With Congress likely to be decimated, YSR Congress and TDP - BJP are in a fierce battle to capture residual Andhra Pradesh.
The era of regional parties began in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh when N T Rama Rao founded the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in 1982 to uphold the ‘Telugu pride’. In record time, NTR came to power and it took several years and the late Y S Rajasekhara Reddy’s (YSR) padayatra to bring the Congress back into power.
Now, the residual state of Andhra Pradesh (Seemandhra) with 25 Lok Sabha and 175 Assembly seats in 13 districts, is going to polls on May 7 and by June 2, the Telangana state will be formed ending the five decade-long uneasy marriage between two the regions. The division is all set to mark the end of Congress dominance in Seemandhra (Coastal AP and Rayalaseema), as people of this region strongly believe that Congress was the main culprit in dividing the state without considering the aspirations of people of the Seemandhra.
During the two month-long Samaikhaynadhra agitation, protestors targeted the Seemandhra ministers alleging that they are hand in glove with the Centre.
It is ironical that the space hitherto occupied by the Congress in the state will now be enjoyed by YSR Congress party, another regional party founded by none other than YSR’s son YS Jaganmohan Reddy. Now, the fight is between the TDP and the YSRC pushing the mighty Congress to the third place. Almost all the Congress MPs are facing tough fights from the TDP and the YSRC; many Congress leaders have migrated to the TDP as they feel it is better bet compared to the YSRC, led by Jaganmohan Reddy who is facing CBI and ED probes into his assets.
But, it was Jagan’s YSRC that openly declared its support to united AP knowing very well that its days will be over in Telangana. The TDP stood for both regions by keeping its options open in Telangana. Jagan with only two MPs to spare in Lok Sabha was seen more on the streets of Seemandhra fighting than in Parliament while the TDP has successfully staged protests inside both the Houses.
With the YSRC looking invincible in AP, the TDP embarked on a mission to project Naidu as an experienced leader who could shoulder the responsibility of building a new capital for AP, bring back industries, and generate employment in the new state bordered by deep sea and Telangana on either side. For the middle and upper middle class families in Seemandhra whose children will be graduating from hundreds of engineering colleges and will face a bleak future with “no entry” board in Telangana, the TDP seems to be a better option than Jagan who still has to prove his worth.
Naidu’s credentials as employment creator changed the perception of the voter to a certain extent but there is no wave either for the TDP or the YSRC in the elections that could lead to a one-sided fight. It was during the municipal and local bodies’ elections that analysts recognised that Naidu has backing in urban areas and the YSRC was stronger in rural Seemandhra. Even though former chief minister N Kirankumar Reddy’s Jai Samikhayndhra Party has fielded candidates and has alliance with the CPM, it will have a very marginal impact due to the triangular fight putting an end to direct fight between the Congress and the TDP as it was in 2009. The BJP is contesting in 13 Assembly and 4 Lok Sabha seats in a seat sharing arrangement with the TDP.
There are 333 candidates in fray for the 25 LS seats and 2243 candidates in 175 assembly segments in Seemandhra which is politically dominated by Reddys (6.5 per cent) and Kammas (4.8) despite of their low numbers. The third important caste “Kapu” - larger than the other two in numbers - had always played second fiddle to political outfits and never tried to assert itself. After film star K Chiranjeevi founded the Praja Rajyam Party (PRP), Kapus have flexed their muscles.
The PRP succeeded in damaging the TDP’s two term-long dream to come back to power, by taking away Kapu votes from it. The Kapu votes might not have been significant in a combined state with only 16 per cent vote share but in Seemandhra the number rises to around 27 per cent, enough to turn the tables against any party. After the YSRC was formed, the Congress roped in Chiranjeevi, a Kapu, hoping that he would bring the community vote to Congress account.
Similarly, the Reddy vote plays an important role in the Rayalaseema region of Chittoor, Kurnool, Kadapa and Anantapur districts. In the changed scenario, the Reddy vote might be divided between the YSRC and JSP of Kiran Kumar Reddy, prominent in Pileru region of Chittoor. But in the 2009 elections, the TDP, considered a “Kamma” party, fared well by getting 21 seats to 26 of Congress, making it hard to predict how the Reddy vote would turn.
The unofficial record of 20 per cent Dalit Christian votes will also play a crucial role in favour of the YSR Congress because Jagan is considered a Christian in the Northern and Coastal Andhra districts and a Reddy in Palnadu (Prakasam) and Rayalaseema. In 2009, in the undivided state of AP, the Congress under YSR had a vote share of 33.56 per cent, the PRP 16.22, the TDP 28.12 etc. If the PRP was not there in the contest, the TDP would have come back to power in 2009 with the help of backward class votes.