Kadapa: A battle for prestige is on the cards in this YSR family stronghold, which was represented four times by the late Chief Minister and twice by his son Jaganmohan, as traditional Congress supporters are looking at TDP as an alternative after the junior Reddy parted ways with the national party.
Andhra Pradesh, which will be formally bifurcated in June to create the new state of Telangana, is scheduled to vote for Lok Sabha polls in two phases on April 30 and May 7. Election Commission is also simultaneously holding polls to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly on the two dates -- April 30 in the Telangana region followed by Seemandhra on May 7.
"So far, people were voting under threat. Now, they do not want to support the same people and instead would prefer TDP," claims Satish Kumar Reddy, who is challenging Jaganmohan for the Pulivendla Assembly seat.
Satish Kumar, who is also a member of the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council, further stressed that TDP`s vote base here was gradually increasing.
In the Lok Sabha byelections here in 2011 after he quit Congress and resigned as the party`s MP, Jaganmohan won the Kadapa seat by a staggering margin of more than 5 lakh votes as the candidate for his new outfit. But political observers are sensing a change in voters` attitudes this time.
While Jaganmohan is contesting in the Assembly polls from Pulivendla, his cousin Y S Avinash Reddy is the party`s nominee for the Kadapa Lok Sabha seat.
Although Jaganmohan, who is said to be eyeing the Andhra Pradesh chief minister`s post, is tipped to sail through in the Assembly poll contest as he is facing no major opponents, the going may not be easy for YSR Congress as it looks to retain the Kadapa parliamentary seat.
R Srinivasa Reddy is the Telugu Desam Party candidate for this seat with the outfit going into polls in Andhra Pradesh as an ally of BJP.
Voters in the larger Kadapa parliamentary constituency are said to be divided this time between YSR Congress and TDP following the decision to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh.
With sizable presence of Muslim and Christian minorities, YSR Congress is hopeful that the voters from these communities will rally behind Jaganmohan`s party but traditional Congress supporters are said to be betting on TDP, led by former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu.
The issues which have assumed prominence for the voters in the Kadapa parliamentary constituency range from the debate over a proposed capital for the residual state of Andhra Pradesh and lack of water supply in the rural areas to law and order problems.
When NT Rama Rao launched TDP in 1982, the party had won some supporters in Kadapa. Although Congress later completely overshadowed TDP here, it has now yielded ground to YSR Congress.
But of late, due to defections from Congress, TDP leaders are eyeing an improvement in their votebank on the hope that people who traditionally vote for Congress will this time go with them.
However, unfazed by the talk of a weakened support base, YSR Congress leaders are confident that their candidates will come out with flying colours, both in the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.
"Our nominee will win the Kadapa constituency," averred senior YSR Congress leader Mysura Reddy.
The Kadapa parliamentary seat is made up of seven Assembly segments, of which five are with Congress while YSR Congress and TDP have one MLA each here.
The Pulivendla Assembly seat, which is part of the Kadapa constituency, has been represented by YS Rajasekhara Reddy`s kin since 1978 and the family commands wide support in the area.
After the seat fell vacant following YSR Reddy`s death in a helicopter crash in 2009, Jaganmohan`s mother YS Vijayamma was in a 2011 bypoll elected as the MLA from Pulivendla for YSR Congress. Vijayamma is this time the party`s Lok Sabha poll candidate for the Visakhaptnam seat.
As a mark of respect for late YSR Reddy, Kadapa has been renamed as YSR district.
As many as 143 candidates are left in the fray for 10 Assembly seats and 23 for two Lok Sabha constituencies in the district. Voting in Kadapa, along with the rest of the Seemandhra region, is scheduled for May 7.