The major political parties in Andhra Pradesh like the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) have announced their candidates for the Lok Sabha polls and are busy campaigning. There are 25 seats in the state.
The Congress and the BJP are a bit late to the game and don’t seem to expect much. They have a problem in finding winnable heavyweights to represent them. The Jana Sena of Pawan Kalyan in alliance with the CPI, CPI (M) and BSP appears to be focusing on some key areas in coastal Andhra Pradesh, where they have a substantial presence, leaving the field open in other areas to the TDP and YSRCP.
We look at a few of the key parliamentary constituencies in the state.
The core capital region of Amaravati falls within this constituency and Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s capital area development and its inclusiveness quotient will be put to test here. Guntur is now represented by Galla Jayadev of the TDP who is among India’s richest MP’s. Also of interest is that the Mangalagiri assembly is a part of Guntur constituency and Nara Lokesh, TDP leader and son of Chandrababu Naidu is in contest. Galla Jayadev, the present MP, had won in 2014 with more than 75,000 votes and has a good parliamentary record. He is associated with the Amara Raja group, and also comes from a family of politicians; his mother Aruna Kumari was an MLA and minister in the YSR cabinet, and his grandfather Paturi Rajagopala Naidu was a Member of Parliament twice from Chittoor and was a senior leader of the Swatantra Party along with NG Ranga. It is said that Rajagopal Naidu was one of the earlier mentors of Chandrababu Naidu, and both of them hail from Chittoor. The Galla family has its political roots in Chittoor district but Jayadev is a known face in Guntur. Interestingly, Guntur was also represented twice by NG Ranga, the peasant leader of the Swantantra Party, and a close associate of Jayadev’s grandfather. Jayadev now faces Modugula Venugopal Reddy, TDP MLA who recently joined the YSRC, and what is at stake in Guntur is Naidu’s Amaravati story and the political baptism of his son, Nara Lokesh. Nothing less.
The constituency is now represented by Naramalli Siva Prasad, a minor actor and politician who shot to fame in the national media by his constant and unique protests against the union government; first for bifurcation of the state of Andhra Pradesh and secondly for denying the special category status to the state. He dressed himself up as Ravana, Rama, Hanuman, Gandhi, Shivaji, Shiva and MGR. Later, he even dressed up as Adolf Hitler — creating a furore. Apart from these mythological and historical roles, he had also dressed himself up as a magician, schoolboy, farmer, fisherman and traditional storyteller. He persisted with these tactics and brought a lot of attention to the issue, but critics say it also led to its trivialisation. He is now in contest from Chittoor and one has to see how far his voters are sympathetic to his novel protests.
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Chittoor also has Chandrababu’s Kuppam constituency and he normally wins with a handsome margin helping the MP candidate coast through. It is as if Chandrababu is in contest as an MP too, as Siva Prasad is a light-weight in the party. In 2014, despite Chandrababu winning with a margin of more than 90,000 votes, Siva Prasad struggled to win the seat with a margin of around 45,000 votes as an MP. This was despite that he faced a rank outsider to the constituency and a surprise choice of Ms Samanya Kiran, wife of a West Bengal cadre IAS officer. Now, he faces a more formidable rival and opponent in Redeppa of YSRCP.
The constituency gains importance as actor Pawan Kalyan is contesting from Gajuwaka, an assembly segment in this constituency. And his party has put its best foot forward with ex-IPS officer V V Lakshminarayana contesting on behalf of Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party. Lakshminarayana, the former joint director of the CBI, was a key figure in investigating YSRCP chief Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy’s disproportionate assets and has an image of a bribe-fighter. He is a known face across AP, regarded well for his social work and could hold a ‘fresh face’ appeal to voters in this constituency. During the 2009 elections, Pawan’s brother Chiranjeevi’s party had polled around three lakh votes in this constituency, and Pawan, now, is no pushover. TDP has named MV Sri Bharat, an educationist, son of a former member of parliament and the son-in-law of actor-politician N Balakrishna. Nara Lokesh, son of Naidu, is another son-in-law of actor Balakrishna. Balakrishna is the son of NTR. It certainly gets cosy here. And in this family drama, the BJP candidate is Ms Purandeswari, a former union minister, daughter of NTR and sister of Balakrishna. She had won from this constituency as a Congress candidate earlier. YSRCP has fielded a realtor, M.V.V. Satyanarayana for the seat. The constituency had been with the BJP during the TDP-BJP alliance in 2014, and their candidate had defeated Ms Vijayamma, wife of YSR, and mother of Jagan in a surprise victory. Now, voters might be getting ready to throw up some more surprises.
The parliamentary constituency is the pocket borough of the YSR family and is now represented in parliament by YS Avinash Reddy, a cousin of Jagan Mohan Reddy. It also gains importance as Jagan Reddy is contesting from the Pulivendla assembly constituency which is a part of Kadapa parliamentary constituency. YS Rajashekar Reddy won from Kadapa parliament four times, his brother YS Vivekananda Reddy won twice from the same seat, and YS Jagan had won twice (including a bypoll). It is really all within the family. The family faced a mild threat to its influence when in 1996, YS Rajashekhar Reddy won by a margin of a mere 5000 votes. The family clout was at its pinnacle when Jagan Reddy won the seat by a margin of more than 5,40,000 votes after the death of his father. Coming to Pulivendla, the assembly constituency the family contests from, they have won the seat in the last 11 contests. The interest in this constituency is also due to the recent death/suspected murder of YS Vivekananda Reddy, an uncle of Jagan Reddy. He had represented the constituency twice and was quite popular. After Jagan split from the Congress, he continued with the Congress party and even contested against Ms Vijayammma, wife of YSR. Later on, he had patched up with the family, and was actively campaigning for the YSRCP when he was found dead in suspicious circumstances. Though political murders were once frequent in the district, Vivekananda’s death has shaken the family and supporters of YSR. TDP has come up with Adinarayana Reddy a three-time MLA as a contestant to take on YS Avinash Reddy. The interest in this constituency is on the margin of victory for the YSR family.
A leading urban centre near the new capital, Amaravati, it is the nerve centre of political activity in coastal Andhra Pradesh. The constituents are urban, educated and politically aware. Vijayawada has an interesting contest with Potluri Vara Prasad, a serial entrepreneur and filmmaker contesting on the YSR Congress ticket. Vara Prasad has an American dream story to his credit. If not exactly rags- to- riches, he has had humble beginnings. He was denied a visa to the US thrice, but goes on in his fourth attempt, sets up two companies in the US which he later sells at a huge premium. He is now pitted against Kesineni Srinivas of TDP a local entrepreneur who won the seat by a decent margin in 2014. Vijayawada has had leading names representing it over the years, starting with Harindranath Chattopadhyay in 1952. Harindranath was an Indian English poet, a dramatist, an actor, and a musician. The younger brother of Sarojini Naidu, he won as an independent candidate with Communist support from Vijayawada. The Constituency is known for its strong communist influence till the mid 80’s and has always been represented by leaders who made a mark in national politics. KL Rao won thrice from Vijayawada. A PhD in Engineering from the University of Birmingham, he was a Padma Bhushan awardee for his contribution in the spheres of irrigation and power, KL Rao was designer of dams, and known as the brain behind the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam, the world’s longest masonry dam on the river Krishna. He was a cabinet minister under Nehru, Indira and Shastri. Later on, it was represented by Upendra, a union minister and a leading light of the opposition, and later by his son-in-law, Lagadapati Rajagopal who used pepper spray on other members in parliament. He created quite a pandemonium during his pepper spray protests in parliament against the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. Though the constituency is in a TDP belt, it has repeatedly returned Congress candidates too. Both the parties are evenly poised.