Lok Sabha elections 2019: High-stakes battle for Naidu, Reddy in Andhra
In the 2014 assembly elections, the TDP won 102 seats with a vote share of 44.6% while the YSRCP bagged 67 seats and 44.4% votes. A difference of just 0.2 percentage points separated the two parties. Out of the 25 Lok Sabha seats, the TDP won 15 seats with a vote share of 40.5%Updated: Apr 12, 2019 15:07 IST
In the heartland of Andhra Pradesh’s Rayalaseema region, betrayal is a key theme ahead of the general and assembly elections.
For supporters of the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), chief minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) supremo N Chandrababu Naidu betrayed the people of the state by not fulfilling his promises of 2014 — especially getting special status to Andhra Pradesh and building a lavish new capital of Amaravati.
Naidu’s followers in turn accuse Prime Minister Narendra Modi of betrayal for not keeping his word on granting the special category status. Then there are others who charge YSRCP chief YS Jaganmohan Reddy with betrayal for denying tickets to party loyalists and fielding paratroopers and even some TDP turncoats. Elections to 25 Lok Sabha seats and 175 assembly constituencies in Andhra Pradesh will be simultaneously held on Thursday.
In the 2014 assembly elections, the TDP won 102 seats with a vote share of 44.6% while the YSRCP bagged 67 seats and 44.4% votes. A difference of just 0.2 percentage points separated the two parties. Out of the 25 Lok Sabha seats, the TDP won 15 seats with a vote share of 40.5%.
Surprisingly, the YSRCP secured 45.4% vote share but managed to bag eight seats only. Weeks before the election in 2014, the Congress-led central government had decided to carve out Telangana, and suffered a huge backlash in the residual coastal state as a result. From a vote share of 40.7% in the 2009 election, the party managed to secure just 2.8% votes and failed to open its account. The party that once dominated the state has now been relegated to the margins.
On the other hand, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which had a limited presence in the state earlier, won two seats each the Lok Sabha and the assembly in alliance with the TDP in 2014.
“Naidu has betrayed us. He promised special category status and announced Annadaata Sukhibhava ( a welfare scheme for farmers) for us only at the end of his term. That was eyewash,” said Kishan Reddy, a farmer of Panchalingala village, bordering Telangana.
But Ravi Yadava, a dealer in second hand cars and a resident of Nagula Katta in Nandyal, had a counter argument. “Who was supposed to announce the special category status – Naidu or Modi? Naidu left NDA [National Democratic Alliance] only because Modi refused to give Andhra its due. So, who has betrayed the people of Andhra - Modi or Naidu?” he countered.
Facing a tough re-election, in February Naidu rolled out the Annadaata Sukhibhava scheme, where the state government would provide ~4,000 per annum to farmers in addition to ~6,000 announced by the Centre under the PM Kisan scheme.
EXPERIENCE VS CREDIBILITY
The elections are also being seen as a battle between experience and credibility. In meeting after meeting, TDP leaders focus on Naidu’s nine-year rule in undivided Andhra Pradesh [between 1995 and 2004] during which Hyderabad emerged as an international IT hub and put the state on the global map.
In his rallies, Naidu tells voters how welfare schemes and development work started by him will be stalled if Reddy becomes the chief minister. The TDP chief points out to the new found bonhomie between Reddy and Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), who is deeply unpopular in a state where anti-bifurcation sentiment still runs high, and alleges that both of them are working at the behest of Modi. Advocate Shaik Aslam Basha, a resident of Kurnool, agrees. “There is a clear understanding between Jaganmohan Reddy and KCR. Please go through their statements. Not once have they openly come out against Modi and BJP,” he said.
Choudhary Noor Mohammad, who is into textile business, joins the conversation.
“The Muslims this time will vote for TDP since Naidu has left NDA and is working to see a larger opposition unity at the national level,” he said. Naidu is hoping for Muslims to support his party, which relies on the support of the dominant Kamma community and sections of the Other Backward Classes (OBC). But if Naidu harps on experience, Reddy uses the rhetoric of credibility and invokes the legacy of his father and late chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy, known as YSR to his followers, whose statues continue to dot every small town and village in the Rayalaseema region, where he hailed from. YSR died in an air crash on September 2, 2009.
“It’s going to be a battle of credibility versus betrayal. Naidu has betrayed the people of Andhra Pradesh in all aspects,” Jaganmohan Reddy said.
“He was with the BJP for the past four years and his MPs were in the NDA cabinet. Yet, he did nothing about the special category status,” he added.
Like 2014, actor-turned-politician Pawan Kalyan is also going to be crucial in these elections. The party was formed in 2014 but will fight the elections for the first time in 2019, though Kalyan campaigned for the TDP-BJP alliance five years ago.
Political analysts say Kalyan’s Jana Sena, which is in alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party, will divide anti-incumbency votes by appealing to Dalits and the Kapu community, from which the actor hails from.
“As a result, he will damage Reddy and help Naidu,” said Hyderabad-based political analyst C Narasimha Rao.
But Reddy said it was clear to the common people that there was a tacit understanding between Naidu and Kalyan. “Everybody who sympathised with Pawan Kalyan earlier voted for TDP and now that he has formed his own outfit (Jana Sena) the vote split will happen on the TDP side, not ours,” the YSRCP chief added.