As Jagan says ‘Siddham’, YSRCP leaders in Andhra are reluctant to contest Lok Sabha polls. Here’s why

Both TDP and YSRCP are regional parties, and national issues are of little concern to them, says political science Prof Dr Veerraju.

ByBhaskar Basava

Published Feb 03, 2024 | 4:00 PMUpdatedFeb 03, 2024 | 4:00 PM

YS Jagan with his YSRCP MPs in 2019. (Supplied)

The ruling YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh has released six lists of in-charges of Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies in the state, ahead of the April/May elections.

The lists include 16 in-charges for the Lok Sabha segments and around 64 for Assembly seats, all potential candidates.

Party supremo and Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy rolled out the outfit’s poll campaign from the port city of Visakhapatnam on 27 January, with the slogan Siddham — Telugu for “ready”.

However, despite the massive rally in the City of Destiny and multiple lists of in-charges, the party seems to be frantically trying to steer clear of turbulence, caused by several factors.

Three YSRCP MPs out of 22 have quit the party so far. They include Machilipatnam MP Balashowry Vallabbhaneni, Narasaraopet MP Lavu Sri Krishna Devarayalu, and Kurnool MP Dr Sanjeev Kumar.

Vallabbhaneni is likely to join the Jana Sena, while Devarayalu is in talks with the TDP. Kumar is yet to take a call.

Another MP, Kanumuru Raghu Rama Krishna Raju, has been rebelling against the party ever since his victory in 2019.

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Disconnect disturbs YSRCP plans

The YSRCP nominated in-charges to segments in advance so that they could take up the necessary groundwork much ahead of the campaign gaining steam. However, nothing much seems to be happening in the constituencies.

Eerily, the in-charges are not making much noise to be seen or heard.

The reasons are many. Political analysts pointed at a lack of connection with the public over the past four-and-a-half years, non-cooperation by the MLAs, and a non-local image.

These factors have made many in-charges disinterested in contesting from the constituencies assigned to them.

The discontent became apparent when Satyavedu MLA Koneti Adimulam left the party after he was nominated as an in-charge for the Lok Sabha seat. He wanted to continue as an MLA.

Realising the discontent, the YSRCP reinstated Deputy Minister and GD Nellore MLA K Narayan Swamy as in-charge of his Assembly segment. He was earlier given the charge of the Chittoor Parliament seat.

In 2019, the YSRCP had won 22 out of 25 Lok Sabha seats, leaving just three to the TDP. The overwhelming win was credited to a “Jagan wave” that swept across the state.

The 2019 win also suggested that barring a few candidates, others won the polls only due to the Jagan factor, and not because of their personal bond with the voters.

The dynamics, however, seem to have changed now.

“Many of the politicians who rode the Jagan wave to victory in 2019 were new to the public. This includes Bapatla MP Nandigam Suresh, Kurnool MP Sanjeev Kumar, Anantapur MP Talari Rangayya, and Hindupur MP Kuruva Gorantla Madhav,” Dr G Veerraju, Head of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Andhra University, told South First.

“These candidates were local but still unfamiliar. For such candidates, this election poses a significant challenge,” he added.

In 2019, multiple factors such as popular opinion molded on Jagan’s promise to get special status for the state, sympathy for him being in the Opposition for a decade, and TDP’s failure to deliver on Andhra bifurcation promises favoured most of the YSRCP candidates.

“However, this time, the voters are a disenchanted lot. There is a feeling that all party MPs are the same. In such cases, there will be a tough contest, and local political influence is much required to sway votes,” he added.

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Placing caste over accessibility and acceptability

A former consultant from I-PAC, who led the YSRCP poll campaign last election in multiple districts, also felt that the in-charges lack political clout at the local level.

“Out of the 16 in-charges announced, five are ‘non-locals’ from neighbouring parliamentary constituencies who are reportedly less familiar. This will make the contest tougher for the YSRCP,” he told South First, requesting anonymity.

He also found fault with Jagan’s over-dependence on caste equations. “There are other factors, such as ‘accessibility and acceptability’. The caste factor alone wouldn’t suffice,” the former consultant said.

Notably, Jagan’s 27 January Siddham public meeting in Visakhapatnam was his first after 2019.

The former I-PAC professional defined accessibility as primary expectation of the public. Similar issues of accessibility, or the lack of it, impacted BRS’ prospects in neighbouring Telangana. While facing issues, the voters want the leader to be accessible, listen to them, and provide a solution. They want the leader to be locally available.

“On the other hand, acceptability refers to how voters compare leaders based on past behaviour, track record, family lineage, and promises. Factors like ‘majority caste’ would be an add-on,” he noted.

He cited examples of Malagundla Sankara Narayana, a former minister and MLA from Penukonda, who was nominated as in-charge in Anantapur despite lacking political clout in the area compared to Hindupur, his home district.

Similarly, Eluru Lok Sabha seat in-charge Sunil Kumar Yadav, son of civil supplies minister Karumuri Nageswara Rao, has influence in West Godavari district.

Another example is former irrigation minister Anil Kumar Yadav, the Nellore City MLA, given the charge of Narasaraopet, after the MP Lavu Sri Krishna Devarayalu left the party.

J Shanta, a former BJP MP from Karnataka, has been appointed as the Hindupur in-charge. Despite being a new face, she has roots in the constituency but has spent most of her time in Karnataka.

Botcha Jhansi Lakshmi, a former MP from Vizianagaram and wife of Minister Botcha Satyanarayana, has strong political clout in Vizianagaram. She is now in-charge of Visakhapatnam.

Though these leaders rank lower in “accessibility and acceptability” in constituencies now under their charge, they have their significant political clout in their home segments.

But, there is a common factor behind their nominations as in-charges: Caste. All belong to the Backward Class (BC) community, and Jagan and his associates are banking on the majority of the community in these parliamentary segments to win the polls.

“However, the stand-alone impact of community factor remains a big question,” the former analyst added.

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Unfamiliar leaders

There are five other Lok Sabha segment in-charges, although they are not very familiar with assigned constituencies.

The two MLAs nominated to their home parliamentary seats may face issues. Avanigadda MLA Simhadri Ramesh is in charge of Machilipatnam, replacing the sitting MP Balashowry, who is set to join the Jana Sena Party.

Ramesh is contesting outside the Avanigadda constituency for the first time and lacks familiarity with the electorate.

The nomination of Paderu MLA Kottagulli Bhagya Lakshmi as a possible Araku Valley Lok Sabha candidate has not gone down well with other aspirants such as former minister Pasupuleti Bala Raju, Araku MLA Chetti Palguna, and sitting MP Goddeti Madhavi.

They aspire to contest, which puts Lakshmi in a discomfort zone as key leaders are against her nomination.

On the other hand, new faces such as Perada Tilak (Srikakulam), Chalamalasetty Sunil Kumar (Kakinada), Dr Guduri Srinivas (Rajamahendravaram), Guduri Uma (Narasapuram), and Uma Reddy Venkat Ramana (Guntur) are likely to contest in the coastal districts, where the “familiarity” of the in-charge with the voters goes beyond party considerations.

Take the 2019 elections for example. Simultaneous elections were held for Andhra Pradesh assembly and Lok Sabha in 2019. While the TDP, even in its strongholds such as Guntur and Vijayawada, managed to win only one Assembly seat each (Guntur West and Vijayawada East) it won both Lok Sabha seats in the same region.

Voters who chose YSRCP candidates as MLAs in the region, perhaps voted for TDP candidates to be MPs, making a clear distinction between assembly and Lok Sabha poll choices.

The former consultant opined one cannot rule out the possibility that YSRCP’s Lok Sabha candidates in the region, Madugula Venu Gopal Reddy (Guntur), and Potluri Vara Prasad (Vijayawada), were less popular and familiar than the TDP nominees Galla Jayadev (Guntur), and Kesineni Nani (Vijayawada). Both TDP leaders won the 2019 elections despite the Jagan wave. The popularity and accessibility of TDP candidates may have helped in such instances, the former analyst opined.

Nani recently quit the TDP and joined the YSRCP. He has been nominated as the in-charge of the Vijayawada Lok Sabha segment.

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The reshuffle conundrum

The YSRCP has also shuffled MLAs and MPs, which caused much bad blood.

The sitting MP of Tirupati, Maddila Gurumurthy was earlier named as the in-charge of Satyavedu Assembly segment. However, after the sitting MLA there, Adimulam Koneti, raised the banner of revolt and quit the party, Gurumurthy was shifted back to the parliamentary in-charge position.

The Chittoor Lok Sabha constituency also witnessed an upheaval. While the incumbent MP N Reddeppa’s name was announced as the in-charge of the GD Nellore (SC) Assembly seat, Deputy Chief Minister K Narayana Swamy was named in-charge of the Lok Sabha seat.

However, in the sixth list, this decision was reversed after Swamy reportedly expressed reluctance to give away the Assembly seat.

Similar events unfolded in Kurnool, where the sitting MP Dr. Sanjeev Kumar quit the party after being denied a ticket.

Labour Minister and Alur MLA Gummanur Jayaram has been nominated as the Lok Sabha constituency in-charge, though he is reluctant to shift to national politics.

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Why are MPs sticking to YSRCP?

Yet, the sitting YSRCP MPs not switching allegiance to other formations is interesting, especially considering that out of 16 MPs, only three have been nominated as Assembly in-charges, and two have been renominated to the Lok Sabha.

Only Machilipatnam MP Balashowry Vallabbhaneni and Narasaraopet MP Lavu Sri Krishna Devarayalu have joined the opposition camp.

The former I-PAC consultant said, “Since the 2019 elections, YSRCP MPs have not been actively involved in any campaigns or mass outreach programmes. While MLAs handled most campaigns, the MPs were sidelined due to local dynamics. This isolation has positioned the MLAs closer to the voters.”

“Meanwhile, the TDP-JSP alliance is navigating internal rifts and potential accommodation of the BJP. MPs with less public connection might find themselves with limited priority as the alliance already has numerous aspirants. Despite disgruntlement towards the YSRCP over renomination, apart from the two MPs mentioned, that’s the reason none are seen in the opposition camp,” he opined.

He referred to Kurnool MP Dr. Sanjeev Kumar, who, despite resigning from the party, is finding it hard to find accommodation in the TDP camp.

Regarding the disinterest of MLAs in MP segments, Dr Veerraju says that in Andhra Pradesh, both TDP and YSRCP are regional parties, and national issues are of little concern.

“Only businessmen and industrialists show interest, given their advantages in being in Delhi. MLAs perceive moving to the MP level as a departure from ground-level politics, leaving their hard-earned space to others,” he added.