Hyderabad: Announcement of the schedule for by-elections to one Lok Sabha and 18 Assembly seats has rather come as a bolt from the blue for the already beleaguered Congress party in Andhra Pradesh as it appears to be unprepared for them.
The party was hoping against hope that the by-elections would be held only in August even though the Election Commission had been making it clear that it would complete the process well ahead of the Presidential election.
Also, Congress has been claiming that it would conduct elections to Urban Local Bodies in June ahead of the by-elections as it was unable to draw statutory grants from the Centre due to lack of elected Councils in ULBs since October 2010.
With the announcement of the by-poll schedule yesterday, the ruling Congress` plans have totally gone awry.
In the last ten days, the Kiran Kumar Reddy government had been releasing "special funds" to constituencies facing by-elections but it could issue necessary orders only in respect of 13 Assembly segments.
Now, development works sanctioned in those 13 constituencies too cannot be taken up as the model code of conduct has come into force with immediate effect.
The Chief Minister, who planned to conduct election campaign in all the constituencies by using the government`s mass contact programme Prajapatham, could accomplish the task only in four segments.
Worse is the case of the party which could not finalise its candidates in many constituencies even as the rival parties Telugu Desam and YSR Congress have completed the process and are already racing ahead in the campaign.
The Congress is also facing a lot of internal trouble over
the choice of candidates in key constituencies.
In temple-town Tirupati, Jaydev Galla, industrialist and son of state Mines Minister Galla Aruna Kumar, is seeking Congress ticket while former MLA Venkata Ramana is opposing it, party sources said.
Tirupati is a prestigious seat for the Congress in general and its Rajya Sabha member K Chiranjeevi in particular.
Chiranjeevi won the seat in 2009 as Praja Rajyam candidate and the onus will be on him to ensure Congress` victory here.
For the Chief Minister too, this will be a key seat as it falls in his home district Chittoor.
In Allagadda, the Congress got a big jolt today as the powerful Gangula family announced it would stay away from the contest.
In fact, the Gangula family was readying to sever its ties with the ruling party, it is being claimed.
In many other segments too the party is unable to decide on the right candidate though PCC leaders claim they would announce the list "within a week".
For the Nellore Lok Sabha seat, former Union Minister T Subbarami Reddy is understood to have been chosen as the candidate but the Congress is yet to announce it officially.