagar (HRRM) graduates constituency has just started acquiring its contours after the last minute entry of Surabhi Vani Devi, daughter of former prime minister late P. V. Narasimha Rao, academic, artist and educationist, into the fray, but all indications show that she has a lot of ground to cover to catch up with incumbent MLC, lawyer and the easily accessible and affable Naraparaju Ramchander Rao of the BJP.
Making the contest fascinating is an equally simple person, known, like his other two rivals, for his integrity, charisma and passion: academic, former MLC and political analyst Prof K. Nageshwar; and the Congress candidate G. Chinna Reddy, former minister and AICC secretary.
The constituency, which is large, diverse and heterogeneous, with several different sets of voters, all with clearly different yet focussed concerns, is tough to conquer. Employees of central and state public sector enterprises, retired employees, employed and unemployed students make for a tough lot to access together. Party affiliations are relevant but not deciders.
Interestingly, while Ramchander Rao says the pro-BJP wave in the state and a prevailing narrative that it will not only challenge but prevail against the TRS in the next Assembly elections, the positive image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and his own work for the graduates, unemployed youth and state employees will make him a clear winner, all the others feel the fight is respectively between them and the BJP candidate.
Prof. Nageshwar said, “The fight is between BJP’s Ramchander Rao and I. While his strength is based on the party’s rising tide, and money power of an organised party in power, I am facing him based on my passionate championing of causes dear to the constituents. Several unions, student bodies and my fans on social media are augmenting my chances. I am confident I will defeat him.”
Vani Devi, dismissing all talk of being late to the race or being a novice, says, “I have a better understanding of issues and an undeniable track record as a professor at JNTU, as an educationist who has started and run several educational institutes.”
While she feels the race is between her and the BJP’s incumbent and popular lawyer, she feels in the end, she will triumph. Ramchander Rao also exudes confidence when he says, “There is a pro-BJP wave across Telangana as much as an anti-TRS wave. The people are still barely recovering from the shock of the double murders in Manthani of the lawyer couple. Yet, there has not been a single word of condemnation from the TRS chief and CM. The elections will see the BJP win with a resounding majority. The race is really between the others for second place.”
Speaking about the crucial P.V. Narasimha Rao factor, Ramchander Rao says, “Everyone can see through the political game of KCR. Trying to distract attention from his failures, by invoking the name of the illustrious late PM he won’t get away. Giving a losing ticket to the daughter of PV is a great disservice to the family.”
Prof Nageshwar also dismisses the factor, saying the appeal of Narasimha Rao is one of respect, not charisma of a kind either NTR or YSR had to get votes in his name. “People, especially the Brahmin community, will not vote based on caste.”
The Congress leader, who started with a strong campaign, is losing out because of the high stakes and resources being pitched in by the two leading parties — the BJP and TRS.
“Even though she is my aunt and family, and I respect her, I am sure my party will win. The TRS did a bad thing by making her a scapegoat,” said N.V. Subhash, BJP leader and grandson of Narasimha Rao.
Vani Devi dismisses these contentions saying, “If they respect my father so much, let them withdraw from the elections.”
As Prof. Nageshwar says, “She won’t be a major factor in these polls. As such, there is a strong anti-TRS wave in the state. Yet, the election to this constituency won’t be a referendum on the KCR government as much as about who is the right candidate to represent this diverse constituency. She has never been in public life and none of the voters will believe she can fight for them.”
Ravi Srivatsa, a graduate constituency voter from Hyderabad, said, “Based on the campaign and whatever I have seen of the candidates, I think, at least in the city, the BJP is clearly ahead. But how differently do voters think, in say Mahbubnagar, I cannot be sure. In absence of any ability to decide based on candidates most people would vote for a party.”
While the BJP’s lawyer will enjoy the thought, the others, including the educationist and daughter, professor, former minister and other independents would be hoping otherwise and they have not just a few weeks to change it....