Machilipatnam: Caste factor may hold the key to the fortunes of the two main contenders from TDP and YSR Congress for this Lok Sabha seat in the Seemandhra region in Andhra Pradesh that is going to polls on Tuesday against the backdrop of the issue of its bifurcation.
Konakalla Narayana Rao, TDP`s sitting MP, is said to be facing a tough challenge from former state Congress minister K Partha Sarathy who is now an YSR Congress candidate after he switched over to the Jaganmohan Reddy-led party.
According to political observers, the contest will be between TDP and YSRC in this constituency which has a good number of Backward Caste (BC) votes, although there are nine more candidates including Congress` and former Congress Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy`s party Jai Samaikyandhra.
What makes the contest an intriguing is the BC backgrounds of both Rao and Partha Sarathy, who had in 2009 won the Penamaluru Assembly segment of the this parliamentary constituency. While Rao had won this seat in 2009 elections for TDP by defeating his nearest Congress candidate by a margin of a little over 12,000 votes.
But the political scenario in Andhra Pradesh has undergone a massive change since then and now the state is all set to be formally bifurcated in June with the separate Telangana state emerging as one of the main issues.
The Machilipatnam Lok Sabha constituency has over 13 lakh voters and comprises seven Assembly segments -- Machilipatnam, Pedana, Gudivada Gannavaram, Penamaluru, Pamarru and Avanigadda. Electors would also be voting simultaneously for Assembly elections.
Another crucial factor in Machilipatnam is the presence of nearly two lakh voters from the Kapu community, which is seeking OBC status. Out of 13 lakh electors, nearly 50 per cent are from BC community, according to estimates.
In the 2009 elections, C Ramachandraiah, candidate from Prajarajyam party, had bagged over 1.80 lakh votes here after gaining the support of the Kapu community.
Thus the preference of Kapu voters could turn out to be of great significance in this Lok Sabha seat which, in previous elections, Congress won seven times followed by TDP on four occasions. Besides, an Independent candidate and the Left, too, have won once each from here.
Among the other candidates in the fray here are Congress` S Ramesh and Jai Samaikyandhra Party`s K Srinivas. JSP was formed by Kiran Kumar Reddy after he quit Congress and resigned from his post in protest over the bifurcation of the state.
The major highlights for the voters are the construction of the Machilipatnam deep water port, setting up of drinking water and irrigation facilities, including the modernisation of the Krishna delta irrigation canal system and drainage systems in Machilipatnam, Gudivada, and Pedana towns.
Demands for the extension and electrification of the railway line from Vijayawada to Machilipatnam is another important issue for voters here.