The YSR Congress Party has announced its full list of 175 candidates for the Assembly and for the 25 parliament seats from Andhra Pradesh. Most opinion polls so far by national TV channels have been predicting an edge for Jagan Mohan Reddy in the state, while recent ones have been showing that the gap is getting bridged fast.
One would expect the YSR Congress Party to be strengthened by the Padayatra of Jagan and be confident of its own flock. Travelling around 3500 km through 13 districts of Andhra Pradesh in around a years’ time, it was a record-breaker. Huge crowds wished him all the way, and such a show should easily unnerve the opponent. However, surprisingly, the party has kept its doors open till the last minute for all kinds of turncoats to turn up and provided them with tickets for Parliament and the Assembly.
Six of the 25 MP candidates of the party had joined them within the last one month. Two of them joined just a few days ago.
Senior leader and former minister Adala Prabhakar Reddy was named TDP candidate for Nellore (Rural) Assembly seat. He had even begun campaigning for the election from the seat allotted to him by the TDP and had put up posters and banners asking people to vote for him. Then he suddenly becomes ‘not reachable’ and goes missing from Nellore, and surfaces later with Jagan telling that he “regrets not having joined YSRC all these days”. Adala is now YSRCP’s Lok Sabha candidate for Nellore. He now says that Naidu ‘misunderstood’ him and was ‘misguided’ by others.
Big names like former Congress leader Magunta Srinivasula Reddy, a three-time MP from Ongole and last seen in the TDP has also jumped into the YSRCP bandwagon a few days ago. Magunta is now YSRCP’s candidate for Ongole Lok Sabha.
Serial entrepreuner and film producer Potluri Prasad was said to have tried his best to get the TDP ticket from Vijayawada even in 2014. He could not. He joined the YSRCP recently and has been blessed with a ticket from Vijayawada Lok Sabha seat.
Modugula Venugopal Reddy, a former MP and now a TDP MLA from Guntur district, was peeved that he was not drafted into Naidu’s cabinet. He joined the YSRCP a week ago and has been made the party candidate for the Guntur Lok Sabha seat.
Gedela Srinubabu was the Jana Sena Party candidate for Visakhapatnam Lok Sabha constituency, and he joined the YSRCP citing ‘personal reasons’ just a few days before the filing of nominations. He is not your normal ayaram-gayaram. He is a young and successful entrepreneur and news reports claim he was drafted into Pawan’s party for his ‘pro-farmer outlook’. Whatever that means! However, he was not given an MP seat in YSRCP.
Party hopping and defections are nothing new to Andhra Pradesh. In the 2014 Assembly polls, the YSRCP won 67 seats in the 175-member Andhra Pradesh assembly. Defections started a few months after Naidu settled down in office. By 2019, YSRCP lost more than 1/3 of its MLAs to Telugu Desam Party. Four of the MLAs who defected were taken into the Cabinet by the TDP without their resignation and re-election.
YSRCP had then wanted a stricter anti-defection law and had advocated for the same. And in all this melee, Sunil Kumar, an MLA from YSR Congress party, and a doctor to boot, tried to slit his wrist. He shot a video of himself in tears saying that his ‘honesty was not being recognised by Jagan’. He was rushed to hospital after what is termed a ‘failed suicide bid’ and he is out of danger. He has not been given a ticket.
YSRCP leaders say the inflow into their party was because of its winning chances, while the TDP says that YSRCP lacks good candidates and hence this last minute poaching. For now, the election campaign has begun and party-hoppers would be waiting for the next opportunity: the announcement of results.