ANDHRA PRADESH

Congress bid to reverse performance

GUNTUR, APRIL 24. The Congress managed to get majority in only two of the seven Assembly segments of the Guntur Parliamentary constituency in the 1999 elections and won only one Assembly constituency, but expects to reverse its performance in this election.

The former Guntur MP, Rayapati Sambasiva Rao, has entered the fray for the fourth time as the Congress candidate and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has reposed faith in its MP, Yemparala Venkateswara Rao, by nominating him for the second time.

The Congress won only the Pedakurapadu Assembly constituency, Mr. Sambasiva Rao garnered about 4,000 votes more than his TDP opponent there. He was ahead of the TDP nominee in Guntur-I Assembly segment also, but only by six votes.

The TDP nominee is confident of repeating his performance this time also and concentrated on the Guntur city urban pockets in his campaign on the last day. He spent the whole of afternoon holding a series of meetings with his polling agents and local leaders from all constituencies to draw strategies for the polls on Monday.

Mr. Sambasiva Rao, who is confident of garnering more votes from Pedakurapadu and Guntur-I segments, concentrated on Chilakaluripet and Sattenapalli constituencies. While Marri Rajasekhar, a rebel is in the fray for Chilakaluripet Assembly seat as an independent, he has been bestowed the status of official candidate, asking the Congress candidate Malladi Sivanarayana (hand symbol) to retire from the race.

Mr. Rao, however, does not see any problem as he expects people would vote for the `hand' when it comes to Parliament, but had to take pains to explain to people that they need to vote for `Rail Engine' symbol in the Assembly constituency.

The former TDP MLA, Prattipati Pulla Rao, is confident of improving his margin of victory there from last time's 20,000 and expects that it will definitely have impact on votes polled for the Parliamentary constituency candidate.

The TDP Guntur-I nominee, S.M. Ziauddin, won the seat in 1999 consecutively for the second time by a margin of over 6,000 votes, despite the fact that Mr. Sambasiva Rao had got more votes than Mr. Y.V. Rao. The former MLA, Mohhamed Jani, closing ranks with the Congress nominee, Sheik Nambur Subhani, proved beneficial for Mr. Sambasiva Rao this time.

The Jaitra Yatra of the former Congress Legislative Party leader, Y.S. Rajasekahra Reddy, also had a positive impact in favour of the Congress candidates in Guntur-I and Guntur-II.

The low turnout at Tadikonda and Sattenapalli for the Chief Minister's election meeting on Friday gave a boost to the morale of the Congress camp, which expects to snatch a majority of the votes from TDP in these two Assembly segments.

The fight for the Prathipadu Assembly constituency is now evenly poised between Makineni Peda Rattaiah of the TDP and Ravi Venkata Ramana of the Congress, which the TDP considers as its stronghold. The Congress expects some improvement in this segment for its candidate for the Guntur Lok Sabha seat.

The Guntur-II Assembly segment, the Telugu Desam Party is a divided camp with the TDP rebel, Challa Venkatakrishna Reddy, bound to take away some of its votes thus putting the Congress in an advantageous position. Historically, both Guntur-I and Guntur-II voters have been favouring a single party. Mr. Sambasiva Rao has high hopes of sealing Mr. Y.V. Rao's fate with good majority in these constituencies.

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