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Year-end review: Andhra Pradesh

Year-end review: Andhra Pradesh

It was a year of hectic politicking in Andhra Pradesh in 2017. Both the ruling Telugu Desam Party headed by chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu and main opposition – YSR Congress party headed by Y S Jaganmohan Reddy stepped up their political activity to outwit each other.

And of course, there was Jana Sena Party headed by power star Pawan Kalyan who tried to make some impact on the Andhra politics, while Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been playing a second fiddle to the ruling TDP in the initial two years, has started raising its voice against its alliance partner, sending signals to an impending break-up of the alliance.

The year began with Naidu continuing with its Operation Akarsh policy of luring the YSRC legislators into the TDP in a bid to demoralise the main opposition.

Starting with Nandyal MLA Bhuma Nagi Reddy and his daughter Akhila Priya from Allagadda, several other MLAs including Badwel MLA T Jayaramulu, Jammalamadugu MLA Adinarayana Reddy, Vijayawada (West) MLA Jaleel Khan, Rampachodavaram MLA Vantala Rajeshwari and Paderu MLA Giddi Eshwari joined the TDP. Besides, YSRC MLC Narayana Reddy and MP Butta Renuka from Kurnool also joined the TDP.

However, within a month of joining the TDP, Bhuma Nagi Reddy died of heart attack and his daughter Akhila Priya got into the limelight, dominating the Nandyal politics.

In the same month, Naidu achieved yet another major political victory over YSRC by winning all the nine seats in the MLC elections under the local bodies’ quota.

The biggest shock for the YSRC came in its stronghold Kadapa where its candidate Y S Vivekananda Reddy was defeated by TDP’s B Ravi by a margin of 34 votes, while in Kurnool, TDP candidate Silpa Chakrapani Reddy secured re-election against Gouru Venkat Reddy of YSRC by a margin of 56 votes.

In Nellore, sitting MLC Vakati Narayana Reddy, a defector from Congress to TDP, won the MLC seat over Anam Vijaykumar Reddy of YSRC by a margin of 87 votes.

The Kurnool politics, however, took a different turn with senior TDP leader Silpa Mohan Reddy along with his brother MLC Silpa Chakrapani Reddy defecting to the YSRC, following the decision of Naidu to field Akhila Priya’s cousin Brahmanand Reddy in the by-elections to Nandyal seat.

Mohan Reddy contested on YSRC ticket. In the bitterly fought elections in August, the TDP bagged the seat with huge margin amidst allegations of the opposition that it had spent over Rs 200 crore in the by-elections.

The YSRC won a major setback in Kakinada Municipal Corporation elections, too, exposing its weaknesses in fighting against the TDP.

As if rubbing salt on the wounds of Jagan, Naidu inducted four of YSRC MLAs – Adinarayana Reddy, Akhila Priya, Amarnath Reddy and Venkata Sujaya Krishna Ranga Rao into his cabinet when he expanded his cabinet in April. It also saw the elevation of Naidu’s son Lokesh, who got elected as an MLC under MLAs’ quota, as the cabinet minister with IT portfolio.

In spite of all these political setbacks, Jagan did not give up his fighting spirit. He launched a massive tirade against Naidu for encouraging defections by purchasing MLAs with ill-gotten money. He took the battle to Delhi and successfully convinced the BJP leadership, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Strategically, Jagan extended unconditional support to BJP candidates for Presidential and Vice Presidential elections and managed to get closer to the BJP leadership. He also had a series of temple runs, invoking divine powers and seeking blessings of Hindu seers to get out of the stigma of being a Christian.

At the same time, the YSRC chief engaged the services of political strategist Prashant Kishor to work out strategies for winning the next elections. And following his advice, Jagan began his marathon “Praja Sankalpam” padayatra from November 6 and has so far completed over 700 km in four Rayalaseema districts.

Besides, he also launched several innovative programmes like YSR Kutumbam to reach out to maximum number of people. As the year comes to a close, Jagan is able to conquer many areas and get tremendous response from the people.

With regard to Jana Sena, the less said the better. Though JSP president Pawan Kalyan has been coming out into the people taking up people’s issues, his uncertainty in coming out with a comprehensive political strategy has caused a confusion among the people, as well as his own followers.

He, however, is said to be silently building up his organisational structure, but as of now, he has only given the impression that JSP is nothing but a subsidiary of the TDP.

As far as the BJP is concerned, it is trying to put up a belligerent posture of late, especially after the party’s resounding victory in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections.

After its senior leader M Venkaiah Naidu, who was the major support for Chandrababu Naidu, being elevated to the post of Vice President of India, the local BJP leaders have started targeting the TDP and Naidu and have been claiming that the BJP would grow on its own. Indications, however, are that the BJP might severe its ties with the TDP and incline towards the YSRC in 2018.

Administratively, it has been yet another difficult year for Chandrababu Naidu. The year started with a weak financial status following demonetisation and the GST virtually broke the state’s economy.

Though the Centre had announced a special financial package to Andhra Pradesh in lieu of Special Category Status in September 2016, it has not materialised completely even by 2017 end. In fact, the package did not get the statutory approval by the Union cabinet for several months, putting Naidu in an embarrassing position. The revenue flow from the centre to offset the revenue deficit was also not forthcoming completely.

The biggest trouble for Naidu was the completion of Polavaram project. While the main contractor Transstroy has miserably failed to stick to the deadlines in completion of works, the Centre did not allow Naidu’s attempts to delink some of the works from Transstroy and call for fresh tenders. The stalemate still continues and as the things stand now, the Centre is now said to be gradually taking control of the project.

And with regards to Amaravati, Naidu has done nothing in the last one year, except for allotting lands to several institutions to start their activity. The designs for the main buildings are still in the finalisation stages and are yet to take off. The road works are still going on.

It will be a big challenge for Naidu to achieve some progress both on Polavaram and Amaravati fronts, so that he can go to the elections with some achievements to show!

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Tags: Chandrababu Naidu Jagan Pawan Kalyan