Its not just the TDPs colour yellow that swamps Kuppam. Chandrababu Naidus carefully nurtured constituency sports different hues red and yellow capsicums,exotic violet cabbages,dark-red export-quality tomatoes and olive-green gherkins in the fields. A little farther,there are white cocoons of the sericulture plantations and quarries of the famous Kuppam green granite.
You are surrounded by the trappings of Israeli micro-irrigation technology and a mobile phone tower inaugurated by Rajan Bharti Mittal long before rural Andhra moved from coin boxes to mobile phones. From a remote and backward region till 1980,Kuppam,which in local dialect means confluence or a meeting place, and is situated on Andhra Pradeshs border touching Karnataka and Tamil Nadu,has made rapid strides in rural development.
Naidu is the benefactor and no political leader counted,until this time.
Even with a strong anti-incumbency wave in 2004,he had won with a margin of 60,000 votes from here.
An uncertain Congress,pushed on the backfoot by voting trends in the first phase of elections in the state,and an emboldened Praja Rajyam Party of Chiranjeevi have made Kuppam in Chittoor district a rendezvous point in the run-up to the second phase of elections,and both have sent in some heavy political artillery.
Until the 2004 elections,and even after that,Naidu and Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy carefully avoided stepping on each others toes in their respective constituencies. But contesting the fifth consecutive term from here,Naidu is suddenly being confronted by both YSR and Chiranjeevi.
Though YSR himself has kept away,he has sent son Y S Jaganmohan Reddy to campaign against Naidu. This prompted Naidu to campaign over the weekend in Pulivendala,YSRs constituency. Chiranjeevi and his two brothers Pavan Kalyan and Nagendra Babu are also drawing in huge crowds with their campaigns in Kuppam.
The Chief Minister is making a desperate attempt to defeat Naidu. Instead of campaigning in Kadapa,where he is contesting for the Lok Sabha,the CMs son is spending more time campaigning here. We are taking it as a clear sign that a jittery Congress is trying to scare the TDP here, says Muni Ratnam,Naidus campaign manager.
But it is not Kuppam that the Congress is actually aiming for. The TDP has won the Chittoor parliamentary constituency five times since 1984,except 1989 and 1991. Kuppam,with close to 1.76 lakh votes,always holds the key for the TDP by making up for any Congress gains in the other six of the seven Assembly segments in the constituency. In 2004,the TDPs D K Adikesavalu Naidu had won from Chittoor because 60 per cent of Kuppam voted for him. Adikesavalu Naidu has joined the Congress now and the TDP has fielded Dr Shiva Prasad this time.
Chittoor is also the only constituency where in spite of having less than 500 Naidu community votes,the TDP has been winning. Thirty per cent of the population is Tamil-speaking and 90 per cent of the population belongs to other backward classes.
Kuppam sports all the signs of the struggle to control it. Choppers carrying political leaders like Union Minister D Purandereswari,CMs son Jaganmohan and Chiranjeevi criss-cross the sky. Chiranjeevis roadshow was a great hit. He cut Naidu to size saying that he not only betrayed his father-in-law but also the people of Kuppam. Naidu does not bother to visit Kuppam often. In fact,his son Lokesh filed nomination papers for him this time, says a charged-up Chiranjeevi fan,K Venkatswamy.
While the PRP has no base here,it is using roadshows of Chiranjeevi and Pavan Kalyan to woo the voters.
Naidus son Nara Lokesh,otherwise shy and introvert,has been assigned the task of campaigning here. He is said to have been little prepared for Sundays scathing attack on Naidu by Jaganmohan.
Naidu himself is planning to take out a road show now and addressed a public meeting today. Popular actor N Balakrishna has been roped in for supporting role.
Naidus biggest USP,though,remains the change he has brought in Kuppam. It has at least 20 schools now,13 primary health centres,a 100-bed hospital that draws patients from even the neighbouring districts in Tamil Nadu,its 600 villages are all electrified with protected water supply and it has approach roads. However,there is a cloud over him since the YSR Government scrapped the Israeli model drip irrigation project at Kuppam alleging irregularities in the scheme.