Amidst promises of all kinds of freebies from the three main parties from Rs 2 per kg rice to free power,colour TVs and cash 22 Lok Sabha constituencies in Andhra Pradesh will go to polls in the first phase tomorrow. Of these,17 are in 10 districts of Telangana region,while five are in north coastal Andhra.
In Telangana,which has 119 Assembly seats under it,the key issues are: separate state,infrastructure development,improvement in water supply for irrigation and drinking,and employment opportunities. Going by the bypoll results in which the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS),which is spearheading the separate state movement,nearly got wiped out,the Telangana sentiment was written off even till two months ago.
But,with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) announcing support for a separate Telangana,and Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) making it clear that it would respect the sentiments of Telangana people,there is a resurgence in the demand for a separate state. By becoming a partner of the TDP-led Grand Alliance,the TRS,which is contesting 45 Assembly seats and four LS seats,is back in the reckoning.
On the other side is the Congress with its pro-poor schemes. The Congress government is hoping to cash in on the irrigation and drinking water supply schemes that it has initiated in Telangana.
Campaigning in the region has been mostly about more pro-poor schemes,incentives and freebies. While the Congress harped on its development schemes and promised more free healthcare,Rs 2 per kg rice,pension for women and free power the Grand Alliance,besides appealing to the Telangana sentiment,unleashed a high-pitched campaign promising the moon to voters cash transfer scheme in which beneficiary BPL families would receive Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,500 every month as sustenance allowance,free colour TVs,free power to farm sector.
The PRP promised LPG cylinders for Rs 100,2.5 acres land free to landless farmers,Rs 100 worth of rations every month to poor families,free dhotis and sarees,Rs 1,000 unemployment monthly allowance and free education to girls.
In the five coastal constituencies,anti-SEZ development,rights for tribals,special rights for fishing communities and development of rural infrastructure are some of the major issues. Wary of incurring the wrath of voters,Chief Minister Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy scrapped the 900-km long Coastal Corridor project. But there is unrest in the coastal areas over land acquisition for SEZs. With resentment and protests growing in the 10 districts of coastal Andhra,where the Congress won 102 of 134 Assembly seats in 2004,the government is wary of the negative outcome.
In 2004,the TRS had won 26 Assembly and five Lok Sabha seats in Telangana. However,in the bypolls that were held in May 2008 in 16 Assembly constituencies,the TRS could only manage to win back seven seats. And it retained only two of the four LS constituencies where bypolls were held,with party chief K Chandrasekhara Rao just scraping through with a margin of 15,000 votes.
The PRP is expected to perform well in some of the coastal districts while in the rest of the state it will be the Congress versus the Grand Alliance comprising TDP,TRS,CPI and CPM. Political analysts say the PRP is likely to leave the state with its first-ever hung Assembly. Even if it manages 40 to 50 seats,it would leave Congress and the Grand Alliance without a majority. PRP may finally end up playing the kingmaker, says analyst I M Venkat Rao.
22 Constituencies Andhra Pradesh,phase-i
Candidates to watch out for
• Renuka Chowdhury (Congress)
• Asaduddin Owaisi (MIM)
• D Purandareswari (Congress)
• S Jaipal Reddy (Congress)
• Bandaru Dattaraya (BJP)