Rebels dominate poll scene in Andhra Pradesh
Andhra Pradesh's ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the main opposition Congress face a major challenge from dissidents who are dominating the poll scene.
A total of 89 rebels belonging to major parties have entered the fray in 58 of 147 assembly constituencies going to the polls in the second phase.
These constituencies, along with 21 Lok Sabha ones spread over 10 districts, are going to the polls April 26. Filing of nominations there came to an end Wednesday.
Like the first phase, which will cover an equal number of assembly and parliamentary constituencies, the second phase is also dominated by the rebels of both the TDP and the Congress.
While the ruling party is facing a formidable challenge from rebels in 21 constituencies, Congress rebels have entered the fray in 31 places. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), an ally of the TDP, is facing rebel in one constituency.
In the first phase, which will cover constituencies spread over 13 districts, 48 rebels are in the fray. While TDP and ally BJP are facing rebels in 11 constituencies, the remaining rebels are from the Congress and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti.
While the Congress has always been a divided house in the state, large scale rebel activity has hit the TDP for the first time in its two decades long history.
The party's image of being different from others and a model for other parties in the country took a severe beating. TDP president and Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu himself admitted that the "Congress virus" had crept into his party.
Not only the rebels, including former ministers, members of the dissolved assembly and heads of civic bodies, filed nominations but their supporters also resorted to large-scale violence.
Scenes of rebel workers attacking and setting afire party offices, smashing furniture, burning party flags and banners, threatening self-immolation and even attacking the rivals, which were beamed on half a dozen Telugu TV channels, left the people stunned.
The violence continued till the last day of filing of nominations and rocked all the districts. The major incident took place at Nagri in Naidu's home district Chittoor when TDP candidate for assembly and famous Telugu film actress Roja's convoy was attacked allegedly by TDP rebels.
Police had to open fire to quell a riotous mob, which tried to prevent the actress from filing her nomination.
The prominent TDP rebels include former minister Simhadri Satyanarayana, Chintala Ramchandra Reddy and members in the dissolved assembly R Venkateswara Rao and Acchamba.
Those from the Congress include former minister Mohammed Jani, former legislator Jaleel Khan, Nellore district Congress committee president CV Seesha Reddy and senior leader K Bapiraju's wife Annapurnamma.
Resignations continue to rock the TDP, which is seeking to retain power for the third consecutive term. Former legislator from Koilkuntla in Kunrool district K Subba Reddy resigned from the party to enter the fray as an independent.
Former legislator from Tenali Ravindernath too quit the party. The member of the dissolved assembly from Adoni, Meenakshi Naidu, was denied the party ticket and 25 TDP members of the municipal council quit the party in protest. Also, a rebel close to Meenakshi Naidu filed nomination.
On the last day 627 candidates belonging to different parties filed the papers from 92 assembly constituencies while 47 candidates filed their nominations from 11 Lok Sabha constituencies.
Chandrababu Naidu, Congress' senior leader and leader of opposition in dissolved assembly YS Rajasekhara Reddy and several ministers are among the candidates figuring in the second phase of polling.
While Naidu is seeking re-election from Kuppam constituency in Chitoor district, Rajasekhara Reddy is contesting for another term from Pulivendla in Cuddapah district.