The Congress has crossed the majority mark of 60 and is heading towards ousting the incumbent Bharat Rashtra Samithi government in Telangana, Election Commission data showed on Sunday as results continued to pour in.

As of 8 pm, the Congress had won or was leading in 64 seats, followed by Bharat Rashtra Samithi in 39 constituencies. Bharat Rashtra Samithi leader and Telangana minister KT Rama Rao congratulated the Congress and said that the result was not on expected lines for his party.

The Assembly elections in Telangana were held on November 30. The state registered a turnout of 71.34%. The counting of votes began at 8 am on Sunday.

In 2018, Bharat Rashtra Samithi won 88 seats and the Congress-led alliance 21 seats. The Telangana Assembly has a total of 119 seats and 60 seats are required for a majority. Several Congress MLAs subsequently defected to what was then known as the Telangana Rashtra Samithi. This time, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi is facing a stiff challenge from the Congress, which was a dominant political force in the erstwhile united Andhra Pradesh.

For the Congress, the Telangana polls served as a chance to come to power in another southern state after it wrested control of Karnataka from the BJP in May. Understandably, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi, despite being an Opposition party at the Centre, views the Congress as its main rival in the state. Therefore, the Rao-led party has refused to join the INDIA Opposition bloc, which includes the Congress.

On Sunday, Rao was leading against BJP’s Eatala Rajender with a margin of more than 38,000 votes in his Gajwel constituency. Rao was also contesting the Kamareddy constituency where he lost to the BJP’s Katipally Venkata Ramana Reddy by more than 6,700 votes. Congress’ state chief Anumula Revanth Reddy also lost in Kamareddy, but won the Kodangal seat by 32,532 votes.

Meanwhile, KT Rama Rao defeated Congress candidate KK Mahender Reddy in the Sircilla constituency by nearly 29,700 votes.

Also read: Election results: What does BJP’s hegemony in the Hindi belt mean for Indian politics?

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  • The BJP has historically had little success in Telangana. However, buoyed by the electoral traction it has found in the state in recent years, the BJP has also pulled out all stops in its campaign. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP bagged four of the state’s 17 parliamentary seats. A year later, the BJP pipped the Congress and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen to become the second largest party in the Hyderabad municipal elections. The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, which has considerable influence in parts of Hyderabad, is contesting nine seats in the region. While the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen is not in an alliance with the Bharat Rashtra Samithi, party leader Asaduddin Owaisi had in October urged Muslims to vote for Rao’s party where his own party was not contesting.
  • The election results of the Assembly polls in Telangana come barely four months before polling in the Lok Sabha elections begin. The outcome of the state polls is likely to feed into the larger political picture ahead of the general election.

Key factors

  • After two consecutive terms in power, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi is fighting to ward off anti-incumbency. Therefore, the Rao government is banking on its cash transfer initiatives to retain power. The Bharat Rashtra Samithi government’s Rythu Bandhu cash transfer scheme has been seen as such a success that it has been replicated by several other states and even the BJP government at the Centre. Under the Rythu Bandhu scheme, the Telangana government hands out Rs 10,000 per acre annually to farmers over two crop seasons. Ahead of the polls, Rao announced that the amount will be raised to Rs 16,000 in a phased manner. Monthly social security pensions for elderly citizens, unmarried women and differently-abled persons will also be increased gradually, Rao promised. This forced the Congress to not only match the Rao government’s sop for sop, it also promised to pay the increased pension amount immediately if it comes to power. The Bharat Rashtra Samithi had announced that it will deliver the increased pension amount in a phased manner.

Also read: Ground report: Can Telangana’s massive cash transfer regime shield KCR from anti-incumbency?

Why parties of all colours are offering cash transfer schemes to voters

  • Another factor in the election is cash-for-votes. Scroll reported on November 30 about how large scale cash distribution in exchange for votes is an open secret in Telangana. Multiple political leaders, analysts and voters told Scroll that the going rate in this election was Rs 10,000 per vote. However, the figure was up to Rs 15,000 in constituencies having a close contest.

Also read: How cash-for-votes could swing the Telangana elections

Key contests

  • A key battle is playing out between the chief minister and Anumula Revanth Reddy, the president of Congress’ Telangana unit, in the Kamareddy Assembly constituency. Rao is also contesting from the Gajwel Assembly constituency where he is facing a challenge from Congress’ Tumkunta Narsa Reddy and the BJP’s Etela Rajender. Rajender, who quit the Bharat Rashtra Samithi to join the BJP in 2021, was once considered a close aide of Rao. Revanth Reddy, currently a Lok Sabha MP from Malkajgiri, is also contesting from a second constituency Kodangal – a seat he had lost in 2018.
  • Rao’s son and minister KT Rama Rao is contesting from Sircilla, a seat he has held since 2009. He is being challenged by Congress’ KK Mahender Reddy. The chief minister’s nephew and minister T Harish Rao is fighting from Siddipet, a seat he has held since for nearly 20 years. The seats existed even as part of the undivided Andhra Pradesh.
  • Among other parties, the BJP’s former state unit chief Bandi Sanjay Kumar is taking on the Bharat Rashtra Samithi leader Gangula Kamalakar in Karimnagar. The BJP fielded leader T Raja Singh from the Goshamahal constituency after revoking his suspension in October. Singh was suspended in August 2022 over his remarks about Prophet Muhammad. The BJP had acted against him after large-scale protests erupted in Hyderabad as he repeated former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s disparaging remarks about the Prophet. Even when he was suspended from the party, Singh had engaged in hate speech against Muslims multiple times. Akbaruddin Owaisi, the leader of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, is contesting from Hyderabad’s Chandrayangutta constituency. The seat, from where he has been an MLA for nearly 25 years, is among the party’s strongholds.
  • Most exit polls have projected the Congress to wrest control of Telangana, defeating the Bharat Rashtra Samithi. Many of these surveys suggest that the Congress may get a clear majority.    

Also read: Election results: What does BJP’s hegemony in the Hindi belt mean for Indian politics?