Andhra Pradesh’s Tirupati temple town has witnessed aggressive campaigning by the main political parties for the Tirupati (SC) Parliamentary constituency by-polls slated on April 17. Considering the massive victory of the YSRCP in the recently concluded Panchayat and Municipality elections, the ruling party has a clear edge in the elections.
Among opposition parties, Telugu Desam Party has been putting in all efforts to win the seat amid its fading credibility in the recent local body elections, while the Bharatiya Janata Party and its ally Jana Sena have relied on the Hindutva agenda to make inroads into the state. Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), supported by other left parties has been appealing the voters to choose it as an alternative.
The by-polls were necessitated due to the death of sitting YSRCP MP Balli Durga Prasada Rao because of COVID-19 in October last year.
As all the major political parties have camped in the constituency for over three months, observers say that the election result will reveal the status of the political parties in the state.
YSRCP candidate Maddila Gurumoorthy is pitted against former Union Minister Panabaka Lakshmi from TDP, former bureaucrat from Karnataka K. Ratna Prabha from BJP and CPI(M) candidate Nellore Yadagiri. Senior Congress Leader and six time MP from Tirupati Chinta Mohan is also in the electoral race.
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In the 2019 elections, Prasada Rao won against TDP’s Panabaka Lakshmi by a margin of 2.38 lakh votes. All the seven Assembly segments in the parliamentary constituency were won by YSRCP candidates in the previous elections.
YSRCP has roped in its MLAs and ministers for campaigning in the rural and urban areas for over a month. In a press statement, Agriculture Minister Kurasala Kannababu said that the opposition parties TDP and BJP are only competing for second place in the bypolls while YSRCP will win with thumping majority.
TDP leaders have taken the polls seriously after continuous setbacks in the results of local body polls. Former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and other senior TDP leaders have participated in several rounds of campaigns covering all areas in the constituency.
Congress, which was in power in the constituency for 30 years till 2014, has seen a near complete shift of cadre to the YSRCP in the past six years. China Mohan, being a prominent political personality, had been at par in campaign with other contestants.
Lacking cadre, BJP leaders have been targeting the YSRCP candidate’s religious faith in the polls to the SC reserved seat. While Gurumurthy has filed his nomination as a Hindu SC, BJP leaders and their social media teams are alleging that he had converted to Christianity.
In a recent tweet, BJP national secretary and state co-in-charge Sunil Deodhar wrote, “Babasaheb was against conversions to Christianity. As per Constitution, once an SC converts he can’t claim any benefits. CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy is betraying SCs by planting Christians in SC reserved seats. We’ll get them legally disqualified.”
Further, BJP leaders have also been targeting YSRCP over a series of alleged attacks on Hindu temples in the state last year. “BJP is trying to communalise the temple city with its Hindutva agenda. YSRCP, TDP and the BJP are all together in Parliament in pushing anti- people policies,” said V Srinivasulu, a CPI(M) state secretariat member, during the party’s campaign in Tirupati.
“Mass organisations of Left parties are strong in the constituency. We are appealing to the voters to choose a left alternative which will raise pertinent questions in Parliament,” said Murthy of All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC).
“YSRCP has been boasting about its welfare schemes while asking for votes. But in reality, the state is witnessing a crisis in the health sector and unemployment has increased. People have started to realise the nexus between YSRCP and BJP in the Centre,” said Srinivasulu.