Independents highlight post-Polavaram woes in AP

Independents highlight post-Polavaram woes in AP

For the first time in Andhra Pradesh's electoral history, 14 independent candidates are in the fray from the Khammam Lok Sabha constituency, just to make the point that their lives can’t be subjected to the whims and fancies of the authorities.

They belong to Schedule Tribes and the Constituency is reserved for them. Another five independents belonging to protest groups, are vying for Bhadrachalam Assembly seat.
K Bhaskar, convener of Khammam-based NGO Sparsha Vedika, works for the unity of thousands of farmers from seven mandals in the Khammam district, earmarked for merger with Andhra Pradesh and submergence into Godavari river. 

He is one of the 14 independents in the fray for a Lok Sabha seat. “We know we can’t match the campaign of big parties. But we are making a point here,” he said.

Sparsha Vedika has been spearheading an agitation, since the announcement that seven mandals of the Khammam district would be merged with the residual state of AP, thus removing all hurdles from the path of the completion of the multi-purpose Polavaram project across the Godavari river in the West Godavari district.

Mandals that will be merged with Seemandhra are Kunavaram, Chintoor, VR Puram and the entire Bhadrachalam Mandal (except Bhadrachalam town), Kukunoor and Velerupadu  mandals of Aswaraopet Assembly (ST) segment, and Burgulapadu in Palvancha division.
“A considerable number of voters in these mandals will be displaced (due to the project); so they are encouraging us to fight,” said Sunnam Venkata Ramana, an independent candidate from the Bhadrachalam Assembly seat.

“Initially, we wanted to create chaos by fielding a large number of independent candidates, so that the EC (Election commission) would be forced to allot more EVMs here, and draw nationwide attention,” Ramana said.

“The issue of Polavaram will have an impact on the poll outcome in Bhadrachalam,” said one Nehru, representative of the Adivasi Association here. Quoting a report, he explained the magnitude of the problem of submergence. In all, 63,728 hectares of land, 3,833 hectares of forest land and 276 villages would be submerged and 2.5 lakh would be displaced in AP alone, along with parts of bordering villages in Odisha and Chhattisgarh.

Nehru added that rare tribes such as the Konda Reddys, who live on hill tops in these dense forests, will lose their habitat because of Polavaram. He said there are around 10,000 Konda Reddys in 20 hilltop habitations Bhadrachalam Agency area. They recently organised several agitation programmes here to attract voters' attention.

Adivasi Sangham founder Murla Ramesh expressed similar sentiments.

The CPIML-New Democracy, the TJAC, and the BJP's Telangana unit, too, jumped into the anti-Polavaram agitation, calling for boycott of ZPTC and MPTC elections in Kukunoor and Velerupadu, demanding retention of all the seven mandals of Bhadrachalam and the Palvancha tribal area in Telangana. It worked.

Sitting MLA Kunja Satyavathi of the Congress, Jhansi Ananda Rao of the TRS and Phaneeswaramma of the TDP are the three main contenders of the Bhadrachalam constituency. “None of these ladies are serious about the Polavaram issue,” argued local BJP leader Avula Subba Rao.

However, Jhansi explained that the issue of submergence would never arise, as the ordinance merging the seven mandals with residual AP had not got the President’s assent.

Meanwhile, authorities are also bracing for Maoist-induced violence in the area along the border with Chhattisgarh. State DGP Prasada Rao has announced about use of choppers to deal Maoists. Local reports confirm that Maoists have gunned down a tribal activist of the CPM in a poll-related skirmish in Chintur mandal's Tummada.

Bhadrachalam, the CPM citadel for almost three decades, remained so till 2009 elections, when the Congress ended the Left party's seven year domination.

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