When Telangana Rashtra Samiti chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao won from Gajwel in 2014, he promised that the constituency would be transformed into a model for the entire nation in development.
Four years later, all eyes are on the constituency in the heart of Telangana as Mr. Rao is contesting from here again — this time as caretaker Chief Minister.
In 2014, Mr. Rao won by a margin of 19,366 votes against Telugu Desam Party (TDP) candidate Vanteru Pratap Reddy, having got 86,669 votes. In third place, the Congress candidate T. Narsa Reddy got 34,085 votes.
True to his word, as Chief Minister, Mr. Rao has pumped money into his constituency.
The official figures put it at about Rs. 2,200 crore, in addition to investment in two irrigation projects. For instance, the investment being made on Kondapochamma reservoir alone cost about Rs. 1,500 crore.
The much-hyped flagship programme for providing “double bedroom houses” was launched in Erravalli and Narsannapet villages of Markook mandal in the district, exhibited as models for the entire State.
An education hub was also established in the mandal headquarters at a cost of Rs. 150 crore. A ring road is also being built to link the remote district towns.
However, the mega projects have not been a boon for all residents of Gajwel, particularly those have lost prime land for road widening within the town and for the ring road.
The irrigation reservoirs Mallannasagar and Kondapochamma will submerge six villages. While the residents of these villages are furious, only some have openly protested.
As for their representative, Mr. Rao has always been inaccessible to the local people — it was stated that no one will be allowed into the farmhouse, the private residence of Mr. Rao, except those who are close to power.
Irrigation Minister T. Harish Rao and Lok Sabha member K. Prabhakar Reddy have been campaigning in the constituency and claim that they will achieve a majority of one lakh votes for Mr. Rao.
Mr. Pratap Reddy is contesting again from Gajwel but this time from the Congress. He is supported by Mr. Narsa Reddy who recently returned from the TRS to the Congress.
Mr. Pratap Reddy has the advantage of being available locally. A long-time TDP leader, he enjoys a grassroots connect with the voters and has actively supported those who have lost land to the various projects.
Leaders of the newly formed alliance — Congress president Rahul Gandhi and TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu — are scheduled to visit Gajwel in the last week to campaign for Mr. Reddy.
The families of “martyrs” for the cause of a separate Telangana have also been campaigning for the past few days against Mr. Rao. The families allege their sacrifice has not been recognised.
Akula Vijaya from the Bharatiya Janata Party and S. Srinivas from the Bahujan Left Front (BLF) are also in the fray.
“Development is clearly visible in the constituency headquarters with dividers, butterfly lights, integrated vegetable market, Government Hospital with better facilities. But there is uneasy calm and silence among the voters; for many, freedom of expression is an illusion here. People who are vocal are being targeted by police and officials,” alleged Swamy, a resident of Gajwel town.