All eyes on high-profile Vizag Lok Sabha seat as heavyweights enter election fray

The constituency is considered prestigious, as Vizag, the State’s biggest city, has all the trappings of a ‘mega-metropolis’ in the near future; YSRCP fields Botcha Jhansi Lakshmi, wife of Minister Botcha Satyanarayana, and the three-party alliance rallies behind TDP’s Sribharat

April 19, 2024 10:39 pm | Updated April 20, 2024 09:09 am IST - VISAKHAPATNAM

Smoke and colours fill the air during the election campaign of Visakhapatnam Lok Sabha constituency nominee YSRCP Botcha Jhansi in Visakhapatnam.

Smoke and colours fill the air during the election campaign of Visakhapatnam Lok Sabha constituency nominee YSRCP Botcha Jhansi in Visakhapatnam. | Photo Credit: K.R. Deepak

The Visakhapatnam Lok Sabha constituency is probably the most high-profile and keenly watched in Andhra Pradesh. This constituency is considered to be prestigious, as Visakhapatnam, the State’s biggest city, is also probably the only city with an innate potential to develop into a cosmopolitan and has all the trappings to become a ‘mega-metropolis’ in the near future.

Though the city’s original inhabitants belonged to the fishermen community, as the city was referred to as a ‘sleepy fishing village’ in the old English Gazetteer of the British Raj, it later became the hub of public sector undertakings.

Visakhapatnam is the headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command (ENC), also the proposed zonal headquarters. It has one of the biggest major ports and a flourishing private port. It houses the biggest oil refinery in the country, HPCL, and is home to the largest integrated and shore-based steel plant, the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant.

The establishment of the big PSU and multiple private sector units in the shape of pharma Special Economic Zones has brought in people from all corners of the country. Today, it has a sizeable population of people coming from Kerala, West Bengal, Odisha, Punjab, Bihar, Rajasthan, and even from the north-eastern States.

The unique aspect is that all major political parties, be it the TDP, YSRCP, JSP, Congress, the left parties and even the BJP, have a sizable number of followers in the name of traditional vote bank.

This gives the edge to all the political parties, and this time, the contest between the ruling YSRCP and the TDP-JSP-BJP bloc (NDA) is going to be direct and tough.

The YSRCP has fielded its heavyweight Botcha Jhansi Lakshmi, wife of Education Minister Botcha Satyanarayana and the NDA has fielded M. Sribharat from the TDP.

While Ms. Jhansi Lakshmi has already been a member of the Lower House from 2007 to 2014, Mr. Sribharat, who is the president of GITAM (deemed to be University), had lost by around 4,000 votes to YSRCP’s M.V.V. Satyanarayana in 2019, when he had made his political debut.

It is going to be a battle of Ms. Jhansi and her husband’s political experience with a much younger man who has a strong political legacy.

Visakhapatnam Lok Sabha has traditionally been a Congress citadel until it was breached by the TDP when N.T. Rama Rao had launched it in 1984.

The constituency has about 19 lakh voters and seven Assembly constituencies under its fold, including Bheemunipatnam, Gajuwaka, Visakhapatnam (East), Visakhapatnam (West), Visakhapatnam (South), and Visakhapatnam (North), and Srungavarapukota (S. Kota).

Of the total seven, about two can be considered as rural segments and remaining are urban.

In 2014, K. Haribabu won the seat and contested from the BJP as part of the TDP-JSP-BJP alliance. All seven assembly seats went in favour of the TDP. In 2019, while YSRCP wrested the Gajuwaka, Bheemunipatnam, and S. Kota, TDP won all the other four in the urban segment. This makes the battle very interesting in 2024, as the alliance is back. Both the alliance and YSRCP have fielded their best players in the region, especially YSRCP, looking for a clean sweep.

Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s mother, Y.S. Vijayamma, had lost from the Visakhapatnam LS constituency in 2014.

Despite being the most high-profile constituency, the people here face a number of problems and demand assurances from the political parties.

The menace of land grabbing by political leaders has been a major issue for the people here. The TDP and YSRCP governments formed two Special Investigation Teams (SIT). However, the reports have not been made public yet, leading to apprehension that top leaders and bureaucrats were involved in connivance with the ruling parties in these land grabbings.

Bad road conditions and sanitation have caused problems in parts of most rural and urban segments. The underground drainage system has failed in many wards, especially in the Gajuwaka Assembly segment. Traffic snarls have become the order of the day, and pollution has reached an all-time high. Residents, especially from the rural segments, are worried about rampant illegal quarrying and sand mining, and the poor talk about unemployment.

The political parties have to answer all these questions. When they come to ask for votes, they promise anything under the sky. But when it comes to implementation, they just turn a blind eye, said K. Apparao, a daily wage earner.

The common people are also worried about the rising prices of essentials. Their prices have gone up by fourfold, and so have the electricity charges. Life is difficult, as income has not gone up in correspondence with the price rise, said J. Lakshmi, a teacher in a private school.

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