On a day when the Narendra Modi government presented its budget, Andhra Pradesh witnessed protest rallies without affecting the normal life which was a real healthy sign. All the political parties and organisations which participated in the bandh accepted the call given by the State government not to do anything that would send a negative message to the investors. For a change, great political maturity was shown by all.

The message was loud and clear that barring some parties like the YSRCP and Jana Sena, others are one in putting up a joint fight against the Centre when it comes to fight for the interests of the State.

The political developments in the last one week have made things clear as to who is on which side of the electoral battle 2019. With the way the State BJP MLAs spoke in the Assembly on Friday during a discussion on the injustice meted to the State has made it very clear that the BJP and the YSRCP are sailing together. The BJP floor leader Vishnukumar Raju’s speech had a tinge of being voice of the YSRCP in the Assembly.

The Jana Sena Party’s attitude is still something one fails to understand as it seems to be suffering from a syndrome called lack of consistency in thoughts and actions.

Jana Sena leader Pawan Kalyan perhaps feels that he is already a power star even in politics and hence others should attend meetings called by him, but he need not attend meetings even if convened by the government. There were many occasions in the past when some of the parties like the Left used to find fault with the government for not calling them for all party meetings just because they had no representation in the Assembly. But in case of Pawan, he refused to attend even though he was invited. The refusal of the YSRCP is understandable because its president feels that the TDP and Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu are his sworn enemies.

But then the interesting twist in this was the stand adopted by the Congress which too did not attend the meeting. This perhaps could be because the APCC president does not know how to convert disadvantage into advantage or he is non-serious in reviving the fortunes of the APCC as he is alleged to be having soft corner towards the YSRCP. At the national level, the AICC president Rahul Gandhi is rubbing shoulders with Naidu but here APCC president appears to feel that the TDP is their enemy.

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The political situation indicates that Congress on its own cannot come to power at national level and may end up with 140 seats or so. If the APCC had attended the meeting convened by the government, it would have given a message that the Congress is serious and unlike the State BJP, it is ready to put pressure on the Centre even if the Congress-led government comes to power at the Centre to protect the interests of the State. This could have helped in improving the image of the Congress in the State at least a little bit.

A random survey about the ground level political situation across the State gives a clear indication that the main fight is going to be between the TDP and the YSRCP. Who will get how many seats is a debatable issue. If the situation at this point of time is any indication, the TDP certainly is in an advantageous position.

In most places, reports indicate that the YSRCP chief Jaganmohan Reddy has better image than Pawan Kalyan but the court cases against him and the way he has been hitting self-goals have dented his image. People in general feel that Pawan cannot influence the younger generation as he is anticipating.

In Chittoor, where the YSRCP had done fairly well in 2014 elections, the wind direction seems to have changed this time. Women, particularly the Self Help Group members seem to be happier with the TDP. They feel that YSRCP so far has not come up with any plan for upliftment of weaker sections.

They also feel that Pawan has no political experience and is non-consistent in his statements. There is, however, a small segment of youngsters who feel that neither Naidu nor Jagan will become the Chief Minister. This time it will be Pawan. Those who are followers of former Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy naturally feel that Jagan would become the Chief Minister. The general perception is that majority are for the TDP and the YSRCP is a close second.

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In Visakhapatnam, people believe the fight is between the TDP and the YSRCP and they see Pawan as a film star only and not as a political star. Only a small percent of voters below 25 years seem to be having some liking for Jana Sena. They are also not willing to compare Jagan with Pawan in the political field. The Praja Sankalpa Yatra by Jagan does seem to have given some benefit to Jagan though people are still not clear as to what exactly the party stand on various issues is. The main drawback for both the YSRCP and the Jana Sena is lack of proper party organisation at ground level.

What also appears to have gone against Pawan is his sudden appearance on the political arena and making all kinds of statements starting with attack on the BJP and now going silent on the Central government. No one seems to be clear as to what the party manifesto is and what his party proposes to do for the common man.

As compared to Pawan, Jaganmohan Reddy had at least come with some stand on the issues and policies. There is also lurking suspicion that Jana Sena experiment may be a repeat of what happened with Praja Rajyam Party.

When Chiranjeevi established the party, leaders, businessmen and others in thousands joined in PRP. But in contrast, Pawan Kalyan failed to attract popular leaders into the party. His strong leaning towards the Left is also affecting his popularity.

In Kakinada, particularly the economically weaker sections who enjoy the benefits extended by the government in the form of welfare measures seem to be leaning towards the ruling party. They feel that despite a difficult situation, the TDP has been giving them pension of Rs 2000 per month. They fear that if any other party comes to power, they may not get the pension and other benefits.

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Here, the caste factor is also likely to play some role in deciding the future of the political parties. One thing is clear that there is no possibility of en masse voting in the name of caste. People are carefully assessing the performance of each political party and are keeping the two major parties on their toes. Here too, the cases which are pending against the YSRCP chief are a matter of discussion among voters.

The unemployment dole, hike in pensions and proposed cash transfer to farmers including tenant farmers, the way development was taking place in Rayalseema, hope of job opportunities for locals and the housing schemes for poor etc seem to have gone well with the people.

The popularity of the TDP at this point of time seems to be much better among the rural voters, small time traders including small vendors and white card holders who are enjoying the benefits of welfare schemes.

What the Congress and the BJP need to understand is that while the voters are openly discussing about the TDP, YSRCP and Jana Sena to some extent, they are not willing to accept that the Congress is a powerful contestant. The popularity of the BJP in the State has hit an all time low. However, the BJP feels that the sops announced in the interim budget like Rs 6,000 direct cash transfer to farmers with effect from December and the increase in the income tax benefits would rain them some votes.

But the BJP should understand that it does not take much time for the people of Andhra Pradesh to read the budget between the lines. They are no less faster in calculations than Gujratis. While raising income tax limit to Rs 5 lakh, the Centre has not changed the tax slabs and hence the maximum benefit an individual who draws a salary of Rs 10-15 lakh would not be more than Rs 2000-3000 which hardly is any relief. #KhabarLive