He may still hold rallies with a bust of TDP founder N T Rama Rao, but Chandrababu Naidu does not believe actors understand politics. “He’s an actor. What does he know of politics,” he asks of former ally, Jana Sena party chief Pawan Kalyan.
Kalyan, however, has done Naidu a favour in this beach town by fielding former CBI joint director V V Lakshminarayana. Lakshminarayana’s face staring out of hoardings, his name always suffixed with the letters “J D”, for the post he held when he arrested YSR Congress chief Jagan Mohan Reddy for alleged corruption, is a constant reminder for voters of Jagan’s allegedly “tainted” past.
With Jagan breathing down his neck, Naidu, called Babu in these parts, makes sure he himself reminds voters about the 31 cases against the son of former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Rajashekhara Reddy at each public meeting. His trademark line is: Jagan went to the Assembly for 24 days, and visited courts on 240 days.
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Kalyan, who is in alliance with Left parties in the state this time, may have made that job easier for the TDP chief here.
While Naidu is hoping that his welfare politics — there is hardly any section of society that is not receiving some dole from the state government — and his allegations of betrayal by the BJP will see him through, Jagan has quite some following among the poor and people from backward caste communities. Also, says Jagga Rao, who works in the hospitality industry there is a “mood for change” this time – “Babu has worked, but we want to give Jagan a chance.”
The YSR chief has left nothing to chance. He has already done the regulation padayatra, seen as a good omen. When Naidu was chief minister in 2004, Rajashekhara Reddy had done a padayatra. He emerged victorious. Before the 2014 elections, Naidu had done a padayatra. He won.
TDP’s Lok Sabha candidate for Visakhapatnam, Shri Bharat, a first-time Lok Sabha aspirant, concedes: “This time the contest is with YSR Congress. The rest…we will see if they keep their deposits.”
For the BJP, the focus is on deflating Naidu’s “betrayal” balloon. Every meeting that she goes to, BJP candidate D Purandeswari, who was a minister in the Manmohan Singh government but later crossed over, says that for all his lamentations about denial of special category status to AP, Naidu had traded that for a special package. But, she concedes, Naidu’s spin has hurt the BJP: “We need to tell people the truth.”