Andhra MLC elections serve as YSR Congress's wake-up call
The recently held elections for the state legislative council of Andhra Pradesh have raised concerns for the party in power, the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP). They point to the opposition Telugu Desam Party's resurgence after being all but written off a few years ago and open the door to a realignment of political forces in the state.
Elections for three MLC seats for graduates were held on March 13; the TDP won all three of them. Two of the seats were in Rayalaseema, which was thought to be an impregnable stronghold for the ruling party and one was in north-coastal Andhra covering the former combined Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, and Visakhapatnam districts.
The TDP candidates Vepada Chiranjeevi Rao, Kancharla Srikanth Chowdhary, and Bhumireddy Rambhupal Reddy each won the MLC seats in their respective graduate districts in north coastal Andhra, east Rayalaseema, and west Rayalaseema with sizable margins.
Although though the TDP had an effective strength of just 19 MLAs in the 175-member assembly, Panchumarthi Anuradha won the MLC seat elections conducted under the MLAs' quota with 23 votes against the necessary 22 votes, showing that four YSRC MLAs crossed over for her.
Kotamreddy Sridhar Reddy, Mekapati Chandrasekhar Reddy, Anam Vivekananda Reddy, and Undavalli Sridevi, four parliamentarians, have now been expelled from the YSRCP for going against the grain of the organization.
Message to Jagan Reddy to get up
The YSRCP, led by chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, has been winning all elections conducted in the state since taking office in the 2019 assembly elections with a commanding 151 out of 175 seats. The results of the MLC elections came as a great shock to the YSRCP.
In addition to winning the by-election for the Tirupati parliamentary seat and the Badvel and Atmakur assembly seats, the YSRCP also won over 90% of the seats in gram panchayats, mandal parishads, and zilla parishads, municipalities, and municipal corporations. Even Kuppam municipality, where TDP president and former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu was born, was taken over by the party.
Yet with only over a year till the state assembly elections once again, the YSRCP suffered a blow when it lost the MLC elections, notably in three graduate-dominated areas.
The three seats are dispersed over nine of the 108 assembly segments in the 13 districts that used to be merged.
In the three districts of north Andhra's 34 assembly segments, the YSRCP won 28 seats and the TDP just six in 2019. The TDP only won seven of the 74 assembly seats in the Rayalaseema (east) and Rayalaseema (west), while the YSRCP won the other 67 seats.
Also, voters in the three seats tend to be urban and educated, therefore the voting pattern reflects their attitudes.
To win the three MLC seats in the graduates' constituency, the YSRCP really put in a lot of preparation work, starting with the announcement of the candidates at least four months before the elections.
To guarantee that the party wins the seats easily, the chief minister delegated the job to regional party leaders in addition to local ministries and MLAs.
Nevertheless, despite being in a good position in Rayalaseema, the party was unable to achieve the victory. That was a defeat for the party that declared Visakhapatnam to be the state's administrative capital, even in north coastal Andhra.
"That doesn't represent the state's overall sentiment. Just 2% of the electorate is made up of these voters (around 7.2 lakh graduate voters out of the total number of 36.6 million voters in the state). The genuine voters in rural regions firmly support our party. Hence, there is no need for concern, said Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy, general secretary of the YSRCP and government adviser.
Although though it still has a long way to go before repeating the performance in the assembly elections, the TDP thinks that the MLC elections have given the party a much-needed morale boost.
"It amply represents peoples' shifting moods. The YSRCP's demise is just getting started, and we are convinced we will prevail in the next assembly elections, according to N Chandrababu Naidu, the party's president.
The MLC election results, according to political expert Sriram Karri, are undoubtedly a boost for the struggling TDP. The party has gained confidence and a voice that there is a desire for change with the addition of four new MLCs, he said.
The YSRCP, which is now in power, must be modest enough to "accept the results as a wakeup call and make adequate course adjustments," according to Karri. To guarantee that the anti-incumbency sentiment is a localized exception rather than a state-wide pattern, he added, "it needs to go a long way."
reorganization of the political forces
The MLC election outcomes have also opened the door for a potential coalition between the TDP and the Jana Sena Party, led by actor Pawan Kalyan, in the lead-up to the assembly elections of the following year.
Even though the Jana Sena Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party have an official alliance, there hasn't been any ground-level cooperation between the two parties.
On March 14, Kalyan publicly acknowledged that there had "not been any agreement between the BJP and Jana Sena," which was the reason he had to turn to the TDP. This was during the Jana Sena foundation day gathering in Machilipatnam.
The MLC elections, when the BJP, which was representing the north-Andhra graduates' constituency in the council, lost the seat by a sizable margin, established that the partnership between the two is on shaky ground. P V N Madhav, an outgoing BJP MLC who received around 5% of the vote, lost his deposit. The other two BJP candidates running in the other two graduate seats did the same.
According to former BJP member P Vishnu Kumar Raju, "the elections have shown that there is a huge anti-incumbency against the governing YSRCP, but the people didn't trust the BJP because they feel the party is going too soft towards the YSRCP."
The party may have to run unopposed in the next elections, according to Madhav, since there are no indications that an alliance with the Jana Sena Party would take shape. At the MLC elections, he remarked, "The Jana Sena did not accept the plea to support me and the party cadres voted for the TDP candidate."