Deviating from tradition, the Congress has fielded a dark horse apparently to split the vote banks of the BJP and the YSRC candidates in the Vijayawada West Constituency. The Congress has sent a strong message to the voters by fielding a loyal party worker Akula Srinivas, a Kapu, from this segment.
Sitting MLA Velampalli Srinivas was elected from this segment on the Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) ticket and after the party was merged with the Congress, he had played an active role in the ruling party too. However, he switched loyalty to the BJP, after the Congress announced him as the candidate from this segment, much to the dismay of the party cadre here.A chequered past
The YSRC candidate for this constituency, Jaleel Khan, has a chequered past of his own. He was elected to the State Assembly from the Vijayawada West segment in 1999 polls, defeating Telugu Desam candidate Nagul Meera. He contested the next poll as a rebel when the Congress allotted the segment to the Communist Party of India as part of an electoral tie-up and but lost. He joined the Telugu Desam after the elections, but came back to Congress fold when he was told that he would not get a TDP ticket.
In 2009 elections, Mr. Khan contested again as rebel and helped Mr. Srinivas defeat Congress candidate Mallika Begum. Mr. Khan then joined the YSRC and has been given the party ticket to contest from this constituency. After the unceremonious exit of Mr Srinivas, the Congress is careful in selecting candidate. The party leadership has fielded PCC secretary Akula Srinivas Kumar, the first Kapu to be given the ticket, as there are a sizeable number of the community in this constituency.Caste equations
The West Constituency has been a battle ground between the Congress and the Communist Party of India (CPI) since long. Unlike this time, the Congress has always fielded candidates from either the Muslim or ‘nagaralu’ communities and candidates from the Kshatriya community have always been favourites for the CPI. The only time the CPI fielded a Muslim nominee was when it had a tie-up with the Congress and the latter brought pressure on it to field a Muslim.
The success of the PRP in the West Constituency seems to have changed the Congress’ perception for it chose a Kapu candidate this time. The party hopes that the Kapus who were responsible for PRP’s victory will come back to the Congress fold again and the Chiranjeevi factor will ensure that Mr. Srinivasa Kumar gets all the Kapu votes. While a few Muslim votes are expected to go for the BJP candidate, the Congress and the YSRC are likely to share them equally.
The YSRC has plans to corner the maximum number of votes from the weaker sections. However, there will be a tough fight for the Backward Class votes between the Congress and the YSRC.