Amaravati: The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) is locked in a fierce battle for power with the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) as the stage is set for single-phase polling for simultaneous elections to 175-member Andhra Pradesh Assembly and for 25 Lok Sabha seats on April 11.
Over 3.93 crore voters, including 1.98 crore women, are eligible to vote to decide the fate of over 3,800 candidates in the Assembly polls, including Chief Minister and TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu, YSRCP chief YS Jaganmohan Reddy and Jana Sena leader and actor Pawan Kalyan.
Former Union Ministers Kishore Chandra Deo and Ashok Gajapathi Raju (both TDP), D Purandeswari (BJP) and former CBI joint director VV Lakshminarayana (Jana Sena) are among about 500 candidates in the fray for the Lok Sabha elections.
The high-decibel campaign is coming to an end on Tuesday for the first full-fledged election in the truncated State of Andhra Pradesh as 2014 polls were held a couple of months before the formal bifurcation. Both the main contenders for power are going it alone. The Congress and the BJP are also contesting on their own, but both the national parties look more or less like ringside spectators of the Naidu-versus-Jagan fight.
Naidu, who led TDP campaign, roped in National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for a couple of meetings and roadshows.
The narrative in these elections has been around the special category status for the State as Naidu targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi for reneging on the commitment.
The TDP chief tried to play the card of Andhra self-respect by alleging that Modi has hatched a conspiracy against the State in collusion with Jagan and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao.
He also raked up corruption cases pending against Jagan and asked people if they want to make somebody a Chief Minister who is a ‘brand ambassador of crimes’.
“Your future is my responsibility” was the slogan of Naidu’s campaign as he tried to woo all sections of voters, especially farmers, women and youth by promising to continue welfare schemes launched over the last few months.
The Election Commission’s action in transferring three top police officers, including Director General, Intelligence, and later shunting out Chief Secretary AK Punetha kicked up a row with Naidu accusing the poll panel of acting at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Jagan has been drawing massive crowds with his speeches delivered in his distinct style. His mother YS Vijayamma and sister YS Sharmila too campaigned for the party. Jagan promised to usher in ‘Rajanna Rajyam’, a reference to the rule of his late father YS Rajasekhara Reddy during which several schemes were implemented for welfare of poor and weaker sections. The 46-year-old targeted Naidu for enjoying power with BJP for four years and then severing ties with that party to draw political mileage.
Analysts say actor , which is making its political debut and contesting the polls in alliance with Bahujan Samaj Party, CPI and CPI-M, may tilt the balance of power by cutting into the votes of the TDP or the YSRCP.
Pawan may do well in a few constituencies with sizeable population of Kapus, a community to which the actor belongs. In the previous elections, Pawan had campaigned for TDP-BJP alliance. Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and Congress president Rahul Gandhi have addressed only a couple of rallies each.
In 2014 elections, the TDP had won 102 seats in the 175-member Assembly while its then alliance partner BJP secured 4 seats. YSRCP emerged as the only opposition bagging 67 seats. Two independents were also elected. Interestingly, the YSRCP polled 45.01 per cent votes, a mere 1.6 per cent less than the votes polled by the TDP-BJP combine. Out of 25 Lok Sabha seats, the TDP bagged 15 seats while BJP got two. The YSRCP secured eight seats.
Facing people’s wrath over bifurcation, the Congress was completely wiped out drawing blank in both the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls. A key feature of these polls is the electoral debut of Naidu’s son Nara Lokesh, who is contesting for Assembly from Mangalagiri in the capital region of Amaravati. Naidu is seeking re-election from Kuppam in his native Chittoor district while Jagan is contesting once again from Pulivendula, his family stronghold in Kadapa district.
Pawan Kalyan is contesting from two Assembly constituencies – Bhimavaram and Bhimavaram.