YSRCP fielding lorry driver as Assembly candidate triggers discourse on underprivileged representation in politics

TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu mocked the candidate for being a lorry driver, while YSRCP chief YS Jagan defended his educational background.

ByBhaskar Basava

Published Mar 31, 2024 | 9:00 AMUpdatedMar 31, 2024 | 1:18 PM

Mannepakula Veeranjaneyulu, YSRCP's Singanamala candidate. (Supplied)

Can a lorry driver be nominated as a candidate for an Assembly seat?

This question sparks a debate, with the Opposition party in Andhra Pradesh, TDP, questioning the YSRCP’s decision to nominate Mannepakula Veeranjaneyulu, a lorry driver by occupation, for the SC-reserved Singanamala Assembly constituency.

While on the campaign trail in the Singanamala constituency on 28 March, TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu remarked that instead of re-nominating the incumbent YSRCP MLA, Jonnalagadda Padmavathy, the YSRCP opted for a “tipper lorry driver”, Mannepakula Veeranjaneyulu.

He took a jibe at the decision, alleging that the YSRCP had chosen a candidate who couldn’t even sign his name but relied on “left-hand fingerprints”.

In response, YS Jagan defended his party’s decision, highlighting Veeranjaneyulu’s educational qualifications, asserting that he holds an MA in Economics, surpassing Naidu’s own education level.

The TDP, however, hit back at YS Jagan, accusing him of leveraging the candidates’ “poor background” status to gain sympathy from voters.

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The lorry driver row

Jonnalagadda Padmavathy, although from the SC community, is married to Sambasivaa Reddy from the Reddy community. Both hold close ties with Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, with one serving as an MLA and the other as the CEO of the Andhra Pradesh School Education Control and Monitoring Commission.

However, Padmavathy made headlines earlier in January 2024, alleging discrimination as a Dalit MLA and citing pending irrigation works. As a first-time MLA, Padmavathi secured the second-highest percentage of votes in her constituency, following only YS Jagan in the state.

In a live video on January 7, 2024, she accused Tadipatri MLA Kethireddi Peddareddy and Anantapur MLA Anantha Venkatarami Reddy of working against her, claiming that water from the Mid Pennar Reservoir and Handri-Neeva Sujala Sravanthi projects was being diverted to their constituencies. She also levelled allegations against YS Jagan’s close aide, Minister Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy, regarding his involvement in constituency politics.

However, after a meeting with Chief Minister YS Jagan, she clarified that she hadn’t made any anti-Jagan comments. Yet, she was not fortunate enough to retain her candidacy, as the party accommodated the new aspirant Mannepakula Veeranjaneyulu.

Taking a dig at Veeranjaneyulu, the TDP chief alleged, “YSRCP is playing a drama. These people (TDP contestant Bandaru Sravani) didn’t say it to me, but I learnt about it on my arrival here. The YSRCP has fielded a lorry driver, Veeranjaneyulu, over Padmavathy, so that the lorry driver, who doesn’t know how to sign but only uses left-hand fingerprints, would remain subordinate to the party.”

In response, the MLA contestant, Veeranjaneyulu, countered, “I have experience in lorry driving, which I adopted due to my family’s livelihood. I have pursued B Ed and MA degrees, and my candidature was announced by YS Jagan after recognising my hardworking nature.” He alleged that it was a mistake for Naidu to confine him to his profession in this manner.

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The class war 

With the TDP chief’s remarks, YS Jagan appears to have seized the opportunity to advance his campaign of “poor vs capitalists”, a theme of class war he has been advocating for the past few months.

In his “Memantha Siddham” (we are all ready) campaign in Yemmiganur on 29 March, he countered that Veeranjaneyulu holds a Master’s degree in Economics and added that his party would nominate a “poor candidate”, questioning why it bothered him (Naidu). He added that Veeranjaneyulu works as a lorry driver due to a lack of employment opportunities.

Chandrababu Naidu’s remarks drew ire on the internet regarding the nomination of underprivileged individuals.

A user on X posted, “Let’s promote a culture of inclusivity, respect and stand against caste-based discrimination.”

Another user posted, “Behind every successful society are individuals from all walks of life. Let’s condemn any form of disrespect towards any profession.”

Though the TDP is yet to react to Chandrababu Naidu’s remarks, it retaliates against YS Jagan’s narrative of “poor vs capitalists”, alleging that YS Jagan is manipulating the narrative to create a sympathetic perception in the minds of people.

TDP Vijayawada MP contestant Kesineni Sivanath shared a video where YS Jagan introduces the MLA contestants of his party, emphasising that none of them come from wealthy backgrounds.

He shared on X, “Repeated rhetorics are the major tools of manipulation in fascism. Watch the same script repeated by YS Jagan on various occasions, trying to create a soft corner in the minds of people.”

The TDP further alleged that YS Jagan is promoting false claims of candidates coming from a “poor background”, despite being rich. In a video from his campaign trail, YS Jagan urged the public to support YSRCP candidate Butta Renuka in Yemmiganur, citing her poor background as well.

However, the TDP official handle posted her affidavit and a clip from one of her interviews, revealing that she owns assets worth around ₹300 crore.

(Edited by Kamna Revanoor)