Vacancies in 18 Assembly and Nellore LS seats

Three months after several Congress MLAs were disqualified and crossed over to the YSR Congress, the Election Commission on Tuesday ordered by-elections to be held on June 12 to fill the vacancies to 18 Assembly and the Nellore Lok Sabha constituency.

The formal notification for conducting these by-elections will be issued on May 18 but the model code of conduct came into force with immediate effect in 12 districts where these constituencies lie, pushing the Congress government on the backfoot at a time when it was announcing a spree of sops as part of the ongoing ‘Prajapatham' programme.

These vacancies were caused by the disqualification of 16 Congress and Shobha Nagi Reddy of the erstwhile Praja Rajyam, besides the resignation of K. Chiranjeevi from his Tirupati Assembly seat following his election to the Rajya Sabha on the ruling party's ticket. The Nellore Lok Sabha seat became vacant after Congress MP Mekapati Rajamohan Reddy resigned in protest against the inclusion of the name of the late YSR in the CBI's charge-sheet in the illegal assets case involving Kadapa MP Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy.

The Commission's announcement of the month-long by-election schedule ended weeks of speculation on the possible dates of the by-elections, even though the EC had made it clear that they would be held well before the Presidential elections on June 24. Chief Electoral Officer Bhanwar Lal told reporters here that the dates of the Presidential elections, the annual examinations of students, the law and order situation and the climatic conditions were considered while finalising the schedule.

The 18 Assembly constituencies are Narsannapet (Srikakualam district), Payakaraopet (Visakhapatnam), Ramachandrapuram (East Godavari), Narsapur, Polavaram (West Godavari), Prathipadu (SC), Macherla (Guntur), Ongole (Prakasam), Udayagiri (Nellore), Rajampet, Kodur, Rayachoti (Kadapa), Allagadda, Yemmiganur (Kurnool), Rayadurg, Anantapur Urban (Anantapur), Tirupati (Chittoor) and Parkal (Warangal). The lone Lok Sabha seat going for by-polls is Nellore (Nellore).

High stakes

Over 44 lakh voters are expected to exercise their franchise in what is considered to be the ‘mini-general election' since the 18 Assembly seats span all three regions – Coastal Andhra (nine seats), Rayalaseema (eight) and Telangana (one). Stakes are high for the Congress, which is still licking wounds from its rout in the by-elections in Telangana in March, and equally for the YSR Congress as the disqualified MLAs have to retain their seats.