Sunny side down
Andhra Pradesh is finally going the Tamil Nadu way. The main fight for the April 11 poll will be between two regional players - the 37 year old Telugu Desam Party (TDP) led by chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu and the eight year-old Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress (YSRC) steered by Naidu's arch rival YS Jaganmohan Reddy.
Neither the Congress nor the Bharatiya Janata Party are going piggy back or rallying forces. Their stakes are low. They have to fight on their own and largely for survival in the state. If there is anyone who can alter the fortunes of the TDP and the YSRC it is the Jana Sena of actor-politician Pawan Kalyan which is in the electoral race for the first time.
In 2014, he joined hands with the BJP to be part of an alliance with the TDP.
Launching a well-articulated campaign from 2018, Pawan is presenting himself as a symbol of hope and of the youth. But he has a handicap. The TDP is perceived as a party dominated by the Kamma caste and YSRC of the Reddy community though both have a fair share of the other community in the party and a sprinkling among contestants. Consequently, the Jana Sena chief is also viewed through the caste prism and segregated as one from the intermediate Kapu community cohort. His appeal is, therefore, limited largely to the community despite his efforts to build a pan-Andhra presence.
THE 2014 poll performance with a slender difference in vote share and the relentless campaign of Naidu and Jagan, as the YSRC chief is popularly known, since then, is a stark pointer to a bitter battle between the TDP and YSRC. Naidu is pulling out all stops by handing out sops to several sections of society to win their support apart from showcasing his initiatives in developing the green field capital Amaravati, in keeping with global standards, and the Polavaram irrigation project as incomplete dream goals for which he needs a second term in a row.
Having lost narrowly, Jagan is striving hard to capitalise on the adverse impact of incumbency besides the enduring people connect that he has built during the 3,648 km praja sankalpa yatra that he undertook in 2018 covering 134 Assembly seats in the 13 districts of the state in 341 days. He hopes to travel through the remaining constituencies during his whirlwind bus yatra starting March 16. This is to begin soon after paying homage at his father and ex-Congress chief minister Dr YS Rajasekhar Reddy's grave on the family estate at Idupulapaya in Kadapa district.
Significantly, Naidu will also kick start the final phase of his electioneering the same day. His Samara Shankaram will begin from Tirupati and on March 16 he will, conforming with vaastu principles, travel to the farther end to start the campaign trail from Srikakulam in the north-east of the state reckoned as a fulfilling and auspicious beginning. Both he and Jagan have already traded a slew of allegations of corruption.
The TDP is banking on welfare schemes for farmers, women selfhelp groups, unemployed youth and pensioners, despite a cash crunch, to help the party on polling day.Through a handful of government programmes, for which funds were allocated before the announcement of the election schedule, the government is set to spend over `15,000 crore on the state's residents. "We have to bury the TDP in peace and provide good governance," is the fervent appeal of Jagan asking people to give the YSRC a chance.
"Every vote would count in the upcoming polls for the YSRC to emerge victor." It is equally true for the TDP trying to neutralise anti-incumbency.