Today, assembly by-polls are being held on four seats in three states – in Andhra Pradesh’s Nandyal, Delhi’s Bawana and Goa’s Valpoi and Panaji.
The result of Delhi’s Bawana might give a measure of Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government’s popularity or the lack of it. Similarly, the Goa by-polls could indicate whether Manohar Parrikar continues to be popular in the state, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was able to form the government only after burning the midnight oil.
But the most intriguing of the four contests is Nandyal.
Nandyal, in Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool district, was once what Varanasi is today.
In 1991, Nandyal sent PV Narasimha Rao, the then prime minister of the country, to the Lok Sabha in a by-election. Today, Nandyal relives some of its past fame, although for more modest reasons, but with the potential to impact Andhra as well as the national politics
in the months to come.
The by-poll in Nandyal has been necessitated by the death of the sitting MLA – Bhuma Venkata Nagi Reddy.
Interestingly, Narasimha Rao had defeated Nagi Reddy, the Telugu Desam Party candidate, in the 1996 Lok Sabha polls.
In that Lok Sabha polls, Narasimha Rao had contested from two seats – Nandyal and Berhampur in Odisha. Rao, who had to quit as the prime minister and Congress had to bow out of the government, vacated the Nandyal seat and Nagi Reddy
won the by-election. Nagi Reddy
represented the seat in 1998 and 1999 Lok Sabha polls as well.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who leads the ruling TDP, has made winning Nandyal election a prestige issue. His rival, the young YS Jaganmohan Reddy, who leads the Yuvajana Sramik Ryuthu Congress Party (YSRCP) or YSR Congress, is trying his utmost to make the Nandyal contest a referendum on the three years of the Naidu government.
Nandyal has been a Congress and now YSRCP bastion. Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, to be held alongside the Lok Sabha polls, are less than two years away. A victory for the YSRCP could pave the way for a better performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha and assembly polls.
Jaganmohan has put his heart and sinew into the campaign, forcing Naidu to deploy nearly a dozen of his ministers and several legislators in the constituency.
YSRCP’s election campaign is being managed by election strategist Prashant Kishor and his team, which also needs to redeem itself after the setback in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls. The Congress party had decided against hiring Kishor’s services for the Gujarat assembly polls that are slated to be held at the end of the year.
The Nandyal contest first hit national
headlines three weeks back when Naidu lost his cool during one of his public meetings when he told a crowd that they dare not walk on the roads laid by his government, or receive pension being given by his government if they are not ready to vote for the TDP.
The Nandyal Lok Sabha seat is currently held by the YSRCP. In 2014, Nagi Reddy
had won the assembly seat as the YSRCP candidate but later defected to the TDP.
In total, 21 YSRCP legislators defected to Naidu’s party.
In 2014, Nagi Reddy
had defeated the TDP
candidate and two time MLA and TDP
candidate Silpa Mohan Reddy. Now, Silpa Mohan Reddy is the YSRCP candidate. The TDP
has fielded Bhuma Brahmananda Reddy.
Jaganmohan’s campaign has focused on ‘navaratnaaulu’, or nine promises that comprise YSRCP’s agenda post-2019, with the commitment that it would bring back the late YS Rajasekhar Reddy-led Congress government of 2004 to 2009.
Jaganmohan has promised legislative council posts for minorities, safe drinking water to each house, houses for poor, subsidised canteen for the poor and has also attacked Naidu government’s liquor policy. Jaganmohan has also committed to increasing the number of districts in Andhra Pradesh from 13 to 25, ridiculed Naidu for “kneeling in front of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to escape from CBI cases” but still failing to secure any special package for the state.
Both in 2004, as well as 2009, the Congress-led Sonia Gandhi owed much to Rajasekhar Reddy, Jaganmohan’s father, for being able to form the government at the Centre. It was the improved Congress tally from Andhra Pradesh that had helped it emerge as the single largest party in the Lok Sabha in 2004.
Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party had won 35-seats in Uttar Pradesh in that election and reduced Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s tally to 10 from that state, which contributed to bring BJP’s overall national
tally down from 182 in 1999 to 135 in 2004. The BJP had won 57-seats from UP in 1998 and 29 in 1999.
However, Congress improved its tally from 114-seats in 1999 to 145-seats in 2004 primarily due to the 29 of the 42-seats it won in Andhra Pradesh. In 1999, BJP ally TDP
had won 29 seats, while BJP had won a surprising 7 seats in the southern state. But if TDP
could win only 5-seats in 2004, BJP scored a zero from Andhra Pradesh that year. In 2014 Lok Sabha, of the undivided Andhra Pradesh’s 42-seats, BJP won 3, Congress 2, TDP
16, Telangana Rashtra Samiti 11 and YSRCP 10.
Would Nandyal signal the rise of Jaganmohan in Andhra and national politics?
The counting of votes for the four by-polls is on August 28.