Electorate of Kanuru gram panchayat in Vijayawada Revenue Division will witness a battle royal between two Congress groups in the second phase of the panchayat elections on Saturday. Several panchayats that have become rich by virtue of their proximity to Vijayawada city are going to the poll on July 27.
Political leaders, with the support of the real estate lobby, have ensured that these panchayats are not merged into the proposed Greater Vijayawada Municipal Corporation for their benefit.
Kanuru panchayat, which has 40,000 voters, is the largest gram panchayat in the State. Since the panchayat has been reserved for SCs, former sarpanches — Anne Krishnamurti (alias Chittibabu) and Devabakthuni Subba Rao — both Congress leaders are fielding their supporters. While Mr. Chittibabu is supporting Thumma Somaiah, Mr. Subba Rao is supporting Kommaruvolu Nagaraju.
Mr. Chittibabu and Mr. Subba Rao have been rivals in the panchayat from the beginning because the latter is actually leader of the Telugu Desam.
Mr. Subba Rao, however, joined the Congress in 2009 after the TDP refused to give him a ticket to contest as candidate in the Penamaluru Assembly Constituency. Mr. Subba Rao joined the Congress with the active encouragement of Minister K. Parthasarathy. However, his rivalry with Mr. Chittibabu does not seem to have ended.
Mr. Chittibabu has taken it as a prestige issue. Mr. Subba Rao is reportedly canvassing only for his candidate, but some others are funding him.
Candidates contesting from Gollapudi panchayat, which has become part of the city, are not averse to spending to get elected. The going rate for a vote in Kanuru panchayat is reportedly between Rs.300 and Rs.3,000. The rate differs on the basis of the ward in which voters are and other factors like community. Persons who have invested in real estate in the different panchayats are said to spending money to get candidates amicable to them elected.
There is a sea change in the dynamics of the villages that are on the outskirts of the city in the seven years that passed since the last elections. The cost of land has increased multi-fold and real estate has become very big business.
There will be a fight to gain control of Ramavarapupadu, Prasadampadu, and Enikepadu that have joined the suburbs of the city, but have not been merged into the municipal corporation.