Andhra Pradesh: YSRCP, NDA Locked In A Neck-To-Neck Battle

(MENAFN- IANS) Amaravati, May 12 (IANS) Andhra Pradesh's ruling party YSR Congress and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) are locked in a neck-to-neck battle for simultaneous elections to the state Assembly and Lok Sabha scheduled on May 13.

Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) is facing anti-incumbency and a stiff challenge from the TDP-JSP-BJP alliance in 175 Assembly segments and 25 Lok Sabha constituencies.

Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSRCP, which had wrested power from Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in 2019 with a landslide majority, is banking on welfare schemes while the alliance led by TDP ran the campaign with the slogan to save Andhra Pradesh from 'destructive' rule of YSRCP.

This is the third election after the bifurcation of united Andhra Pradesh and it will be interesting to see whether this will set the trend of voting out incumbent.

The tripartite alliance appears to have bolstered the prospects of the opposition. After biting the dust in previous elections, the TDP, Jana Sena Party (JSP) led by actor-politician Pawan Kalyan and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have come together again to take on YSRCP.

For TDP supremo N. Chandrababu Naidu, who turned 74 last month, this electoral battle is crucial for the future of his party. Eying another term as the Chief Minister, the senior politician did not hesitate to join hands with his friend-turned-foe BJP.

It was Pawan Kalyan who took the initiative to forge an alliance with the TDP late last year when Naidu was arrested and jailed in a corruption case. The actor later convinced the BJP to join hands with them to avoid a split of anti-incumbency votes. Hesitant to trust Naidu once again, the BJP joined the alliance at the last minute.

Among the NDA partners, TDP is contesting a majority of Assembly and Lok Sabha seats. Out of 175 Assembly seats, it has left 21 seats for Jana Sena and 10 for BJP. Naidu has also allotted two Lok Sabha seats to the Jana Sena and six to the BJP.

Though the Congress, which drew a blank in the 2014 and 2019 elections, is trying to revive its fortunes by naming Jagan Mohan Reddy's sister Y. S. Sharmila as the state party chief, it is not likely to yield any major gains for the party. Political analysts say the party may marginally improve its vote share and cut into YSRCP votes in the few constituencies.

The Congress has also left 16 Assembly seats and two Lok Sabha seats for its allies CPI and CPM.

Sharmila, who fell out with her brother when he ignored her after becoming the Chief Minister in 2019, caused him embarrassment by joining the Congress. The YSR family suffered a vertical split in its stronghold Kadapa district with Sharmila entering the fray from Kadapa Lok Sabha seats against her cousin and YSRCP candidate Y. S. Avinash Reddy, who is seeking re-election for a third consecutive term.

Sharmila questioned Jagan's move to field Avinash Reddy once again despite the CBI naming an accused in the murder of their uncle Y. S. Vivekananda Reddy.

The former minister was murdered at his house in Pulivendula in Kadapa district a few days before the 2019 elections and the sensational case has seen many twists and turns during the last five years.

Vivekananda Reddy's daughter Sunitha Reddy, who has been fighting for justice in the case, extended full support to Sharmila. They made an appeal to people to defeat Jagan Mohan Reddy and his party for shielding the murder accused.

Jagan blamed Naidu for using his sisters for his conspiracy against him. The two women, however, rubbished the allegation.

Jagan also tried to gain public sympathy by accusing the opposition parties of ganging up as they were unable to face him alone.

“Jagan Anna is like a lion, he will come alone, and he will come roaring,” he declared at an election rally.

He also cautioned people that if Naidu came back, he would stop all the welfare schemes implemented by YSRCP during the last five years.

The YSRCP Chief said that these elections are not just about electing MLAs or MPs but it's about shaping the future of the state.

He claimed that during the past 59 months, the state witnessed unprecedented progress towards welfare and development.“With the push of a button, Rs 2.70 lakh crore has been allocated without any hint of corruption or discrimination, directly benefiting the people of the state,” he said.

Stating that the YSRCP fulfilled 99 per cent of the promises made in the 2019 manifesto, he said the government created 2.31 lakh jobs.

He claimed to have introduced numerous schemes, implemented changes, enacted reforms while spearheading revolutionary initiatives and told people that the seeds he had sown would turn into strong trees in the next 15 years.

The opposition, however, accused him of 'destroying' the state with his policies. They alleged that he acted only with a political vendetta, derailed the state's development by stopping the development of Amaravati as the state capital and encouraged liquor, land, sand and mines mafias.

Sparing no words to hit out at Jagan, the TDP Chief called him a 'dictator' and a 'psycho'.“Any Chief Minister runs the administration with the development works but ever since Jagan became the Chief Minister, he is running the administration with anarchism,” Naidu said.

Claiming that as the Chief Minister between 2014 and 2019 he designed Amaravati as a state capital at par with Hyderabad, the TDP Chief said Jagan killed the dream of the people of Andhra Pradesh with his 'psycho mentality' by mooting the idea of three state capitals.

While Jagan did not promise any major new scheme and assured people of strengthening the ongoing welfare schemes, Naidu came out with 'Super Six' to woo the voters.

The TDP-JSP manifesto promised free bus travel for women, three free gas cylinders every year to each household, monthly financial assistance of Rs1,500 to women aged 18-59 years, creation of 20 lakh jobs in five years, monthly unemployment allowance of Rs 3,000, annual financial assistance of Rs 15,000 to a mother of every school-going student and investment support of Rs 20,000 to every farmer.

The BJP did not associate itself with the manifesto in line with its national policy.

Calling the alliance's manifesto impractical, Jagan recalled that in 2014 the same alliance had promised to implement the farm loan waiver, Mahalaxmi scheme, 3 cents land to the poor, BC sub-plan but never implemented anything.

“I don't promise what is not achievable. If I promise, there's no way I back out. That is my commitment,” he said.

In 2019, YSRCP wrested power from TDP with a landslide victory, bagging 151 seats in the 175-member Assembly. It polled 49.95 per cent votes. The TDP was the distant second with 23 seats and 39.17 per cent votes.

Jagan's party also bagged 22 out of 25 Lok Sabha seats while TDP got the remaining three seats.

Jana Sena, which had an alliance with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Left parties, could win just one Assembly seat. Pawan Kalyan himself suffered defeat in both the seats he contested. The party had polled 5.53 per cent votes.

The BJP too went alone in 2019 and drew a blank. It polled a mere 0.84 per cent votes.

As state politics is dominated by two key regional players, both BJP and Congress have no significant presence. In the 2014 elections, Congress secured only 2. 77 per cent vote share and drew a blank due to public anger over the division of Andhra Pradesh. Since then, the party lost many top leaders to either YSRCP or TDP.

For the second consecutive election in 2019, Congress did not win a single Lok Sabha or Assembly seat while its vote share plunged further to 1.23 per cent.

The BJP had bagged four Assembly seats and two Lok Sabha seats in 2014 when it had an alliance with the TDP. Jana Sena had contested the election but backed the TDP-BJP alliance.

Caste plays a key role in Andhra Pradesh elections. While Kammas are seen as supporters of TDP, the other powerful community Reddys are believed to be backing YSRCP.

The YSRCP secured the massive mandate in 2019 mainly due to the support of Reddys, Kapus, Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minorities. However, the TDP now claims to have won back the support of these sections.

Jana Sena is hoping to get the support of Kapus, the community Pawan Kalyan comes from.

The BCs constitute nearly 50 per cent of the state's population, with 139 subcastes. The SCs make up around 19 per cent while STs comprise about 5.6 per cent. The minorities are about seven per cent.

Despite its alliance with the BJP, which is opposed to Muslim reservation, the TDP has assured the community that it will protect the four per cent quota currently enjoyed by them in jobs and education.



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