TDP chief and former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu and his son Lokesh appear a bit shaken, with the YSRCP bearing down on them and trying to limit them to their home constituencies — Kuppam and Mangalagiri, respectively — leaving them no time to breathe new life into the party, which has not quite recovered from the humiliating defeat it suffered in the 2019 Assembly elections.
Chandrababu Naidu, realising that Kuppam, which had been his pocket borough all along, could slip from his hands, has been visiting the granite town more often than he has done in decades, while Lokesh is struggling to identify the grey areas in Mangalagiri, which he lost in his debut election in 2019.
YSRCP chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy is keen to defeat Naidu and Lokesh on their home turfs to break the morale of the TDP forever. He has dreamed up the strategy to focus on the enemy as he knows that if the leader loses, his army would capitulate meekly.
Though Jagan Mohan Reddy’s target of winning all the 175 seats in the Assembly is definitely very ambitious, his repeated assertion that the YSRCP will clinch all of them is more of a psychological ploy to break Chandrababu Naidu’s spirit.
The Kuppam conundrum
Naidu, who has remained undefeated in Kuppam for the last 33 years, is now a little edgy.
After the TDP’s flop show in local body polls last year, he had decided to get back to the drawing board. Naidu, who didn’t even have a house of his own until now in Kuppam, has started constructing one recently. He has visited Kuppam at least four times in the last few months.
And the visits were not perfunctory, as they used to be, but are reflecting the intensity of Naidu’s desire not to allow Kuppam to slip into the YSRCP’s hands.
In Mangalagiri, as presiding deity Panakala Swamy was not kind to Lokesh, he lost the election to YSRCP’s A Ramakrishna Reddy. Lokesh has since been nursing the constituency with the cloying affection of a mother. He has visited all households personally to win their hearts and emerge victorious in the 2024 elections.
On its part, the YSRCP has been putting spokes in Lokesh’s attempts by engineering defections of TDP leaders in the constituency. Only a few days ago, Ganji Chiranjeevi, a grassroot-level leader of the TDP, migrated to the YSRCP in pursuit of greener pastures.
Chiranjeevi, a weaver, a community with a large presence in Mangalagiri, had lost to the then YSRCP candidate A Ramakrishna Reddy by just 12 votes in the 2014 polls. He had aspired for the TDP ticket again in the 2019 polls, but was denied as Lokesh chose to contest from there.
Since then, Chiranjeevi has been seething inwardly over the turn of events and was biding his time to take it out on the TDP.
Interesting realignment in Kuppam
Meanwhile, Naidu is said to be a little worried over reports that there has been a steady erosion in the TDP’s Kuppam base in the face of a continuous onslaught by the YSRCP. He has been uneasy ever since YSRCP-backed candidates grabbed a number of panchayats in the local body polls.
Naidu is aware of the fact that his winning margin has been steadily going down. Naidu’s majority was 47,121 votes in the 2014 polls, but it dropped to 30,722 votes in 2019. Naidu has been winning the Kuppam seat since 1989.
A look at the data on the votes secured by YSRCP-backed candidates in the panchayat polls suggests an interesting political realignment in Kuppam.
YSRCP-backed candidates secured a combined majority of 30,929 votes over the TDP-supported nominees in the local body elections in 75 panchayats in four mandals under the Kuppam Assembly segment. This number is higher than Naidu’s victory margin in 2019.
While Assembly polls are markedly different from panchayat elections, it was still a disconcerting development for Naidu and a wake-up call for him to get his act together.
Of the total 2,13,146 voters in Kuppam, around 40 percent belong to Vahnikula Kashtriay, which is one among the Most Backward Classes (MBCs) who had no say in the segment despite being in a majority.
To erode Naidu’s vote bank, Jagan Mohan had appointed a person from Kuppam constituency as the chairman of the Vahnikula Kshatriya Corporation which is one of the many BC corporations the chief minister had constituted to win the trust of communities that are numerically strong in Kuppam.
Naidu is not exactly a pushover in Kuppam and still retains considerable clout and following in the constituency. But Jagan Mohan’s strategy means that Naidu will not any more be able to take Kuppam for granted — as he has done in the past.