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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

Naidu gaining fast on Jagan in race for Seemandhra

Prasad Nichenametla , Hindustan Times  Hyderabad, March 10, 2014
First Published: 00:07 IST(10/3/2014) | Last Updated: 16:33 IST(10/3/2014)

Telugu Desam Party chief Nara Chandrababu Naidu’s grouse was that the Congress-led UPA government had taken the initiative to divide Andhra Pradesh to finish him off politically.

Although the bifurcation actually hit him hard in Telangana, with scores of MLAs and leaders joining the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, it seems the TDP, at the same time, is curiously rising from the ashes in Seemandhra. It was much behind the YSR Congress in the region till a few months ago.

Andhra Pradesh will be voting for the assembly and Lok Sabha simultaneously on April 30 and May 7.

Naidu, the longest serving chief minister of two terms, now has to confine himself to Seemandhra if he is to become chief minister again. And for that, he is banking heavily on the disgruntled Congress men.

After the passage of the Telangana Bill, two ministers of the Kiran Kumar Reddy government, which is in dissolution now following the President’s rule — TG Venkatesh, Erasu Prathap Reddy — have joined the TDP.

Another former Congress minister, Ghanta Srinivasa Rao, will join the TDP with five Congress MLAs on March 12 at a rally in Visakhapatnam.

On Friday, a senior former minister, Galla Aruna Kumari from Naidu’s own Chittoor district, joined the party along with her son Galla Jaidev, an industrialist who is likely to contest as a TDP candidate from the Guntur Lok Sabha seat.

A few MLAs of the dissolved assembly have already joined Naidu and some more senior Congressmen, such as J C Diwakar Reddy, are also waiting to join the TDP bandwagon.

These former Congress men preferred the TDP because many of them had been critical of Jaganmohan Reddy.

Read: YSR Congress to contest polls in 'all regions'

Political analysts also point out that while Jagan’s acceptability is slowly fading, Naidu is emerging as the right CM to build the new state of Seemandhra.

But what ails Jaganmohan Reddy, who is believed to command huge support base in Seemandhra?

Bojjala Gopalkrishan Reddy of the TDP claimed that the corruption cases on Jagan and Naidu’s campaign that the Congress and the YSRCP were hand-in- glove in the division of the state was lapped up by the public.

“Whatever Jagan is today is because of the late YSR’s popularity, but lately the party gained a negative image with some leaders saying in public that they were not being able to adjust to it,” said another analyst, who didn’t wish to be named.

Full coverage: 2014 Lok Sabha elections

But Naidu as yet has only narrowed the distance with the front-runner.

Recent surveys that portrayed Naidu as coming up fast still show Reddy as having an edge in Seemandhra.

Read: India's 29th state Telangana will be born on June 2


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