Hyderabad, Nov (IANS) In a major setback to Telangana's ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wrested the Dubbak Assembly seat by a margin of over 1,000 votes.
In a nail-biting finish, BJP's M. Raghunandan Rao beat his nearest rival S. Sujatha of TRS by 1,079 votes in the stronghold of the ruling party and the home district of Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao.
Though the celebrations in the BJP camp began soon after the completion of the 23rd and last round of counting, the election authorities delayed the result as votes in four electronic voting machines (EVMs) could not be counted due to technical glitch.
The authorities counted VVPATs of these EVMs in the 24th round. However, the counting in this round did not have any impact on the outcome.
BJP polled 63,352 votes while the TRS secured 62,273 votes. The Congress' Cheruku Srinivas Reddy finished third with 22,196 votes.
TRS had won the seat in the 2018 elections. The by-election was caused by the death of sitting legislator S. Ramalinga Reddy. The ruling party had fielded his widow S. Sujatha.
The counting saw many twists and turns, giving tense moments to the main contesting candidates and their supporters.
The fortunes of the BJP and the TRS candidates kept fluctuating throughout the counting process and in the end the saffron party clinched the nail-biting contest.
The BJP established an early lead and maintained it for five rounds. TRS came back strongly to get maximum votes in the sixth and seventh rounds. However, the BJP bounced back to take the eighth and ninth rounds.
Making another come back, TRS garnered highest number of votes in the 10th round. It was BJP again in the 11th round. Congress too surprised all by winning the 12th round.
By bagging six consecutive rounds, TRS surpassed the BJP and took a slender lead of 251 votes in the 19th round and improved it to 491 votes in the 20th round. This rekindled the hopes of a narrow victory in the ruling party camp.
However, the 21st round saw the BJP regaining the lead and it maintained the same in the remaining two rounds to take the bitterly contested seat.
Out of 1,98,807 voters, 82.61 per cent had cast their votes in the polling held on November 3. A total of 1,62,929 votes were polled.
As many as 23 candidates were in the fray for the bypoll, necessitated by the death of Ramalinga Reddy of TRS in August this year due to ill-health.
Raghunandan Rao, who had unsuccessfully contested the seat since 2009, proved fourth time lucky. The victory has given the BJP a second seat in the 119-member state legislative Assembly.
The result is a big blow to the TRS, which was confident of retaining the seat with a massive margin of over one lakh votes.
In the 2018 elections, TRS had won the seat by a margin of 62,500 votes. Ramalinga Reddy had retained the seat by securing 89,299 votes. The Congress had finished runners-up with 26,799 votes while the BJP's Raghunandan Rao came third with 22,595 votes.
TRS was banking on the performance of the government during the last six years and the sympathy factor, while the BJP and the Congress targeted the TRS government for its failures.
Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao and his son K.T. Rama Rao, a cabinet minister and working president of TRS, both stayed away from campaign, which was led by Chandrasekhar Rao's nephew T. Harish Rao.
The acrimonious campaign saw the leaders of three major parties trading allegations and counter allegations. The seizure of cash from relatives of the BJP candidate kicked up a row with the saffron party alleging that the TRS planted the money as it was scared of defeat.
The police said that out of Rs 18.67 lakh seized from a relative of Raghunandan Rao in Siddipet town on October 26, the BJP leaders snatched Rs 12.80 lakh from the officials.
The police also seized Rs 1 crore cash from another of BJP candidate in Hyderabad on November 1. It claimed that the money was being transported to Dubbak for distribution among voters.