Secunderabad: The BJP faces a tough challenge in retaining its lone seat in Telangana after a dismal performance in the recent assembly polls, but the saffron party has pinned its hopes on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's charisma and its leaders say they are confident of pulling off victory.
The Secunderabad Lok Sabha constituency, where the BJP had 33.62 per cent vote share in 2014, has become a crucial battleground for all three main parties -- the BJP, the Congress and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).
Trying to ensure that each vote counts, the prime minister and the BJP president Amit Shah will both be holding rallies from Friday onwards, to bolster the party's prospects in a state it was hoping will be its gateway to South India.
Leaving nothing to chance, the BJP has dropped former Union minister and sitting MP Bandaru Dattatreya and replaced him with G Kishan Reddy -- former BJP state president and three time MLA -- in a bid to retain the treasured seat at all cost.
Dattatreya has been contesting from the constituency since 1991, but faced consecutive defeats in the 2004 and 2009 elections.
In 2014, he won with a massive majority of 2,54,735 votes against rival Congress. He was given the portfolio of Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment but was removed as minister in September 2017.
Kishan Reddy -- considered an outsider in this constituency -- was defeated from the Amberpet assembly segment in 2018 by a TRS candidate on a small margin.
Admitting that he is under pressure to win the lone BJP seat, Reddy exuded confidence that the BJP's gambit will pay off.
"I am a three-time MLA. I am ready to take this challenge. People are looking at this election differently from the 2018 Vidhan Sabha polls. This election is not to elect a chief minister but a PM of this country. If TRS wins, it will not benefit as the PM will not be made from a regional party," Reddy told PTI in the midst of his busy rally.
He added that Modi's rallies will bring in voter confidence and improve the party's winning prospects.
Unwilling to let the BJP's plan succeed, the TRS, which won six of seven assembly segments in the Lok Sabha constituency in 2018, has fielded the state's youngest candidate.
State minister T Srinivas Yadav's son Sai Kiran Yadav is just 32 years old and is ready to take on the BJP and the Congress with the help of friendly party AIMIM, that won the seventh assembly seat in this Parliamentary constituency.
Claiming that Modi's charisma is on the wane, Sai Kiran Yadav is appealing to people in the constituency to vote for a regional party that can play a key role in forming a non-BJP, non-Congress government at the Centre
Ask why should people vote for TRS, he said, "We were insulted by the Union government that sacked outgoing MP Dattatreya as a central minister. It shows BJP does not want any representation from the state. People want to take revenge this time and vote for the TRS."
The Congress has fielded M Anjan Kumar Yadav again this time to take on the BJP candidate.
Dismissing any electoral threats from TRS candidate, Yadav -- who won twice in 2004 and 2009 was later defeated by Dattatreya in 2014 -- accused the BJP and the TRS of winning elections with malpractices.
"This election fight is between BJP and Congress and TRS is nowhere in the picture," he said.
Secunderabad -- which is named after Sikander Jah, the third Nizam of Asaf Jahi Dynasty -- was established in 1806 as a British Cantonment and was ruled by the British till 1948 despite it being part of Hyderabad state ruled by the Nizams.
The Secunderabad parliamentary constituency, created in 1952, has been won by either the Congress (12 times) or the BJP (four times) with the former having a slight upper hand till 1998.
In the 2018 assembly poll, the saffron party could win only one seat out of 119.
Political analysts are of the opinion the TRS appears to have a clear edge this time, buoyed by its landslide victory in the recent assembly elections and with opposition parties looking demoralised.
Suffering setbacks due to defection of its MLAs to TRS, the Congress is struggling to put up a strong fight against the regional party, while the BJP's prospects too look remote.
According to the Election Commission, there were 19,54,813 electors in Secunderabad constituency as on February 22, up from 18,90,075 in 2014.
Elections to 17 Lok Sabha constituencies in Telangana will be held on April 11, 2019. The state will see a single phase election and the counting of ballots for the entire country will be held on May 23.