R. Jagadeeswara Rao

ARAKU (Visakhapatnam district): The allotment of party ticket to Vanjangi Kanthamma, considered as ‘outsider’ by locals, may prove to be very costly to the Congress party in Araku Valley Assembly segment. This newly-formed constituency (reserved for STs) is witnessing a keen fight among Congress candidate Kanthamma, TDP’s (supported by alliance partners of CPI (M) and CPI) Siveri Soma and independent candidate Gangdhara Swamy. Eight candidates, including two independents, are in the fray. While the presence of recognised political party candidates like P. Raja Rao (BSP), Raghunadha Samrdi (BJP) and even Mandi Jayavathi (PRP) are considered notional, the Lok Satta candidate, Baka Manikyamma, an undergraduate, has been making a determined effort to get the maximum number of votes to ‘prove a point’ which is ‘honesty and clean politics count’.

According to Congress leaders, sitting MLA Ravibabu (elected from S. Kota last time) would have made a better choice, but the mantle fell on Ms. Kantham as part of women’s quota. Ms. Kanthamma herself wanted party ticket for Paderu Assembly segment. Valmikis, Kondadoras, Bagatas are the influential and numerically predominant castes in the Assembly segment and caste equation plays an important role in the choice of voters. Campaigning has been on a low key and is confined more or less to shandy (weekly fair) days.

While Congress leaders have been reeling out statistics to show the achievement of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy government, opposition leaders, mainly CPI (M) and TDP, pointing out to the rising prices, the bauxite mining issue and how they had thwarted the government efforts to hand over them to a private agency and the ‘all pervasive corruption during the Congress regime’.