A.P. by-polls a contentious affair

HYDERABAD, MAY 8. The May 26 by-election to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly in Bhongir and Chevella has become a contentious affair. The election was necessiated by the tragic deaths of the Panchayati Raj Minister, A. Madhava Reddy, and the Congress member, P. Indra Reddy.

Predictably, the Telugu Desam and the Congress are fielding the widows of the deceased. There was speculation over the choice of Mrs. Sabita Indra Reddy as her husband was in the Telugu Desam for most of his career.

He won the 1984, 1989, 1994 elections on Telugu Desam ticket, and he contested on Congress ticket in the 1999 election. Indra Reddy's nephew, Mr. P. Mahener Reddy, is the TDP MLA from Tandur. TDP sources expected that Mrs. Sabita Reddy would opt to join the TDP. But she maintained a silence during the mourning period of 12 days and joined the Congress two days ago.

Mrs. Sabita Reddy, accompanied by the party MP, Mr. Jaipal Reddy, and several MLAs, took out a procession and filed her nomination papers in Chevella. The TDP has fielded Mr. Kichennagari Lakshma Reddy, who lost by about 10,000 votes to Indra Reddy last time.

The Congress is yet to name its candidate in Bhongir, where Mrs. Uma Madhava Reddy is the TDP nominee. The CPI(M) is contesting in Bhongir, thwarting the efforts of other Left parties to force a direct contest between the Telugu Desam and the Congress. Here, Madhava Reddy won with 62,500 votes, defeating Mr. Andela Lingam Yadav of the Congress by about 8,300 votes. The Telugu Desam fared poorly in Nalgonda district in the 1999 elections, winning only two out of the 12 seats, while the Congress won nine seats, as it is a stronghold of the Left parties. In the last election, the CPI(M) nominee, Mr. Bairu Muthiah, polled 15,372 votes, showing that the party has enough support to tilt the balance in favour of two equally placed candidates.

The two communist parties suffered an overall setback in the last Assembly elections, the CPI(M) winning two and the CPI drawing a blank. The two parties put together polled just a little over two per cent of the popular vote. The CPI was of the view that the Left parties should support the Congress in order to defeat the Telugu Desam, and had some seat adjustments with it in the recent Municipal elections. The CPI(M) today announced that it would contest the Bhongir seat, asserting that it was against ``the politics of opportunism of the Congress'', while opposing the ``World Bank- dictated anti-people policies'' of the Telugu Desam and the ``communalism'' of the BJP at the Centre. Mr. Bonthala Chandra Reddy is the CPI(M) nominee in Bhongir.