Lok Sabha Election 2019

Andhra Pradesh poll campaign: Steadfastly local, still rankled by a messy bifurcation

Making his point: TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu addressing a public meeting in East Godavari district.

Making his point: TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu addressing a public meeting in East Godavari district.  

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Four years after the division that gave birth to Telangana, parties dwell on the “wrongs” done to A.P., including denial of special status.

Andhra Pradesh is bracing for another round of a continuing battle between the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP). The former is headed by a seasoned politician and Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu, while a much-younger Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy is opposing him.

While the heavyweights battle it out, Telugu actor Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sana Party has the potential to upset calculations.

No place for the big two

Though there are 25 Lok Sabha and 175 Assembly seats at stake in the simultaneous elections scheduled for April 11, both national parties — the BJP and the Congress — are struggling to get a foothold.

The reasons are not hard to find. There is a widely held perception that the BJP has deliberately denied the Special Category Status (SCS) to the State, while anger against the Congress continues for “unscientific, unasked-for bifurcation of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh that left the State impoverished”. Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s promise to grant the SCS “as soon as we come to power” has not persuaded many.

2019 is thus heading for a contest essentially between two big regional parties on provincial and sentimental post-bifurcation issues.

Under the circumstances, no regional party is prepared to take a risk allowing either the BJP or the Congress to ride piggyback on it, though the TDP alleges that the YSRCP is working with the BJP and the TRS. The TDP has avoided tying up with the Congress, given the sensitivities involved, though both were part of a grand alliance for the Telangana Assembly election last year and are together in an evolving anti-BJP Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) at the national level.

Unlike 2014, when a strong pro-Modi wave was felt even in Andhra Pradesh that added incremental value to the TDP’s victory, no major national issue such as the IAF strikes on Balakot in Pakistan has got much heft here.

It is the SCS that has taken centre stage. The YSRCP accuses the TDP government of having failed to extract the concession from the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre despite having been an ally for over four years.

The YSRCP has been alleging “large-scale corruption and nepotism” and land and mining scams, seeking to cash in on a “strong anti-incumbency wave”. The JSP-Left combine is targeting not only the TDP but the YSRCP too for not being critical of the BJP.

People’s wishes

The YSRCP has come out with Navaratnalu (nine jewels for its nine major promises) based on the people’s needs as conveyed to its president Jaganmohan Reddy during his 3,648-km padayatra (walk) across the State.

These include financial support of ₹50,000 to each small and marginal farmer, ₹15,000 crore to women’s self-help groups and a pension of ₹3,000 to the elderly.

On the other hand, the TDP hopes to return to power on the claim of all-round development with an economic growth rate of 11% despite a “hostile, non-cooperative” Centre, construction of capital Amaravati, the Polavaram irrigation project and the inter-linking of rivers that helped sustain the Krishna delta, apart from a slew of welfare measures such as the Annadata Sukhibhava (financial support of ₹10,000 to each farmer), Pasupu Kumkuma (capital infusion of ₹10000 each to over 90 lakh self-help group women), Anna Canteen providing a meal at ₹5 and the ₹2,000 pension for the elderly.

The run-up to the elections saw an ugly war of words break out between the governments of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh over alleged stealing of government data by an IT firm, managing the TDP’s App.

While the TRS government and YSRCP contend that the data belonging to voters of Andhra Pradesh was stolen by the firm based in Hyderabad and hence criminal cases were slapped. The AP government says its data is safe and the Telangana police has no locus standi in it. The TDP government, in turn, says data on its party members was passed on to the YSRCP.

Both State governments have constituted Special Investigation Teams to investigate the issue and the last word on the issue has certainly not been said.

Both are scheduled to release the first list of candidates on March 16.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 1:15:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/andhra-pradesh-poll-campaign-steadfastly-local-still-rankled-by-a-messy-bifurcation/article26525023.ece

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