Andhra Pradesh will be witnessing the most complex election than ever, this time. While it is a face-off between the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), three other players — the Jana Sena, the Congress and the BJP — are also trying their luck at the hustings.

In fact, the 2019 polls will be the first in the electoral history of the TDP when it did not have an open pre-poll pact with any political party.

Beginning with Sanjay Vichar Manch of Maneka Gandhi in 1983 — the first electoral battle fought by the TDP under its founder N T Rama Rao — until the 2014 general elections where the TDP was part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), it has never gone to polls alone.

Pawan Kalyan’s tacit deal?
However, full-page interview in a very popular Telugu daily of Jana Sena Party chief and movie actor Pawan Kalyan, who is also the younger brother of another matinee idol and former Union Minister of State K Chiranjeevi, has exposed the surreptitious electoral understanding between Pawan Kalyan and the Telugu Desam Party. The TDP and Pawan Kalyan do not criticise each other. Even if they do, the criticism is just very subtle and superficial with no strong words or points.

Ahead of the Telangana polls in 2018, K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) — who did not like TDP contesting the Telangana — vowed to give a “return gift” to Naidu. Pawan Kalyan’s assertion that it would actually turn out to be a “gift” to Naidu, and his interpretative message — that he would be happy if Naidu became the Chief Minister — has made it quite clear that the friendly fight between the two parties is part of a quid-pro-quo arrangement.

Also, the mutual coordination between Pawan Kalyan and the TDP could be impaled by detractors as they did not field powerful nominees against each other’s crucial candidates in different constituencies. The sporting of TDP flags by a large number of activists at Pawan Kalyan’s nomination rally in Visakhapatnam reportedly has laid bare the apparently covert arrangement with the Telugu Desam Party.

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The 2014 elections witnessed an unusual pre-poll pact in AP. The TDP, as part of the NDA, shared seats with the BJP. However, movie actor Pawan Kalyan who had just then floated his Jana Sena Party (JSP), did not field even a single candidate in the elections. Instead, he had campaigned for the NDA, adding his two cents to its strength.

Since TDP severed connections with the NDA in 2018, even the BJP — dubbed as a villain of the Special Category Status — is entering the fray on its own and has already announced candidates to the 175-member Legislative Assembly. The BJP has fielded some big names like D Purandeswari and Kanna Lakshminarayan in the Lok Sabha fray. The Congress — which bit the dust in the previous elections losing all seats — is not too far behind.

YSRC harps on anti-incumbency
While the YSRCP, led by YS Jaganmohan Reddy, expects that its vote bank to remain intact, the huge anti-incumbency factor against Chandrababu Naidu would contribute to the swelling of its vote share. In fact, YS Jagan, in many an interview, has said that Naidu did not have any anti-incumbency in 2014, as his party was ‘officially’ in the Opposition, though it had “on-floor” coordination with the Congress in the Assembly.

This time, however, Naidu is facing considerable anti-incumbency. Its proportion is such that three of its MLA candidates — Adala Prabhakara Reddy (Nellore), Budda Rajasekhara Reddy (Kurnool district), and Poornam Puthalapattu (in Chandrababu Naidu’s native Chittoor district) — have deserted the party even after being nominated as contestants on behalf of TDP.

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However, Chandrababu Naidu is expecting a different trick to work wonders in his favour. He strongly feels the anti-government vote — however small or big it is — could be split between the YSRCP, Jana Sena, the Congress and the BJP if they contested separately.

Pawan Kalya’s Jana Sena has entered into a formal pact with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) which could — to some extent — influence the Dalit vote. In fact, Jana Sena had already entered into a pre-poll arrangement with the CPI and the CPI-M.

TDP pins hope on a split in the anti-establishment vote
The TDP, however, is harping on the split in anti-establishment votes and the sops it has ‘delivered’ in the last two months. In fact, the TDP, which had derided the YSRCP for promising “the impossible” when the latter had announced “navaratnas” (nine mega schemes to woo the voters), took quick measures to implement some of those welfare measures, like enhanced old-age pensions, unemployment allowance, etc.

The direct benefit of cash transfer into the individual bank accounts would have a huge impact on the lower stratum of society.

The YSRCP, on its part, is sparing no effort to inject into the people’s minds that the TDP is only copying the schemes of the former. The YSRCP chief is further questioning the ruling party on why it could not have thought of any such welfare measures until the last minute.

Jagan announces party tickets at one go
YS Jaganmohan Reddy scored a couple of brownie points by announcing all the 175 candidates for the Assembly and 25 Lok Sabha contestants in one go. Another advantage the YSRCP received in the last few days is a mass exodus of elected representatives from the TDP to YSRCP, irrespective of the promise on their political future. While some last-minute migrants into the party could be accommodated by Jagan, others were precluded.

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The Telugu Desam, which entertained defections from the YSR Congress — 23 MLAs and 3 MPs — after the 2014 elections is still breaking its head on selecting candidates in the last minute. Naidu is constrained to change the candidacies as the party nominees are refusing to contest, after developing cold feet.

Last, but not the least, the brutal assassination of YS Vivekanada Reddy — who had served as a Lok Sabha member from Kadapa twice, as an MLA from Pulivendula Assembly seat twice and as the member of the Legislative Council — has given an impression that factional feuds have resurfaced in Rayalaseema districts.

Vivekananda Reddy is the younger brother of the late Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy, deceased Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh.

Jagan has demanded a probe by the CBI, whose entry was barred by Chandrababu Naidu Government into Andhra Pradesh. While Naidu is not forgetting to assert that Jagan is in a tacit understanding with the BJP and the TRS, Jagan has hauled Naidu on the coals saying that “murder politics” is the order of the day in AP.

He is referring to the murder of his grandfather YS Raja Reddy, the “helicopter accident” of his father YS Rajasekhara Reddy — an incident Jagan still doubts, the attempt on his own life in Visakhapatnam airport and the latest elimination of his uncle as cases in point to buttress his argument.

With too many complexities, desertions and migrations from opposite camps of the TDP and the YSRCP into each other, brutal assassination of YS Vivekananda Reddy, and too many parties throwing their proverbial hat into the ring, Andhra Pradesh is going to witness a never-before election. #KhabarLive