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HindustanTimes Sun,26 Oct 2014

'Telangana' is the key to Lok Sabha elections

Prasad Nichenametla, Hindustan Times  Hyderabad, February 17, 2014
First Published: 02:28 IST(17/2/2014) | Last Updated: 13:19 IST(17/2/2014)

If a united Andhra Pradesh had helped the Congress capture power at the Centre in 2004 and later helped retain it in 2009, the state’s bifurcation – or the possibility of it — can ruin the prospect of another win.

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The Congress’ decision to carve out Telangana led to extreme uncertainties as its own parliamentarians and legislators today are virtually in a revolt, while the people, especially in the Seemandhra region, are caught up in too much anxiety to care about who goes to Delhi.

The only thing that looks certain at this juncture is that Seemandhra will make all efforts to ensure that the Congress doesn’t get to call the shots this time. So, to earn Telangana’s gratitude, the UPA government needs to form the state before the elections.

But the numbers are not appetising. United, Andhra Pradesh sends 42 MPs to the Lok Sabha — the highest from south India. If the UPA has its way in Parliament, Telangana will send 17 MPs against Seemandhra’s 25.

For now, the rebellion by chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy and the other Seemandhra legislators — best exemplified by Lagadapati ‘pepper-spray’ Rajagopal — shows which way the wind is blowing. In coastal Andhra’s Vijayawada — a hotbed of Seemandhra politics and Lagadapati’s home turf – the Congress is definitely not the loved one.

Lagadapati, who had  been expelled from the Congress even beforethe episode in Lok Sabha, had reclaimed the erstwhile Congress bastion from the TDP in 2004.

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A staunch supporter of united Andhra, Lagadapati intends to contest from his usual constituency — most likely under the banner of the Samaikhyandhra Party, which he plans to launch soon with chief minister Kiran Reddy in the lead.

Already, hoardings proclaiming “Jai Samaikhyandhra” have sprung up in several spots, setting the stage for a prompt launch. The Kammas, a landowning community who are TDP supporters and the Kapus, another dominant caste traditionally backing the Congress, are influential here.

But the statehood issue would negate the caste factor. It’ll be a contest between the TDP, the YSR Congress and the new party, if it is formed.

For the Congress, the prospects of finding even strong candidates  are also bleak.

With the assembly polls slated to be held simultaneously with the general elections this summer, the two major parties —  the TDP and the YSR Congress — are more interested in capturing the state than sending maximum number of parliamentarians to the Centre.

Unlike other regional satraps, neither TDP chief Nara Chandrababu Naidu nor YSR Congress leader Jaganmohan Reddy cherishes any prime ministerial ambition.

Jagan, in fact, is out to ensure a Congress defeat in his family fiefdom Kadapa. The seat had been loyal to his father, the late YS Rajasekhara Reddy. After he was denied the CM’s chair following his father’s death in 2009 by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Jagan formed the YSR Congress and won the by-polls in 2011.

 Jagan, who is aspiring to be the chief minister — be it of united Andhra or Seemandhra — is likely to put up cousin Avinash Reddy from the Kadapa Lok Sabha seat. Going by the clout the family wields in the area, Avinash is likely to have a cakewalk.

The strength of the YSR name became evident when Jagan reclaimed Kadapa after exiting the Congress, with a whopping 5 lakh majority. The TDP and the Congress had put up a token fight then. Now, then TDP candidate Mysura Reddy is with Jagan.

The seat where TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu is said to be considering  — in case he chooses to go to Lok Sabha  — is the very picture of uncertainty. Formed before the 2009 elections in Hyderabad, Malkajgiri’s seven assembly seats are spread over the surrounding Ranga Reddy district.

But given the huge mixed population in the area, its loyalty is not something one would like to vouch for. The TDP, YSR Congress, Congress and the TRS – all have stakes here. And their fate will largely be decided by the Seemandhra people, who have settled in the residential colonies surrou-nding Hyderabad. For the TRS, Medak in Telangana might offer an easy victory.

One of the nerve centres of the Telangana movement, the seat was mostly with the Congress before the rise of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti in 2001. It is currently represented by actress-turned-politician Vijayashanthi  who recently quit the TRS.

 KCR, who hails from here, made it clear that he was not interested in the state’s top job. But he enjoys support of the region and will have an easy victory if he chooses to contest from here.

What adds to the uncertainty in Andhra Pradesh is the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s growing popularity. But how many votes it’ll get translated into is still a question. The deciding factor, ultimately, could be the BJP’s stand in Parliament on the Telangana Bill.


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