The Bharatiya Janata Party-Telugu Desam Party alliance does not seem to exist in four Rayalseema districts with eight Lok Sabha and 52 assembly seats.
Unlike in Telangana and Coastal Andhra, TDP candidates in Kurnool, Kadapa, Anantapur and Chittoor districts have blanked out BJP's prime
ministerial candidate Narendra Modi from their speeches and campaign vehicles. Reason: the sizeable Muslim electorate.
After Hyderabad, urban areas of Rayalseema have the highest concentration of Muslims (10-35%), and their vote is decider in 15 of the 52 assembly seats.
"Mentioning BJP will alienate the Muslims. I even said no to the 3D hologram image of Modi," said a former Congress minister, contesting as TDP candidate from a rural assembly seat in Kurnool district. He has instead put up photos of popular film actors Pawan Kalyan and Balakrishna.
In Kurnool town, TDP assembly candidate TG Venkatesh is facing an uphill task persuading the Muslims to vote him. The scenario is no different in Kadapa town, where TDP Lok Sabha candidate Srinivasulu Reddy has 'ignored' Modi to appeal to Muslims who constitute 35% of the 2.3 lakh electorate. But the community, it appears, is not convinced.
"Modi has a negative image here," a political analyst said, referring to the Gujarat riots. "(TDP chief Chandrababu) Naidu should have fielded a Muslim candidate here," said a TDP worker in the Kadapa assembly constituency. Though allotted to BJP, his party is contesting the seat.
The general opinion is that the alliance with BJP will harm the TDP in Rayalseema, especially Kurnool and Kadapa that are YSR Congress strongholds. The saffron party has no influence in the region; Modi's Gujarat model too has not generated any enthusiasm unlike in Coastal Andhra.
This has boosted the hopes of Jaganmohan Reddy's YSR Congress, to which Muslims appear inclined. "I will vote for YSR," said meat-seller Nazeer Bhasha, 52, at the landmark Apsara Circle in Kadapa. His 26-year-old son Md Ahmed, an M Tech working in Pune, said YSR Congress could reap the goodwill former Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy enjoyed for providing pro-poor schemes and reservation for Muslims.
"The alliance with BJP might take Muslims away from TDP," Ahmed said.
The BJP-TDP combine is perhaps aware of the ground reality. Modi addressed 10 rallies across Telangana and Seemandhra but has not ventured into Kadapa, Kurnool and Anantapur. He addressed two rallies in Chittoor – one in Tirupati, a Hindu temple town and another at Madanapalle, where Muslims have a commanding presence.
"The Tirupati rally was spectacular but the Madanapalle rally was a letdown," a poll watcher in the district said.
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