Although the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) scooped a win in the Munugode by-election after a fierce neck-and-neck battle with the BJP, the real story from the bypoll was that of the Congress. In a state that was once a major source of its electoral strength, powering its two consecutive terms at the centre in 2004 and 2009, the outcome of the elections showcase the party’s downward spiral.

Despite former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi often being credited with the formation of Telangana – even by TRS leader and Chief Minister KCR – the Congress was unable to score political gains out of it in 2014, after Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh.
In the 2018 Telangana elections, the party won 19 assembly seats out of 117. Uttam Kumar Reddy became an MP and quit as MLA in 2019. The same year, 12 MLAs shifted to the ruling TRS that already had a brute majority, leaving the Congress with just six seats.

Despite being in the state, Rahul Gandhi stayed away from the Munugode campaign. Senior leaders dismissed it as “only a bypoll” – a sharp contrast to the TRS, which fought as though its government’s survival depended on it. A win however could have given the BJP a big boost, building up momentum for the party to attract and induct new talent from other parties, making up for its lack of cadre and leader strength in the districts.