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BJP fails Andhra alliance poll test

Hyderabad, Sept. 29: The BJP failed to wrest back the Karwan assembly seat, thus tasting its first electoral defeat in the state since aligning with the Telugu Desam Party in 1999.

Political novice Muqtada Khan, alias Afsar Khan, of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) defeated BJP veteran Baddam Balreddy by 19,716 votes in the bypoll — almost 10,000 more than the last time. The Congress and the Telengana Rashtra Samiti came third and fourth. The outcome was considered a major setback for both the BJP and the Desam because top party leaders had campaigned for Balreddy.

Chief Minister . Chandrababu Naidu himself had addressed a series of election meetings, campaigning for an entire day. He was backed by BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu. The Desam had also for the first time campaigned for its ally in the state capital of Hyderabad.

The bypoll, necessitated after the death of MIM legislator Syed Sajjad last June, was under scrutiny as it was expected to indicate the public mood less than a year before the Assembly elections.

The result does not bode well for the alliance’s prospects as Balreddy was a veteran who had won Karwan three times in the past, unlike Khan who is a greenhorn.

Balreddy blamed the “collusion between the MIM, election officials and the police”. “The MIM managed to get 50,000 bogus names enlisted in the electoral rolls with the help of the MCH (Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad) and election officials,” he alleged. He plans to approach the Election Commission.

MIM’s Assembly leader Asaduddin Owaisi called the result a rejection of the BJP-TDP alliance and the people’s warning against the chief minister’s “misrule”.

“In this by-election, the chief minister had campaigned more actively and vigorously than even the BJP workers. He talked like a communal leader by telling the voters that voting for the Congress or any party other than the BJP would be a support for the MIM,” Owaisi said.

The local minority party had won the seat in 1999 by defeating BJP’s Kishan Reddy.

The poll also showed up the strength of the Samiti, a new political entity, as a vote-splitter. The party mainly drew votes in favour of former BJP leader A. Narendra, the parliamentarian from Medak, though the candidate was P. Kishan Rao.

Rao, Congress’s Amar Singh and six other candidates forfeited their security deposits, returning officer Vani Prasad said.

The bypoll on Friday had recorded a low turnout of 44.30 per cent because voter’s identity card or any other document to establish identity was made mandatory. Over 100,000 votes polled electronically -- for the first time in Karwan -- helped finish counting within three hours.

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