Hyderabad: The Congress retained power in Andhra Pradesh and improved its tally of Lok Sabha seats from the southern state, fighting off a spirited challenge from a so-called Grand Alliance of opposition parties and aided by the division of anti-Congress votes by movie star Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party, or PRP.
All-round performance: Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy celebrates after his victory. PTI
The ruling Congress, which also had to contend with the anti-incumbency factor, increased its Lok Sabha seats from Andhra Pradesh to 33 from the 29 it won in the last general election. Andhra Pradesh has 42 Lok Sabha seats.
In the assembly elections, unlike in 2004 when it won 185 seats, the Congress secured a lower tally of 157, but still sufficient to form a government on its own. The number required for a simple majority in the 294-member assembly is 148.
Unlike in 2004, the Congress fought elections on its own this time, as former allies Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and Left parties deserted it and joined the Grand Alliance led by Telugu Desam Party.
Chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy credited the party’s success to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
“I find no words to express my gratitude to you for guiding and leading us in these elections and also ensuring continuance of the Congress party in power, on its own, in Andhra Pradesh,” Reddy said in letters to Singh and Gandhi.
The Congress, which political observers predicted would lose badly in the Telangana region—owing to its ambiguous stand on the issue of separate statehood for the region—did surprisingly well. It won 50 assembly seats out of 119 and 12 Lok Sabha seats out of 17 from Telangana.
TDP and its allies eventually won 108 seats with TDP securing 93, TRS 10, the Communist Party of India (CPI) four and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, one seats.
Telugu actor-turned politician Chiranjeevi’s PRP emerged as a spoiler for the TDP-led Grand Alliance by splitting the anti-government votes. PRP won only 19 assembly seats and could not win a single parliamentary seat.
“There was a clear anti-incumbency factor in the State, but the split in opposition votes helped Congress to come back to power,” said political analyst C. Narasimha Rao. “The votes of urban middle-class against the government were also split by Lok Satta party. Seat sharing by TDP’s allies in the Grand Alliance—TRS, CPI and CPM—where they did not enjoy a strong base also helped the fortunes of Congress.”
The leaders of key parties in the state who won their seats included chief minister Reddy from Pulivendula, TDP leader N. Chandrababu Naidu from Kuppam, TRS leader K. Chandrasekhara Rao from Mahabubnagar, Chiranjeevi from Tirupati and Jayaprakash Narayan of the Lok Satta party from Kukatpalli.
Several other leaders lost. Union minister for women and child welfare Renuka Chowdhary was defeated from Khammam.
A number of ministers in the state—Mohammed Ali Shabbir, N. Rajya Laxmi, T. Jeevan Reddy, Ratnakar Rao, Mohammed Fareeduddin, and Pinnamaneni Venkateshwara Rao, Mandali Budda Prasad, Sambhani Chandrasekhar, G. Vinod, Redya Nayak, Vanama Venkateswar Rao, Chinna Reddy and Chenga Reddy—also lost.
Chiranjeevi, who contested two Assembly seats, won from Tirupati by a margin of 10,000 votes, but surprisingly lost by over 20,000 votes from Palakol, from where he hails. His brother-in-law and PRP general secretary Allu Aravind was defeated in the Anakapalli parliamentary constituency. Another senior PRP leader, T. Devender Goud, who merged his Nava Telangana Party with PRP, lost election from both Malkajigiri Lok Sabha constituency and Ibrahimpatnam assembly seat.
Chiranjeevi had hoped to emerge as a kingmaker in the state in the event of a hung assembly. Praja Rajyam contested 282 assembly and 41 parliamentary seats.
“Chiranjeevi’s PRP lacked political direction, lost an historical opportunity and ended up as a spoilsport for the fortunes of Grand Alliance led by TDP in the state and helped Congress improve its tally in the Parliament polls as well,” said K. Nageshwar, a political analyst and member of the Andhra Pradesh legislative council.
Despite the disappointing performance, PRP will continue to play a key role in state politics and strive to strengthen its position over a period of time, said Shravan Kumar, general secretary of the PRP’s youth wing.
“We seemed to have failed in effectively taking to the masses key points of our philosophy and ideology,” he conceded.