The fledgling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), floated by Kadapa MP Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, has swept the by-elections in Andhra Pradesh, bagging 15 of the 18 Assembly seats and the lone parliamentary constituency, where polling was held on Tuesday.
The ruling Congress-I in the state managed to secure just two Assembly seats, while the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) drew a blank.
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi, spearheading the movement for a separate Telangana state, won the Parakala Assembly seat with a slender margin of 756 votes over the YSRCP candidate. Of the 18 Assembly segments that went to the polls, Parakala is the only constituency located in the Telangana region. The other constituencies are in the Andhra and Rayalaseema regions.
YSRCP candidate M Rajamohan Reddy won the Nellore Lok Sabha constituency with a margin of 291,745 votes over his nearest rival and Congress party candidate, T Subbarami Reddy.
The by-polls, dubbed “semi-finals” to the 2014 general elections, were a crucial test for Jagan, as the Kadapa MP is popularly known. Jagan was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) while in the midst of a hectic election campaign and imprisoned just a fortnight before polling day, in connection with a disproportionate assets (DA) case.
Though the CBI probe was ordered by the AP High Court, it was widely perceived that his arrest was a product of political rivalry with the Congress. Jagan floated a breakaway party when he was not given the chief ministership after his father and former chief minister, Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, died in a helicopter crash on September 2, 2009.
While Jagan remained behind bars, his mother, Y S Vijaya, and sister, Sharmila, spearheaded the election campaign of YSRCP.
The emotional appeal made by the duo to the electorate, according to political observers, had marred whatever prospects the Congress and the TDP had at the hustings.
Following the victory of YSRCP candidates with a huge majority at many places, Sharmila said the verdict indicated that naming of her father in the FIR (first information report) and arrest of her brother in the DA case did not go down well with the electorate. Jagan’s mother, an MLA and honourary president of YSRCP, said the victory was “God’s gift”.
The by-elections were held following disqualification of 17 MLAs who disregarded their party whips and, at the behest of Jagan, voted in favour of a no-confidence motion moved by the TDP against the Congress government. By-elections for the Tirupati constituency was held as actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi had vacated the seat after joining the Congress and got elected a Rajya Sabha member.
However, despite an extensive campaign by Chiranjeevi and Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, the Congress could not win the Tirupati seat.
Incidentally, Tirupati is located in the native district of both the chief minister and Opposition leader N Chandrababu Naidu.