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Tough fight for Yerran Naidu in run for fifth LS win

india Updated: Apr 11, 2009 11:52 IST

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He has been elected to the state assembly four times and as many times to the Lok Sabha, but TDP leader Kinjarapu Yerran Naidu faces a tough battle to clinch a fifth straight entry to Parliament. Elections-2009 will be an acid test for him as Congress' Killi Kruparani, whom he defeated in Srikakulam in 2004, says she's prepared to give him a run for his money.

Barring once in 1991, Naidu has not faced defeat either in the assembly elections or Parliamentary elections. He was elected to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly four times in a row and later repeated the feat in the Lok Sabha elections as well.

"I will win this time also," Naidu says confidentially, though this time around he has to beat two forces -- Kruparani and V Kalyani, the candidate of actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi's Praja Rajyam Party. In 2004, everyone thought the TDP strongman would be swept away by a Congress wave, but he trounced Kruparani.

"Lack of political experience and some strategic mistakes cost me the 2004 election. I have learnt from my mistakes and am ready to beat my opponent this time," Kruparani, who is also the district Congress president, asserts.

The Praja Rajyam Party has fielded 32-year-old Kalyani against these two. She and Yerran Naidu belong to the Velama community which is strong in the segment. Kruparani represents the Kalingas who too are a significant force in this region.

Caste equations and cross-voting play a significant role in determining the outcome of elections in Srikakulam. That the PRP leader Tammineni Seetaram is supporting Kruparani is an indicator to this factor.

They both belong to the same community. This way he also wants to settle scores with his main political rival Yerran Naidu. The Velamas, who constitute about 30 per cent of the 12.21 lakh electorate, traditionally support the TDP but this time the community votes may split between Yerran Naidu and Kalyani, thus benefiting Kruparani.

However, his stature as a national leader is one obvious advantage for Naidu. Kalyani, being a very young leader, is targeting the youth to enliven her chances.

She is also looking to the thousands of Chiranjeevi fans in the region to vote for the actor's party and secure victory. Of the seven Assembly segments under Srikakulam Lok Sabha constituency, the ruling Congress appears strong in five while the TDP is having an edge in the remaining two.

The PRP comes nowhere in the picture in the Assembly segments, a factor that could spell doom for the Lok Sabha candidate as well.

Once a strongman of the TDP, Tammineni Seetaram is now sailing with the PRP but, as per current indications, he should consider himself lucky if he secures at least the second position in Amudalavalasa Assembly segment.

The TDP is having an edge in Tekkali and Itchapuram segments while the Congress is on a strong wicket in Patapatnam, Palasa, Narsannapet, Srikakulam and Amudalavalasa. State ministers Dharmana Prasada Rao and Satrucharla Vijaya Ramaraju are in contest from Srikakulam and Patapatnam Assembly constituencies respectively.

"The numerous welfare and development programmes that the Rajasekhara Reddy government has undertaken in the last five years will ensure smooth victory for the Congress candidates. We are certainly on a strong wicket," Revenue Minister Dharmana Prasada Rao said.

Dharmana has taken the onus on him to ensure victory for Kruparani. "She came very close to winning in 2004 but lost very narrowly.

This time, though, she is the clear favourite," he said. Kruparani lost by a margin of over 31,000 votes. On the other hand, the TDP is also banking on the fishermen community and other backward classes -- its traditional vote bank -- to retain the Srikakulam Lok Sabha seat.