May 13, 2014

ANDHRA & LOK SABHA 2014


THE BATTLE ROYAL FOR SEEMANDHRA


I started this series - State & Lok Sabha 2014 in the last week of February when I wanted to discuss the effect the creation of Andhra Pradesh would have over the various political parties active in this part of the country. Of course, over the last two and a half months, the whole series has got a very good response which has propelled me to continue writing about the way different states will vote i.e. in my opinion. The learning about the politicians and political parties too has been extremely satisfying; I am sure that this knowledge will come in handy while analyzing elections in the future. Moreover, I did try my hand at predictions and have given the numbers that I believe the different outfits will get this time. Having encompassed 29 states, I think we have come a full circle as we discuss the other half of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh - the Seemandhra and Rayalseema regions. 

Meanwhile, the state that sent the maximum number of Congress MPs to consecutive UPA regimes at the Centre seems to be voting differently. The Congress, after dividing Andhra seems to be heading for a disaster. The YSR Congress led by Jagan Mohan is on a roll, many believing that the Jagan juggernaut will end up as the single largest player and make it a prized catch for all major coalitions in New Delhi. On the other hand, Chandrababu Naidu too is keen in coming back into the limelight. In a bid to stop the YSRCP from running away with a massive tally, he joined back the NDA after a period of ten years. Former CM Kiran Kumar tried to exonerate himself from taking the blame for the division by resigning and forming the JSP. In a four cornered battle, who has the edge. Lets see if we can answer this question.

ISSUES

(1) Division of the state: No prizes for guessing as to which is the biggest election issue ahead of the Lok Sabha and state polls this time in Andhra. The kind of protests and the demonstrations that were seen both in the Parliament and the streets in Seemandhra tell us that the bifurcation is an extremely emotive subject. After being the fulcrum of two successive UPA regimes, there is no way that the voters in Andhra are going to forgive the Congress for this step which it seems to have taken in haste. One of the big problem area between the two new states is the capital city of Hyderabad. With many people from the coast having business interest in the IT destination, they wanted it to remain a part of Andhra. However, considering that the metropolis is situated right inside Telangana, there was no way this could be achieved. At present though, Hyderabad has been declared as joint capital for 10 years. The three regional players - the TDP, the YSRCP and the JSP have used the issue of bifurcation to train their guns on the INC.

(2) Getting a fair deal for Seemandhra: Whether you like it or not, Telangana is a reality. With this in mind, parties are now trying to get a fair deal - read as 'Special Economic Package', to soothe the nerves of the people in Seemandhra and Rayalseema. Amongst the issues that need to be settled between the new states is water sharing; considering the water disputes between other southern states, this seems to be a tough tasks. Also, Andhra has to get a new capital and the names doing the rounds include Vishakapatnam, Kurnool, Guntur, Tirupati and Vijaywada. Besides, the large number of people from the coast who have settled in Hyderabad need to be protected against bias of all kinds. The Congress tried to use this subject to protect its interest with Sonia Gandhi urging leaders to provide 'Special Status' to Andhra. However, at least the Opinion Polls suggest that the people are not willing to trust the grand old party, at least for the time being.

CONTENDERS

(1) Congress: After that incredible showing in 2009 wherein the party won 33 out of the 42 seats in AP, things started to go wrong for it after the tragic death of its charismatic CM Y S Rajashekar Reddy in a helicopter crash in September 2009. The party underestimated his son and Kadappa MP Jagan Mohan who went ahead with his yatra in spite of the opposition from the all high command. As the INC placed Rosaiah and then Kiran Kumar Reddy at the helm of affairs, Jagan launched the YSRCP. While the state government did manage to complete its full term, it lost a series of by elections to the newly launched regional outfit although Jagan was in the jail for over an year on charges of disproportionate assets. 

Fearing a blank here, the Congress devised a new strategy. It was to go ahead and form Telangana and earn the good will of the people there. Next, it hoped that the TRS would merge into it to further improve its prospects in the 17 parliamentary seats there. Also, it was hopeful that it could convince Jagan to join the UPA after the results were announced. Thus it could potentially still end up with 20 to 25 seats. However, in politics things don't go the way you want it to and the 'grand plan' flopped. The TRS refused to merge into the Congress whereas YSRCP too is not very keen to be a part of the UPA considering the anger against the INC on the ground. Meanwhile, it seems to be that the BJP has benefited from the fiasco at the expense of its rival. It has allied with the TDP and is also known to be wooing KCR's regional outfit in Telangana. 

In the run up to the polls, as many as nine sitting MPs from the region have jumped ship to other parties fearing that an association with the INC could potentially end their political careers. Even the incumbent CM Kiran Kumar Reddy has quit the Congress to float a new party. As such, film star Chiranjeevi is leading the party's election campaign here. Five Union Minister - K.C. Deo (Araku), Killi Krupa Rani (Srikakulam), M.M. Pallam Raju (Kakinada), Panabaka Lakshmi (Bapatla) and Kotla Jayasuryaprakash Reddy (Kurnool) and few new faces including social worker Thota Vijayalakshmi (Anakapalle) and MLC Vakati Narayana Reddy (Nellore) have been given tickets.

(2) National Democratic Alliance (NDA): After being sidelined in the state, first by YSR and subsequently by his son, the Telugu Desam party (TDP) chief Chandrababu Naidu is trying hard to make a strong comeback. It was believed that the YSRCP was leading the TDP in the opposition to the formation of Telanagana. However, the recently declared results in the local elections indicate that Naidu holds the edge. Moreover, after rejoining the NDA last month, there could be a consolidation of votes in case the much hyped 'Modi wave' does work in this part of the country. Even as the two parties came together to finalize the seat sharing arrangements, there were protests staged by cadre of both outfits. One week into the alliance, there was trouble again with TDP accusing the BJP of fielding weak candidates in Andhra. With the saffron party conceding few more seats to the regional player, things were finally sorted out. The TDP will contest 17 parliamentary seats here and its nominees include Ramesh Rathod (Adilabad), K Madan Mohan Rao (Zahirabad) and Banoth Mohan Lal (Mahbubabad). The party has given tickets to about three industrialists - Rayapati Sambasiva Rao (Narasaraopet), Galla Jayadev (Guntur) and Nama Nageswara Rao (Khammam).

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was 'hand-in-gloves' with the Congress during the formation of Telangana. Three months down the line while the former struggles in its old fortress, the latter is trying to put up a strong fight. As said earlier, the saffronists are expecting that the Modi wave will help it do well even in those states where it was never a strong player in the past. The tie-up with former ally - the TDP has further helped their cause. In fact, the importance of this alliance for the NDA as a whole can be deduced from the fact that the national party even gave up some of its assembly seats just to please the sulking Naidu. The nominees include party president Dr. K Haribabu (Vishakapatnam), former Union Minister Purandeshwari (Rajmpeta) who quit the Congress recently, Gokaraju Ganga Raju (Narsaraopur) and Karumanchi Jayaram (Tirupati).

Power star Pawan Kalyan too has pledged his support to the NDA in the run up to the 2014 General Polls in spite of the fact that his brother Chiranjeevi is with the Congress. It was earlier believed that he was to launch a political party to fight for the unity of the state. Meanwhile, he has been a star campaigner for the NDA alliance in Andhra as well as neighboring Karnataka.

(3) Y S R Congress Party (YSRCP): After the Congress refused to anoint him as the CM of Andhra Pradesh, Jagan Mohan Reddy left the grand old party to form the YSRCP to en cash on the emotions of the people who were saddened by the tragic death of his extremely popular father. Of course, the Congress tried its best to nip the newly formed outfit in the bud. While the junior Reddy was put behind the bars for 16 months, he fought back, winning by-election after by-election at the expense of Congress. The Union government's decision to split Andhra helped him further expand his party's reach in newer areas. Many were expecting the Jagan juggernaut to sweep the state, especially after a host of leaders from the INC joined him. However, the TDP-BJP pre-poll alliance has to some extent, stemmed the YSRCP wave in the coast. The results of the recently concluded local polls came in as a shocker for the party. Meanwhile, the YSRCP's candidates for Lok Sabha 2014 include Jagan's mother Y S Vijayamma (Vishakapatnam), his cousin Y S Avinash Reddy (Kadappa), industrialist Ayodhya Ramireddy (Narsaraopur) and former bureaucrat Varaprasad Rao Velagapalli (Tirupati).

(4) Jai Samaikyandhra Party (JSP): After being in power for over three years, Kiran Kumar Reddy - the last CM of a united Andhra left the Congress to form the JSP. However, the question is was it too late. I mean, Reddy continued to be in power even days before the Parliament went ahead with the division of the state. As such, many people still view the former CM to be one of the persons who did not do much to prevent the bifurcation. Moreover, many of his former cabinet colleagues who had assured Kiran of their support have now gone back on their word. Apart from him, the JSP lacks any face who can help them win any votes.
PAST PERFORMANCES

Finding the exact results for Seemandhra and Rayalseema, similar to the exercise I did for Telangana (Link) is difficult and time consuming. However, I will give a broad sense of how the regions of coastal Andhra and Rayalseema voted over the last five General Elections. In 1996, the TDP and the Congress shared the spoils almost equally in this part of the state. Two years later though, the grand old party held the upper hand. In the following year, it was Naidu who did did well. Over the last two elections, it has been the Congress led by the late CM Y S Rajashekar Reddy which propelled the UPA at the Centre.

MY PREDICTIONS

The TDP-BJP alliance seems to have take been able to take some steam off Jagan's campaign which was going pretty strong till the end of March. I believe that the coalition in a four cornered contest will help the NDA gain an edge over the others. In spite of this, YSR Congress will still give it a tough fought. The Congress, I think will be wiped out whereas the Jai Samaikyandhra Party (JSP) will also end up with a big zero.


Political PartyExpected Seats
1NDA (TDP + BJP)12-16
2YSR Congress10-14
3Congress0-1
4Jai Samaikyandhra Party (JSP)0

WATCH OUT

(1) The 2014 state elections: Though Andhra will go to the polls as a single entity, the new state of Telangana will be carved out on 2nd June. Now that the split is a reality, the question will be as to who will become the first Chief Minister of Seemandhra post the division. With anger simmering against the Congress, the race is clearly between Jagan Mohan Reddy and Chandrababu Naidu. While the YSRCP chief has momentum on his side, following the sting of victories in several by-elections, the TDP helped its cause by allying with the BJP.

(2) Congress - a sinking ship: The excellent show in Andhra Pradesh was responsible for the formation of two Congress led UPA regimes in 2004 and 2009. However, post the death of YSR, the revolt of his son Jagan and the furor over the creation of Telangana is set to wipe out the party in this part of the country. The INC has just one leader here - film star Chiranjeevi but with emotions running high, it is unlikely that he will have any impact on the polls. Will the grand old party make a comeback? How many years will it take for the Congress to win back the confidence of the people? Most importantly, who will lead the INC in Andhra?

(3) Naidu makes a comeback? The TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu was once the poster boy in the southern state, credited for the rise of capital Hyderabad as one of the major IT destinations in the country. However, after two successive victories, the TDP was wiped off in 2004 state and Lok Sabha polls which also marked the rise of the Y S Rajashekar Reddy. Naidu tried to put the blame on the BJP as he broke off from the NDA. However, the trend continued in 2009 when, in spite of the grand alliance, Naidu was routed, yet again. Even in the run up to 2014, it was believed that Reddy's son Jagan was becoming the most prominent leader of the Seemandhra region. However, the alliance with the BJP may help Naidu climb the ladder and regain his lost political status.

(4) Which way will Jagan go? All Opinion Polls are predicting the YSRCP to win in excess of 10 seats. Now that makes Jagan Mohan one of the most sought after political ally post May 16 in case both the major formations fall short of majority. In fact, even the YSRCP chief has kept all his options open. Earlier, he had claimed that he did not have any problems in joining hands with the NDA led by Modi. Also, he may even forget the treatment meted out to him by Congress post the death of his father and support the UPA. Moreover, supporting the Third Front will be much more easy, though the possibilities of such a coalition ruling the country is almost negligible.

(5) The future of Kiran Kumar Reddy and the JSP: It is difficult to predict as to who will finish as the biggest party in Andhra - the TDP-BJP combine or the YSRCP but there is unanimous agreement on the fact that the JSP is not a challenger at all. In fact, many feel that in spite of resigning from the Congress and floating a new outfit, Reddy is still believed by many to be ineffective in adverting the division of the state. If the former CM does as badly as expected, it will be interesting to see what his next move will be. Will he join either YSRCP or the TDP? May be, he may walk back into the Congress.

Other posts in this series:
(1) Karnataka & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(2) Rajasthan & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(3) Maharashtra & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(4) Goa & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(5) Kerala & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(6) Assam & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(7) Tripura & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(8) Haryana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(9) Chhattisgarh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(10) Jammu Kashmir & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(11) Madhya Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(12) Telangana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(13) Bihar & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(14) Jharkhand & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(15) Sikkim & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(16) Arunachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(17) Nagaland & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(18) Manipur & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(19) Meghalaya & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(20) Mizoram & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(21) Delhi & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(22) Gujarat & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(23) Himachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(24) Uttarakhand & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(25) Bengal & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(26) Odisha & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(27) Tamil Nadu & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(28) Punjab & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(29) Uttar Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)