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Naidu stoops to defend bastion

india Updated: Apr 23, 2009 01:05 IST
Ashok Das

Former Andhra Pradesh CM N Chandrababu Naidu, 59, held one distinction he prized greatly — he had won four elections in a row from Kuppam, without once campaigning there. He was so confident of his voters’ faith in him that he never felt the need.

But this time he was forced to address one public meeting in this faraway town, 670 km from Hyderabad, sandwiched at tri-junction of Andhra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

The state Congress, led by his archrival CM Y S Rajasekhara Reddy launched such a sustained offensive against him that Naidu felt he had to take rearguard action.

Naidu never needed to make speeches in Kuppam, because his actions spoke much louder. During his nine-year tenure as chief minister from 1995 to 2004, he had transformed the area, building first rate roads, starting several industrial projects, getting the likes of Anil Ambani and Sunil Mittal to visit and discuss investing there.

But in the last five years that Naidu has been in the Opposition, the constituency has gone to seed. Under a hostile Congress government, the once smooth roads grew dilapidated; the signposts pointing to new project sites mysteriously disappeared. Locals, specially the young, have grown restive.

Knowing this, the Congress has launched an offensive to wrest the seat, first by fielding local strongman Subramanyam Reddy, and then by sending the CM’s son Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy 34, and Naidu’s sister-in-law and late NTR’s daughter D. Purandeswari, 50, to campaign against him.

To counter Purandeswari Naidu brought in his brother-in-law and NTR’s son Balakrishna, 54, a TDP Rajya Sabha member, to support him. “The Congress is resorting to violence,” said Naidu at his rally. “It is using money and liquor to win votes. But do not be afraid. I will be there for you.”

“Once I become chief minister again I’ll ensure Kuppam makes up for the setbacks it has had in the last five years.”