All eyes on Kadapa

The high-profile constituency is set to witness a battle between cousins

April 24, 2024 02:02 am | Updated 02:02 am IST

APCC president Y.S. Sharmila submits her nomination papers to District Election Officer V. Vijayarama Raju in Kadapa on April 20, 2024. Photo: Special Arrangement

APCC president Y.S. Sharmila submits her nomination papers to District Election Officer V. Vijayarama Raju in Kadapa on April 20, 2024. Photo: Special Arrangement

By announcing her candidature from the Kadapa Lok Sabha seat, Andhra Pradesh Congress president Y.S. Sharmila has taken the electoral fight directly to the doorstep of her brother, Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy. Kadapa is Mr. Reddy’s home district. It has traditionally been a bastion of the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) or, more specifically, of the YS family. Though electoral battles have been fought between distant relatives in the family, this is the first time that cousins are contesting against each other. This makes Kadapa the most sought-after and politically vibrant constituency this election season in the State.

Though this Lok Sabha constituency had once been a stronghold of the Communist Party of India, it later became the citadel of the YSRCP. Between 1989 and 1998, Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy and Ms. Sharmila’s father, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, from the Congress, was elected thrice to the Lok Sabha from Kadapa. His brother, Y.S. Vivekananda Reddy, was then Kadapa MP for two terms. Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy was elected from the seat in 2009. Following his father’s death in a helicopter crash that year, Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy started a Odarpu Yatra (consoling tour) across the State. Eventually he quit the Congress and launched his own party, the YSRCP, in 2011. In 2012, he won the seat again in a bypoll. In 2014 and 2019, his cousin, Y.S. Avinash Reddy, won the seat.

Y.S. Vivekananda Reddy was murdered in 2019 at his ancestral home at Pulivendula in Kadapa district. In the run-up to the polls, the murder case has assumed centre stage. Ms. Sharmila has been blaming Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy for the murder. One of the prime accused in the case is the sitting MP, Mr. Y.S. Avinash Reddy. Despite the ongoing probe of the Central Bureau of Investigation and Vivekananda Reddy’s daughter Suneetha Narreddy accusing Mr. Avinash Reddy of the murder, Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy has once again given the ticket to Mr. Avinash Reddy. Recently, Ms. Narreddy not only extended support to Ms. Sharmila, but also said that the two of them share a common goal, which is to defeat Mr. Avinash Reddy and Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy in the coming elections.

After Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s death, Vivekananda Reddy was the only link between the YS family and the electorate of Kadapa. He was an accessible and respected leader. Now, Ms. Sharmila is trying to win over the people. She may be able to secure the minority Christian votes as her husband Anil Kumar is a popular evangelist. This may impact the winning chances of Mr. Avinash Reddy, who could be fighting anti-incumbency.

But Ms. Sharmila also faces some disadvantages. She has lived in Telangana for the last four years and has never been involved in the politics of Kadapa. She launched the YSR Telangana Party in Telangana and has returned to Kadapa only to fight elections. The voters may tire of the family fights that are growing uglier with every passing day. And this may benefit the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) candidate, Chadipiralla Bhupesh Subbarami Reddy. The TDP is contesting the elections in an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party.

Kadapa comprises seven Assembly segments. In 2019, YSRCP won the Kadapa Lok Sabha seat and also swept all the seven Assembly seats. This time, the YSRCP has fielded all its sitting MLAs in the seven Assembly segments. The most high-profile segment is Pulivendula. This is the seat from where Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy is contesting the election. He will be challenged by the TDP’s M. Ravindranath Reddy alias B.Tech Ravi and the Jaibhimrao Bharat Party’s Shaik Dastagiri, one of the accused in the Vivekananda Reddy murder case, who has now turned approver for the CBI.

In both the Lok Sabha election and Assembly polls, Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy is hoping that his welfare schemes will help him repeat the YSRCP’s feat of 2019. The YSRCP aims to win all the 175 Assembly constituencies this election. Taking a jibe at this lofty goal and energised by the TDP’s recent performance in the Legislative Council elections, TDP president Chandrababu Naidu said that his party will not only win the polls but also leave the YSRCP scrambling for votes in its bastion, Pulivendula. However, given Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s continuing popularity, this could be a daunting challenge for the TDP, which won only 23 seats compared to the YSRCP’s 151 in 2019.

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