An interesting battle is on cards in the next month's elections to two seats of the Telangana Legislative Council from graduates' constituencies as the ruling TRS faces an acid test.
The resurgence of the BJP following its recent victories and entry of two prominent academics in the fray has made the MLC polls an uphill task for the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).
Though the number of graduates eligible to vote in Hyderabad-Rangareddy-Mahabubnagar and Warangal-Khammam-Nalgonda constituencies are around 10 lakh, the fact that they cover 75 out of 119 Assembly constituencies make the poll battle significant.
While the result will have no bearing on the numbers in upper house of the state legislature, where the TRS continues to enjoy overwhelming majority, political observers say the outcome will indicate the mood of voters ahead of 2023 Assembly elections.
The outcome may also an impact on ensuing elections to Warangal and Khammam Municipal Corporations and bypolls to Nagarjuna Sagar Assembly constituency.
The TRS, which has never won Hyderabad-Rangareddy-Mahabubnagar seat, tried to upset the calculations of the opposition by fielding former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao's daughter S. Vani Devi. This is seen as another attempt by Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao to appropriate the legacy of Narasimha Rao, the only Telugu to occupy the country's top post.
The BJP, which is aiming to retain the seat, has once again fielded N. Ramchander Rao, a senior party leader and an advocate.
The Congress too has fielded a formidable candidate in former minister and senior leader Chinna Reddy. In a surprise move Telugu Desam Party (TDP) state President L. Ramana has also entered the fray, apparently eyeing large chunk of graduates hailing from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.
However, the TRS and the BJP will be facing the toughest challenge from Professor N. Nageshwar Rao, who represented the seat twice in the past. He is once again contesting as an independent and is considered popular among voters, whose numbers have doubled to 5.17 lakh since the previous election.
As many as 179 candidates have filed nominations for Hyderabad-Rangareddy-Mahabubnagar seat, which will be going to polls along with the other seat on March 14.
Considering the significance of election, TRS working President K.T. Rama Rao is himself working on the party strategy. He has roped in ministers, MPs, MLAs, MLCs and other leaders to ensure the party's victory. As many as 41 Assembly constituencies come under Hyderabad-Rangareddy-Mahbubnagar seat.
The TRS also faces a tough battle in retaining Warangal-Khammam-Nalgonda seat. It is once again fielding P. Rajeshwar Reddy.
Upbeat over its victory in Dubbak Assembly by-election in November last year and impressive performance in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections a month later, the BJP is going all out to wrest the seat from the ruling party to once again demonstrate that it is the only viable alternative to the TRS.
The BJP has already launched an aggressive campaign. Party's Telangana incharge Tarun Chugh also hit the campaign trail. On his maiden visit to the state, he told a public meeting that he would urge the Union Home Minister to order a probe into corruption charges against the TRS government.
The BJP has fielded G. Premender Reddy from this seat while Ramulu Naik of Congress is trying his luck. The entry of Professor M. Kodandaram has made the poll battle interesting.
Kodandaram had played an active role in Telangana statehood movement with Chandrasekhar Rao but parted ways after he was sidelined by the TRS following formation of Telangana as a separate state in 2014. A bitter critic of KCR's policies, he floated the Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS).
Television show presenter C. Naveen Kumar, popularly known as Teenmaar Mallanna, has also entered as an independent.
A record number of 78 candidates, many of them independents, are in the fray for Warangal-Khammam-Nalgonda Graduates' constituency.
The CPI, the TDP, the AAP and several smaller parties have also fielded their candidates. The multi-cornered contest will make it difficult to predict the winner.