Hyderabad:  The stage is set for the by-election to the Telangana Legislative Council from the Warangal-Khammam-Nalgonda graduates’ constituency on Monday.

A total of 4.63 lakh graduates are eligible to cast their votes in this constituency spread over 34 assembly segments in the undivided districts of Warangal, Khammam and Nalgonda.

The Election Commission of India has made elaborate arrangements for peaceful conduct of the polling.

The vacancy arose after Palla Rajeshwar Reddy of BRS resigned following his election to the Assembly from the Jangaon constituency in the Assembly elections held in November 2023.

Though there are 52 candidates in the fray, the main contest is among Congress, Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates.

Coming close on the heels of the Lok Sabha elections, the by-election is witnessing a bitter contest among the main players.

For ruling Congress, it is a prestige battle as it is going all out to demonstrate that it continues to enjoy the support of graduates. Jobs for unemployed youth was one of the key promises of the party in Assembly elections and the party tried to assure the voters that it is committed to filling two lakh vacancies by the end of 2024.

The ruling Congress party, which has 33 out of the 34 MLAs in the graduates’ constituency, is confident of wresting the seat from BRS.

It has fielded Chintapandu Naveen alias Teenmaar Mallanna, who had contested as an independent and finished second in the election for MLC seat held two years ago.

He is locked in a three-cornered contest with Rakesh Reddy of BRS and G. Permender Reddy of BJP.

Premender Reddy had secured fourth place in the 2021 poll as BJP candidate.

Interestingly, the main candidates were all once friends in the BJP. Rakesh Reddy quit BJP to join BRS just before the Assembly elections after he was denied a ticket from the Warangal constituency.

Teenmaar Mallanna had also quit the BJP to join Congress just before the Assembly polls.

Mallanna runs a YouTube channel considered highly critical of BRS chief KCR and his family. He was arrested for his alleged derogatory posts and comments against KCR when BRS was in power.

In 2021, Telangana Jana Samiti (TJS) president and academician M. Kodandaram also contested the poll from this MLC constituency but finished third.

In the recent Assembly elections, Kodandaram backed the Congress party and the latter rewarded him by nominating him to the Legislative Council under the Governor’s quota.

The Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and TJS have declared their support to the Congress candidate.

The CPI-M has said its main objective is to defeat the BJP. The party called upon its cadres, supporters and sympathisers to vote for the Congress candidate.

Ministers and key leaders of the ruling Congress party participated in the campaign in support of Teenmaar Mallanna.

The Congress leaders told the voters that the government is working sincerely to solve the problems of the unemployed youth by taking steps to provide them with jobs.

BRS working president K. T. Rama Rao and senior leader T. Harish Rao addressed meetings in support of party candidate Rakesh Reddy.

The BRS leaders appealed to graduate voters to elect Rakesh Reddy so that he could raise people’s voices in the Legislative Council.

At every meeting, Rama Rao is asking voters if they want to elect a highly educated Rakesh Reddy, who returned to India from the US to serve people or a ‘blackmailer’. He was attacking Teenmaar Mallanna for allegedly resorting to blackmailing in the guise of journalism.

Union minister and state BJP president G. Kishan Reddy, MP K. Laxman, former minister Eatala Rajender and other leaders addressed several meetings to campaign for Permender Reddy.

Rama Rao and Harish Rao have highlighted the failures of the Congress government during the last six months. People are fed up seeing the misrule of Congress in a short span of six months.

Both the BRS and BJP leaders slammed Congress for its failure to implement the six guarantees given in Assembly elections.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission has asked collectors to grant special casual leave to employees for the by-election.

Chief Electoral Officer Vikas Raj said instructions have been issued for the grant of special casual leave on the day of the poll to the central and state government employees, who are bonafide voters in the elections to state legislative council to enable them to exercise the right of franchise.

Collectors of Warangal, Hanumakonda, Mahabubabad, Jayashankar Bhupalpally, Jangaon, Mulugu, Siddipet, Khammam, Bhadradri Kothagudem, Nalgonda, Suryapet and Yadadri Bhuvanagiri districts were asked to implement the orders.

“With regard to the employees of private establishments, the district election officers are informed that there is no provision under the Representation of People Act, 1951 to declare a general holiday under the Negotiable Instrument Act for the elections of state legislative councils, ” he said.

However, the CEO requested all private businesses to grant necessary facilities to their employees who are registered voters in the constituency, such as permission to attend office/duty late, adjustments of shifts, short absences of duty hours or otherwise, so as to enable them to exercise their right of franchise to vote on the day of polls.

Rachakonda police have issued prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC under the limits of Bhongir Zone of Rachakonda police Commissionerate from 4 p.m. on May 25 to 4 p.m. on May 26 at the distribution centres and from 4 p.m. on May 26 to May 27 at polling locations till completion of by-polls.

Orders have also been issued for the closure of all liquor shops, hotels, restaurants, clubs and other establishments selling/serving liquor, situated within the limits of the Yadadri-Bhuvanagiri zone from 4 p.m. on May 25 to 4 p.m. on May 27.

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