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Atmakur bypoll to be a cakewalk for YSRCP, despite BJP being in the fray

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By Mohammed Shafeeq
Amaravati, June 5 (Ajit Weekly News) The by-election to the Atmakur Assembly seat in Andhra Pradesh is likely to be a cakewalk for the ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) with the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) staying away from the contest, but the BJP has entered the fray to prove a point.

YSRCP is confident of a big win in the June 23 by-election necessitated by the death of Mekapati Goutham Reddy, who was Minister for Industry and Information Technology in the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led Cabinet.

Jagan Mohan Reddy was keen that a member of Mekapati family should represent the seat held by Goutham Reddy for two consecutive terms. The name of Keerthi Reddy, wife of Goutham Reddy, emerged as the probable YSRCP candidate but she did not show any interest in contesting the election. The Mekapati family chose Vikram Reddy as the political heir of Goutham Reddy.

Second son of former MP Rajmohan Reddy, Vikram is heading construction company KMC. He did his graduation from IIT Madras and Master’s in Construction Management in the US.

Political observers say considering the huge public support enjoyed by Mekapati’s family in the constituency in Nellore district and the sympathy factor, Vikram’s victory is a foregone conclusion.

What appears to have made things easier for YSRCP is the decision of main opposition TDP not to field candidate as per a tradition started by it.

Despite the fierce attacks by Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP on what it calls ‘misgovernance’ of YSRCP and the new enthusiasm witnessed in TDP ranks after its recent ‘Mahanadu’, the TDP leadership decided not to field a candidate in Atmakur.

TDP leaders say their decision is in line with the party’s tradition of not contesting a by-election where a family member of deceased sitting legislator is seeking the public mandate.

“It was our party which started this tradition and we decided to continue it,” said TDP’s state president K. Atchannaidu.

Jagan Mohan Reddy is reportedly keen that this should not be a unanimous election. According to YSRCP leaders, he desires that opposition parties should contest.

The ruling party wants to show that its popularity is intact even after three years in power. Jagan, who completed three years in office last month, is eager to see YSRCP win the bypoll by over one lakh votes. The ruling party feels that this will give it a psychological advantage ahead of 2024 elections.

It was in this context that YSRCP leader and government’s advisor on political affairs Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy dared TDP to field its candidate in the by-election.

While TDP’s stand remained unchanged, the BJP decided to contest the bypoll in tune with its principled stand not to encourage politics of inheritance by leaving the elections uncontested when an incumbent passes away.

BJP has fielded its district unit president Gundlapalli Bharat Kumar Yadav as its candidate. He was vice chairman for Kavali municipality during 2014-19 and also briefly held the post of chairman.

BJP state president Somu Veerraju has announced that liberal assistance extended to the state by the Narendra Modi government at the Centre will be BJP’s poll plank.

Veerraju alleged that the ruling YSRCP is misusing the official machinery to win the bypoll by any means. He demanded that YSRCP withdraw ministers and MLAs camping in the constituency

BJP has also formed a five-member committee to lead its campaign to win the by-election. The panel is headed by MLC Vakati Narayana Reddy and includes state vice-president P. Surendar Reddy and secretary A. Kamala.

BJP MP GVL Narasimha Rao said his party would not have pacts with any party except Jana Sena Party (JSP).

However, it is still not clear if the JSP headed by actor politician Pawan Kalyan will support the saffron party in the by-election

Some local leaders of JSP are said to be unhappy over BJP violating principles of alliance to unilaterally decide its candidate. A section of JSP leaders have even alleged that BJP deliberately fielded a weak candidate to help the ruling party.

The BJP had also contested by-election to the Badvel constituency in October last year though JSP had decided to stay away along with TDP as the by-election was caused by the death of sitting legislator G. Venkatasubbaiah of YSRCP.

In a one-sided contest, Dasari Sudha, widow of Venkatasubbaiah, won the bypoll with a majority of over 90,000 votes. BJP candidate Panathala Suresh had finished distant second with 22,000 votes.

With TDP staying away, BJP wanted to project itself as the main opposition. It wants to do the same in Atmakur.

In the 2014 general elections, Mekapati Goutham Reddy won the Atmakur seat as a YSRCP candidate with a majority of over 31,000 votes against his nearest rival G.M. Kanna Babu of the TDP. In 2019, Goutham Reddy retained the seat though his majority came down to 22,000 votes.

The previous results show BJP had no presence in the constituency but the party is keen to see that there is some contest.

Smaller parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party, Indian Muslim League, All India Hindu Mahasabha, People’s Republican Party, Navataram Party and some candidates have already filed the nominations.

There are 2,13,330 voters eligible to exercise their franchise in the bypoll. Of them, 1,05,924 are men, 1,07,733 women and 11 transgenders.

–Ajit Weekly News

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