The electoral battle at Rajampet in Kadapa district is being closely watched because union minister Dr D Purandeshwari, who quit the Congress last month, is contesting from Rayalaseema this time on a BJP ticket.
The area is uncharted territory for her. It will serve as a test to establish whether Narendra Modi’s popularity can ensure a BJP win if the candidate is right, even in a place like Kadapa where BJP has no presence. Kadapa district is stronghold of YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy.
Dr D Purandeshwari’s political future was secure in the Congress. She and her estranged brother-in-law TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu, are not even on talking terms but she had no problems contesting any seat in the state.
The bifurcation changed that. Claiming she was pained by the way the state was divided, and apparently in anticipation of a rout of the Congress in Seemandhra, Purandeswari switched to the BJP and expected a ticket from Vijayawada or Visakhapatnam.
But old family rivalries came into play and Naidu, whose TDP is a BJP ally, is said to have insisted on Purandeswari being allotted a seat other than the one she expected.
“She was very disappointed when the BJP decided to field her from Rajampet. She is a winning candidate but Rajampet will be uphill for her, and it is very disappointing,” a BJP leader says, hinting the BJP may have given up one MP seat.
Daughter of the legendary N T Rama Rao, Purandeshwari had won Visakhapatnam in 2009 and Bapatla in Guntur district in 2004. In Rajampet she faces an “outsider” tag.
Rajampet is geographically in Kadapa district but four of the constituency’s seven assembly segments are in neighouring Chittor district—-Thamballapalle, Pileru, Madanapalle, and Punganur.
Pileru came into existence in 2009 and is former chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy’s stronghold. He has fielded his brother Kishore Kumar Reddy. In the other three constituencies in Chittor district, Thamballapalle, Madanapalle and Punganur, both the YSR Congress and Congress are strong.
In the remaining segments in Kadapa district, Rajampet, Kodur and Rayachoti, YSRCP has massive support. Against these odds, Purandeshwari is contesting against five-time Congress MP Sai Prathap Annayagari. YSRCP has chosen P V Mithun Reddy, 35, son of former Congress MLA Pedireddy Ramachandra Reddy.
Purandeshwari says she likes challenges. “It is a challenge and I accept it. I will do my best,” she says, after braving a pepper spray attack by rival party activists in Punganur.
Shortage of drinking tops the list of problems. Farmer Narayana Reddy at Brahmanpalle discusses this. “Several water supply schemes were started but due to water shortage, they failed. Thousands of bore wells have been dug since 2009 but all of them failed.
There is no groundwater. Everyone is talking of making a golden Seeemandhra, we don’t want gold we want water,’’ says Reddy.
Congress MP A Sai Prathap expelled for opposing bifurcation rejoined the party a month later. He says more than Rs 500 crore has been invested in various schemes to bring water through to many areas in the constituency but there is severe water shortage.
“We invested about Rs 300 crore to sink hundreds of bore wells,” he says. YSRCP’s P V Mithun Reddy is upbeat after a huge turnout of youngsters at a road show at Kodur. “I am contesting for first time but I am confident because all the young voters are with me, and they are also fans of Jaganmohan Reddy,” Reddy says.