The Khammam Lok Sabha constituency, reckoned to be the political nerve centre of south Telangana, is poised to witness a cliffhanger of a contest with two political heavyweights locked in a fierce electoral battle.
Bolstered by the support of the CPI, the CPI (M) is putting up a formidable joint fight to wrest the seat.
Congress party’s senior leader and former Union Minister Renuka Chowdhury is contesting from the seat which she had won twice in 1999 and 2004.
Ms. Renuka was elected to the Rajya Sabha twice as the Telugu Desam (TDP) nominee in 1986 and 1992 prior to her entry into the Congress and once as Congress candidate in 2012. She had served as a Union minister thrice — during 1997-98, 2004-2006 and 2006-2009.
In a surprise move, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi handpicked former TDP MP from Khammam and noted industrialist Nama Nageswara Rao for the coveted seat within a few hours after admitting him into the party little over a week ago. This has left the supporters of sitting Khammam MP Ponguleti Srinivas Reddy distraught.
Mr. Reddy had won from Khammam seat on the YSR Congress party ticket defeating Mr. Nama Nageswara Rao (the then TDP candidate) by a margin of little over 12,204 votes in 2014. He later joined the TRS in 2016. Despite being denied ticket, Mr. Reddy vowed to continue in the TRS and strive for the victory of the party candidate. Mr. Nageswara Rao served as the TDP Parliamentary Party leader during 2009-14 and later as the party’s Polit Bureau member until March 19 this year.
Both Ms. Renuka and Mr. Rao, who defeated each other once in the past, are now bracing for another fierce electoral tussle with high stakes.
In 2004 elections, Ms. Renuka defeated Mr. Rao (the then TDP nominee) by a margin of little over one lakh votes. Mr. Rao emerged triumphant in 2009 elections, trouncing Ms Renuka by a huge margin of over 1.20 lakh votes.
Backed by the CPI, the CPI (M) has pitched in its senior leader B. Venkat, who has long been associated with the students’, farmers’ and land oustees’ struggles, as its candidate.
As many as 23 candidates are in the fray from Khammam constituency which has a total electorate of 15,13,094 spread across seven Assembly segments. BJP’s D. Vasudeva Rao, CPI (ML-ND)’s G. Venkateswara Rao, Janasena’s N. Satyanarayana are also in the contest.
Khammam constituency has been a stronghold of the Congress since its inception in 1952. Barring the first two elections in which the PDF and the CPI had won the seat, the Congress bagged the seat 11 times so far.
Congress’s T. Lakshmikanthamma registered a hat-rick, winning the seat in 1962, 67 and 71. Former Chief Minister Jalagam Vengal Rao and his brother J. Kondal Rao had won the seat two times each. Former chief minister Nadenda Bhaskar Rao and former Union minister P. V. Rangaiah Naidu of the Congress and CPI (M) State secretary Tammineni Veerabhadram represented the constituency once each.
A string of desertions from the Congress and the TDP to the ruling TRS just ahead of the announcement of poll schedule has brought drastic changes in the political landscape in the constituency. Several political adversaries have turned friends following the exodus of the Congress and TDP leaders into the TRS setting in new political equations.
The ruling TRS is pinning its hopes on reaping electoral dividends from the entry of Congress MLAs from Kothagudem and Palair besides the independent MLA from Wyra and the TDP MLA from Sattupalli into the party fold. The Congress is pulling out all stops to capitalise on its cadre strength and traditional vote bank besides the support of the TDP in the constituency more particularly in Aswaraopeta Assembly segment represented by TDP MLA Mecha Nageswara Rao. The CPI (M) is mainly harping on its significant clout among farmers especially podu and tenant farmers as well as the working class.
The long-pending issues such as incomplete railway over bridge at Dhamsalapuram, modern bus station and IT hub in Khammam town, long standing demand for a university and Kothagudem-Kovvuru railway line besides problems faced by podu cultivators and other distressed farmers are some of the issues high on the political parties’ campaign agenda.