Fierce battle on the cards in Telangana’s Karimnagar


Sitting MP and BJP general secretary Bandi Sanjay Kumar is taking on BRS leader B. Vinod Kumar and Congress party’s Velicherla Rajendra Rao in what is likely to be a fierce battle in Karimnagar Lok Sabha constituency.

Known as the political nerve centre of north Telangana, Karimnagar has a history of sending candidates of all major parties to the Parliament.

A Congress stronghold since its inception till the mid-1990s, Karimnagar was wrested by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in 1996. Since then, Congress has struggled to regain the lost ground though it won the seat in 2009.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) bagged the seat twice in 1998 and 1999 while Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) founder K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) won the seat thrice in the 14th Lok Sabha in 2004 (2006 and 2008 by-polls).

Congress regained the seat in 2009 when Ponnam Prabhakar was elected but he failed to retain it in 2014.

In both the 2014 and 2019 elections, TRS (now BRS) and BJP swapped the top two positions, with Congress slipping to the third spot. The winner and runners-up of the previous two elections are again in the fray.

However, the victory of the Congress party in recent Assembly elections has given it a new hope of wresting the seat back.

While both BJP and BRS declared their candidates in the first week of March, the Congress party delayed the announcement due to several aspirants for the ticket. It was only in the eleventh hour that Congress named Velicherla Rajendra Rao as its candidate.

Son of former Karimnagar MLA Velichala Jagapathi Rao, Rajendra Rao had contested the 2009 elections on the ticket of Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) floated by Tollywood superstar K. Chiranjeevi. He had finished third.

In the recently held Assembly elections, Congress won four out of seven Assembly segments under the Karimnagar parliamentary constituency. The BRS won the remaining three. The BJP drew a blank.

Sitting MP Bandi Sanjay of BJP himself lost the election from the Karimnagar Assembly seat in a three-cornered contest. BRS candidate Gangula Kamalakar defeated Sanjay by a narrow margin of 3,163 votes. While Gangula Kamalakar secured 92,179 votes, Sanjay polled 89,016 votes. Purumalla Srinivas of Congress finished third by polling 40,057 votes.

Despite the loss, Sanjay is hoping for a repeat of 2019 as he had won the Lok Sabha seat a few months after defeat in the Assembly elections.

In the 2018 Assembly elections, the BJP leader had lost to Gangula Kamalakar of BRS by 14,974 votes. Congress party’s Ponnam Prabhakar had finished third. In 2014 too, Bandi Sanjay had suffered defeat at the hands of Kamalakar.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Bandi Sanjay won the seat by defeating Vinod Kumar of BRS by a margin of 89,508. Sanjay polled 4,98,276 votes while Vinod Kumar secured 4,08,768 votes. Congress party’s Ponnam Prabhakar had finished third with 1,79,258 votes.

Political analysts say BJP won the Lok Sabha seat in 2019 with a huge majority though the party did not have a single MLA seat.

In the Assembly elections held in November 2023, the BJP finished second in Karimnagar and Huzurabad and third in Choppadandi (SC), Vemulawada, Sircilla, Manakondur (SC) and Husnabad Assembly segments.

The BJP, which had secured over 1.22 lakh votes in 2009 and finished fourth, has been increasing its votes with every election. In 2014, its candidate Chennamaneni Vidyasagar Rao finished third.

It was Vidyasagar Rao who was first elected on BJP ticket from Karimnagar in 1998 and retained the seat in 1999. He had served as Minister of State in the Vajpayee government. He later served as Maharashtra Governor from 2014 to 2019.

Karimnagar gained prominence when KCR was elected in 2004, which was the first election after he floated TRS (now BRS) to revive the Telangana movement. He retained the seat in 2006 and 2008 by-elections.

Bandi Sanjay Kumar is confident of retaining the seat as he believes that there is a BJP wave with people making up their mind to give Prime Minister Narendra Modi a third term. He claims that the voters of Karimnagar are satisfied with his performance as the MP.

This election is crucial for Sanjay’s political future. He was unceremoniously removed as state BJP president in July last year a few months before the Assembly elections. This had come as a huge shock to his supporters as he was credited with the BJP gaining strength in Telangana during the last 2-3 years.

The rabble-rouser was appointed BJP president in March 2020. It was under his leadership that the party won two Assembly by-elections and significantly improved its tally in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation.

Known for his aggressive Hindutva politics, he played a key role in strengthening the party. A BC leader, he is hopeful of another term.

According to him, the Centre has spent more than Rs 12,000 crore for various development works in the constituency during the last five years. He claims to have brought Rs 5,000 crore for road development works.

Vinod Kumar, who won the Karimnagar seat in the 2014 elections, is confident of recapturing the seat.

Though BRS lost four of the seven Assembly segments to Congress, its leaders point out that it secured an overall majority of over 5,000 votes over Congress.

Vinod Kumar, a close associate of KCR, is confident that the people of Karimnagar will elect him this time as Bandi Sanjay failed to do anything for the constituency. He believes the Congress government lost the confidence of the people within six months and the people have realised that Congress came to power by making false promises.

Congress party’s Rajendra Rao is also confident that people will continue their support to Congress party as it fulfilled some key guarantees in a short span of time. He is banking on the support of transport minister Ponnam Prabhakar, who is leading the efforts of Congress to regain the lost glory.



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