The by-election race in Nandyal, Kurnool district is picking up steam and spreading its political steam in the state like wildfire. With Election Commission setting 23 August as the date for polls, TDP and YSRCP have locked their horns in a battle which is historically and politically significant for both the parties. This election is seen as a precursor to the 2019 general elections for the TDP and the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSRCP.
Nandyal, a constituency from where former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao won the elections to join the parliament in 1996 elections. Rao won from Nandyal with a victory margin of a record 5 lakh votes and recorded in the Guinness Book Of World Records. The Congress veteran defeated Bhuma Reddy to win the seat. There are sizeable Congress voters in Nandyal compared to TDP. But the equation is balanced over the last two decades.
Past winners:
2004 – Silpa Mohan Reddy – Indian National Congress
2009 – Silpa Mohan Reddy – Indian National Congress
2014 – Bhuma Nagi Reddy – YSR Congress Party
Sympathy Factor:
With the untimely death of sitting TDP convert YSRCP MLA Bhuma Nagi Reddy, Bhuma Akhila Priya nominated her 25-year old cousin, Bhuma Brahmananda Reddy to fill her father’s seat. Historically, the tradition is that the family member is elected unanimously upon the death of a sitting elected member. Mr. Jagan broke this tradition by confiding that it is a YSRCP seat as Bhuma Nagi Reddy originally won on YSRCP ticket. Jagan nominated former Minister Silpa Mohan Reddy and family/political rival of Bhuma family. Bhuma Nagi Reddy defeated Shilpa Mohan Reddy in 2014 by 3604 votes. Also, people of Nandyal did not forget the untimely death of four-time MLA Shobha Nagi Reddy who is the mother of Bhuma Akhila Priya. So sympathy factor strongly may play a key role in this election.
Development Factor:
Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu sanctioned ₹1,200 crore for developmental works in Nandyal recently and allocated about 3,000 new pensions. A total of ₹34 crores was sanctioned for augmenting drinking water supply, built over 2,000 houses in rural areas and sanctioned over 10,000 ration cards and pensions. Over the past few weeks, TDP has been campaigning in Nandyal highlighting chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu’s governance and development activities in the constituency.
Muslims Votes:
Nandyal has sizeable Muslim population. The 5-7% Muslim votes in the constituency may be a deciding factor in the by-election. Nasyam Mohammed Farooq of TDP won twice before 2004. But with TDP’s alliance with BJP in 2004, Congress won the constituency twice and YSRCP in 2014. So this is not a TDP play ground as it could not consolidate its Muslim vote share since 2004. Muslims were upset with TDP for aligning with the BJP, swayed away from it since 2004.
But, the TDP’s alliance with BJP is no liability for TDP as Jagan is also trying hard to build bridges with the BJP. Also, Jagan touched the feet of President elect and veteran BJP leader Mr.Ramnath Kovind which has been a point of discussion for a while in the political circle over intentions of Jagan. TDP brought in many leaders including Vijayawada MLA Jaleel Khan to woe Muslim voters. Mr. Khan is a very respected leader among Muslims and was recently nominated as Wakf Board chairman, which may be a factor to vote for TDP. Wakf Board controls several mosques, waqf properties, orphanages, burial grounds etc.
Jagan’s Negative Campaign:
Recently over the past few days, YSR Congress leader Jaganmohan Reddy made controversial remarks against CM Chandrababu Naidu in the campaign. The comments made by Jagan brought the political might to a new low when he said that “nothing wrong if Chandrababu Naidu is shot dead on the road.” He went on to defend his comments and regularly used unparliamentary language since then. On the other hand, YSRCP MLA Roja made vulgar comments on Akhila Priya and her dress while campaigning, which may not go well with women voters as they usually tend to carry sympathy on Akhila Priya as she lost both her parents.
These type of negative campaigns do not usually go well with the public often, especially in a closely fought battle as Nandyal by-election.
Money Factor:
Experts estimated that about Rs 300 crore could have been spent on this election so far in Nandyal by both the parties. As per Loksatta leader, Jayaprakash Narayan, “Some estimates even go up to Rs 300 crores. This is a poor state with poor people, but super wealthy politicos.” YSRCP registered many complaints against TDP with the Election Commission alleging TDP of misusing government machinery to lure voters.
With so many factors affecting the outcome of this elections, political leaders on both the sides are claiming superiority irrespective. Be it development, Kapu reservation factor, Muslim factor or for any other reason, in a constituency where victory is decided by 2-3 percent of voters, it can be anybody’s game. Let’s wait and see who plays the master stroke, just in time for the elections.