Nandyal bypoll a litmus test for Rayalaseema statehood demand?
Hyderabad: A dark horse has emerged in what was so far a straight fight between the two chief rivals in the Nandyal by-election in Andhra Pradesh.
The main contestants so far were the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), led by chief minister Chandrababu Naidu and Jagan Mohan Reddy respectively—until Byreddy Rajasekhar Reddy’s Rayalaseema Parirakshana Samithi (RPS), whose primary demand is Rayalaseema statehood, entered the fray.
The constituency, located in the four-district Rayalaseema region, goes to polls on 23 August.
If it does make a mark in the bypoll, RPS could attract more supporters to its cause and turn out to be a game changer in Andhra Pradesh’s politics.
The RPS, which had pushed for Rayalaseema statehood even ahead of the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, has also vowed to contest all 52 state assembly seats and eight parliamentary seats in the region in the 2019 elections.
“Our candidate is B. Pullaiah, a small-time farmer from Pusulur village in the Nandyal constituency. In 2013, before Telangana was formed, we demanded that (erstwhile) Andhra Pradesh should have been trifurcated (into coastal Andhra, Telangana and Rayalaseema states), because our region will be in a soup with only 52 assembly representatives (in four districts of Cudappah, Kurnool, Chittoor and Anantapur),” Byreddy Rajasekhar Reddy said.
Since the other seven districts in Andhra Pradesh dominate with 123 representatives, employment opportunities will decline and water allocation will not be done fairly in the Rayalaseema region’s four districts, he added.
Hitting out at both TDP and YSRCP, Byreddy said, “It is a fight between locals and non-locals and for Rayalaseema pride.”
In the by-election, TDP’s candidate is Bhuma Brahmananda Reddy, nephew of Bhuma Nagi Reddy, the sitting MLA from Nandyal seat, who died in March. Nagi Reddy had in fact won the election in 2014 on a YSRCP ticket, and later defected to TDP along with this daughter Bhuma Akhila Priya (MLA from Allagadda seat), who is a cabinet minister in Andhra Pradesh.
Brahmananda Reddy’s rival from YSRCP, Silpa Mohan Reddy, who earlier contested against Nagi Reddy on a TDP ticket in 2014 and lost by a little over 3,000 votes, recently shifted loyalties to YSRCP.
Rivals don’t see RPS as much of a threat yet.
“Nandyal is a faction-ridden area, and it is a matter of caste as well. We will have to see if the Rayalseema statehood gains momentum in the future,” said a TDP leader from Andhra Pradesh.
“The statehood demand is similar to Telangana’s,” said Leo Augustine, a civil rights lawyer who had participated in the Telangana statehood agitation. “Three years post bifurcation, because Naidu is fooling the people there, the demand might similarly catch up in the future. During Y.S. Rajsekhara Reddy’s tenure, he had diverted water to that region. The RPS might create a dent in TDP’s votes,” Augustine said.
A. Chandrasekhar, vice-president of the state Human Rights Forum and a political observer from Anantapur district, however, admitted that the “grumbling” exists. “The capital and the high court are being set up in Amaravathi, which is in violation of the 1937 Sribagh pact. The HC must be here if the capital is in the coastal Andhra region,” he said.
Chandrasekhar, however, did not see the RPS as a threat, and pointed out that Byreddy himself was with the TDP earlier. “People have no faith in him as well, as he has not been consistent with issues. The RPS won’t have any impact at least in Nandyal,” he said, and opined that the separate Rayalaseema demand had no unifying leader, who can cut across class and caste.