Naidu starts to cut power to Jagan’s `fan’


By T S Sudhir 
The inevitable has happened. Jagan can blame it on karma because what his father, the late Y S Rajasekhara Reddy tried to do with the TRS in 2009, is coming back to haunt him. One of his MPs, SPY Reddy from Nandyal has quit the YSR Congress to join the Telugu Desam within ten days of being elected and another one, Butta Renuka from Kurnool will follow suit in a few hours time. Already her husband has stood surety for her switch, by joining the TDP in Chandrababu Naidu’s presence in Delhi today.
Ever since Jagan’s party tasted defeat on May 16, this was waiting to happen. It was easy too as YSR Congress is not a recognised party and only a registered party. Therefore the anti-defection law does not apply to its MPs and MLAs. TDP sources claim many more MLAs – ambitiously pegged at 30 – are in touch with TDP to turn a shade of yellow, the TDP colour. YSR Congress can at best taunt the turncoats by calling them “yellow yellow, dirty fellow”.
Spy reddy 27uu
The desertions also highlight the complete lack of ethics among modern-day politicians and disrespect to the mandate given by their voters. Clearly Reddy and Renuka couldn’t care less, since 2019 is a long way off. Interestingly, SPY Reddy has played a game of political musical chairs in the last one year, jumping from the Congress to the YSR Congress just months before the elections and now exiting the party `Reddy, steady, go’ mode. A rolling politician gathers no moss, must be Reddy’s mantra.
One reason for the quick switch could be the backgrounds Reddy and Renuka come from. The world of business is bothered only about the bottomline and little else. Reddy owns Nandi Pipes and he would not like to be on the wrong side of the powers-that-be. Renuka’s family has interests in textiles, education and jewellery business, with a chain of showrooms in each sector to boast of. Renuka also owns the Meridian Corporate school in Hyderabad, a prestigious institution. Representing an opposition party will serve little purpose.
The defection reveals the TDP gameplan with regard to Jagan. Weaken him politically by reducing his numbers and use its clout at the Centre to get the Enforcement Directorate after him. Jagan in jail will make it easier for Naidu to almost finish off the YSR Congress outside. Naidu has got back his chair after a gap of ten years and is in no mood to let Jagan breathe down his neck as a powerful opposition. The Congress is already a zero, both literally and metaphorically in Seemandhra and Naidu will hope to rule the roost by splitting the opposition vote in Andhra Pradesh between these two weak outfits.

 

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Why Jagan and Naidu are Modi-fied


By T S Sudhir
Narendra Modi must be smiling. And why not. With Seemandhra’s bitter political rivals Chandrababu Naidu and Jaganmohan Reddy bending over backwards to be in his good books, Modi has good reason to rejoice at his Modi-fied status with regard to these two politicians who till the other day, wore their minority-ism on their sleeve. Naidu dumped the BJP in 2004, blaming Modi for his debacle and Jagan has always made it a point to highlight his pro-Muslim and pro-Christian credentials. In fact, he did not support P A Sangma for the post of President since he was backed by the BJP.
In this context, Jagan flying into Delhi to meet Modi with his contingent of MPs today is significant. On the face of it, he wanted to congratulate Modi on his victory and also submit a four-page memorandum asking for a good deal for Andhra Pradesh and even Telangana. Jagan obviously wanted to convey that he may have lost the battle of 2014 but as the leader of the opposition in the Andhra Pradesh assembly, he will be a political force to reckon with. By putting forth the demands for Andhra Pradesh, he also wanted to steal the thunder from Naidu and wanted to convey that he too played a part in what the new state gets by way of special incentives from New Delhi.
jagan pic
What was left unsaid is perhaps more significant than the demands put forth for the state. As soon as he came out of prison on bail in September 2013, Jagan had made it a point to praise Modi as a good administrator. Even on the day the results were announced, Jagan said Modi made the difference between victory and defeat. 
Today’s visit was essentially to build bridges with the most powerful man in India today. Jagan wants to convey that should the Modi-Naidu jugalbandi go out of tune, the YSR Congress orchestra is available as a replacement. This despite Modi attacking him during the election campaign, asking voters to choose between Swarnandhra and Scamandhra.
Jagan also realises that the Telugu Desam back home has started gunning for him, claiming he will be sent to jail within 45 days. Jagan is chargesheeted in ten different cases and an unfriendly government can easily turn the knife into him, using the ED and the CBI. Which is why he is walking that extra mile – 1529 km from Hyderabad to Delhi, to be precise – to be in Modi’s good books. 
On his part, Naidu will try and ensure that Jagan is a forgotten chapter in Andhra Pradesh’s history. He is flying into Delhi on Tuesday and he can be trusted to make a big show of the TDP-BJP bonhomie, a la “Yeh dosti hum nahi chodenge”. Modi too is not likely to rock the boat in Andhra Pradesh too soon, given not just Naidu but even his actor friend Pawan Kalyan is not likely to be too amused if Jagan is able to talk his way into Modi’s charmed circle.

What the Andhra results mean for Naidu and Jagan


ts office
By T S Sudhir
Outside Hyderabad Central in Punjagutta area of Hyderabad, stands a life-size golden hue statue of former chief minister the late Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, waving his hand. Bang opposite at this busy traffic intersection, the Telugu Desam has now put up a banner with a life-size photograph of YSR’s bete noire, Chandrababu Naidu, also waving his hand. The text on the side reads : `Leader is back. Development Restarts’. (see pic below)
That’s not all. Outside Naidu’s home on Friday, as the results poured in, posters showing that Naidu will return to the state secretariat while Jaganmohan Reddy will return to Chanchalguda jail appeared outside his residence (see pic below). In the virtual space, the Facebook page of the TDP predicts that Jagan will be back in prison in the next 45 days.
“Definitely, we will speed up the cases. It is government money. We want to bring back the money. We will ask ED to seize his properties,” says C M Ramesh, TDP MP in the Rajya Sabha and one of the close confidants and neighbour of Naidu. On the campaign trail, Naidu had gone to the extent of saying that all those who vote for Jagan also deserve a place behind bars. Now, as he is set to take oath as the first CM of the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh, he does not want charges of political vendetta thrown his way and says, “I am not interested in this. We want to fight corruption. I made it clear to all the people that I want to work towards a corrupt-free India.”
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The YSR Congress is worried though Jagan is putting up a brave face. “Sonia Gandhi did what she wanted, now let TDP do what it wants. I believe in God and destiny,” said Jagan. But those against who chargesheets have been filed in different cases of omission and commission during the YSR regime, are waiting for the knock on their door soon. They are certain that Naidu-Modi combine will tighten the screws under the guise of `law will take its own course’ and while Jagan is inside, weaken the party outside. 
But politically, it would make more sense for Naidu not to kill the YSR Congress. It would be prudent to keep alive both the Congress (down to zero in Seemandhra assembly now) and YSR Congress and allow them to split the opposition vote. Knowing Naidu, he would already be preparing for 2019 when he could make a move to New Delhi, if the `sonrise’ takes place in Andhra Pradesh. With both father and father-in-law (actor Balakrishna) in positions of power, Nara Lokesh has the airstrip ready for take off. The 2019 battle for AP could well be a Lokesh vs Jagan affair. 
jagan poster
Jagan was hoping to get the numbers and persuade Modi to dump Naidu and ally with the YSR Congress. He even praised Modi as a good administrator and after the results, said Modi alone made all the difference. That did not happen and perhaps would not have happened even if he had come to power in Andhra Pradesh. And the reasons for that are many.
1. Image issues : The YSR Congress leaders will not accept this and will blame it on a gullible electorate believing Naidu’s “false promises” but if they had their ears to the ground, they would have heard loud noises about not handing over the reins of Andhra Pradesh to a tainted politician. Ten chargesheets that list him as Accused number one have virtually killed Jagan’s brand equity, especially in the urban and semi-urban pockets of coastal Andhra. Modi himself attacked Jagan by asking voters to choose between a Swarnandhra and a Scamandhra.
Jagan by giving tickets to chargesheeted persons like Koneru Prasad, Ayodhya Rami Reddy, Dharmana Prasada Rao only showed he didn’t care for public perception. Like in Tamilnadu where heavyweight tainted candidates of the DMK like A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran were rejected, in Seemandhra too, save Jagan, all other accused in different cases did not get sufficient traction on the EVM.
On the day of polling, I and my friends in the media met several voters in different age groups, who plumped for Naidu’s experience over Jagan’s youth not because of his track record in Hyderabad alone but because they did not trust Jagan with the money that will be pumped into Seemandhra soon. Jagan with his several public relations managers has not been able to repair this image and if he fails to do so, he will find it difficult to bounce back, just hoping for Naidu to make mistakes.
2. Ambani won’t approve : Remember the run-in that Jagan’s media empire had with Mukesh Ambani in 2010 when his hidden hand was alleged by an obscure Russian website in the YSR helicopter crash and was carried on TV channels close to Jagan. Within minutes, mobs appeared out of nowhere to attack retail outlets of Reliance Fresh in different towns of Andhra Pradesh. Given the friction that Ambani had with YSR too over the KG basin, it is unlikely that Modi, with who Ambani is close, will be open to doing any political business with Jagan.
3. The Christian angle : Jagan’s Christian background makes the RSS see red. Given the antipathy the Hindu outfits have to Christian missionaries trying to convert Hindus in coastal Andhra, the RSS will never agree to Modi taking Jagan into NDA as a partner.
Jagan has little option now except to bide his time. If the five years since September 2009 have been tough, the going will only get more tough in the next five years. What he needs is a set of good advisors who would have the courage to tell him the truth instead of what he likes to hear. 

What do I feel the morning after? A sense of relief :)


ts office
By T S Sudhir
I must confess I did not sleep the night of May 15-16. Having stuck my neck out to say Chandrababu Naidu has the edge over Jaganmohan Reddy, I knew my neck will be on the line if it turned out otherwise. To fellow journalists and friends, including those in the bureaucracy, I had predicted a TDP-BJP tally in the 95-110 MLA range (95 sure seats and another 15 that were tight contests) and an MP strength of 16-19. Am glad that on both counts I proved right.
I remember in 2004, when I predicted that Andhra Pradesh is set to log out Naidu, it was met with sniggers, scepticism and ridicule. On a live broadcast in Vijayawada on the evening of April 26, I said “the bicycle is getting deflated.”
In the interim period between voting day and counting day on May 11, I found a heap of abuse coming my way. My personal calculation seat-by-seat showed TDP will not win more than 77 assembly seats. Naidu told me he will prove me wrong. My then senior, Rajdeep Sardesai advised me to return to Delhi if Naidu returned to power. Finally, when the TDP folded up at 48, TDP leader K Rammohan Rao told me jocularly, “Sudhir, even you were off the mark. You predicted 77 but we got only 48.” I must admit I did not expect TDP to be washed out of an urban centre like Hyderabad, a city Naidu had developed.
In fact, in 1999, travelling with Naidu on the election campaign, I had told him the TDP-BJP alliance will win 33 Lok Sabha seats. Naidu let me glance through TDP’s own internal calculation that had predicted 29 seats. The alliance finally won 36 and Naidu on the afternoon of the victory gave me the first post-win interview.
In the age of social media, with every party having their very biased, vocal and often abusive supporters, making a prediction is a huge risk. Because not only are you subjected to a lot of name calling, with your professional and personal integrity torn to pieces, one could pay a huge price for going wrong. It was all the more difficult this time because most exit pollsters predicted a close finish in Seemandhra.
But for me, the six days I travelled through Seemandhra and talking to people on the day of polling made up my mind. As I wrote, I sensed a Naidu wave in the urban centres in particular. When I was in Vijayawada, a journalist friend who is a passionate YSRC supporter messaged me saying “Sudhir, you are in the wrong place.” I replied saying there is no wrong place for a right journalist. When I do my job – and political journalism to me is a passion especially at election time – no one is a friend or a foe.
And I am thankful to Aashish of India TV and Uma Sudhir of NDTV, two of the finest journalists I have known, for their insights from the areas they travelled in. Both of them like me, felt Jagan will be on the losing side. In contrast, I am disappointed by a very senior journalist who predicted a landslide win for G Vivek of Congress in Pedapalli, an area I did not travel to. He lost by over 2 lakh votes. 
At the end of the day, staying neutral and keeping your ears to the ground, is all what matters. Get your own sampling right by talking to different kinds of people and most often, you will get results better than the best of exit pollsters.
P.S. While I got AP, Karnataka and Kerala right, I did not expect Jayalalithaa to sweept Tamilnadu with such fury. During my travel, while I did not feel any Modi wave in the state, I did not expect DMK to fare so poorly. This state continues to surprise. Perhaps, I did not speak to the right people there. 

Coming soon : SRK in 3D


By T S Sudhir 
Bollywood is all set to get Modi-fied. Top guns like Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan are set to follow in the PM-hopeful’s footsteps by going 3D. Now that the campaign part of the Indian Political League has got over, the men behind the 3D hologram are set to take the dream merchants places. Literally.
3D modi
“An A-lister can at best go to 10 to 12 cities before the release of his or her movie. Now with 3D holography, he or she can go to 500 cities at the same time,” says film director Mani Shankar, who has done 3D holography work with Modi in December last year for the Gujarat elections and K Chandrasekhar Rao of the TRS and former Andhra Pradesh CM Kiran Kumar Reddy in this election.
The argument is that Bollywood that has to make its moolah over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, will find promotion through holography high impact. Shankar adds, “The star can go to small towns where a big star has never gone, it will create a wider net for the first three days.”
Conscious of the fact that the celebrity nature of the stars will make fans want to take selfies with them, Shankar and his team is working on making that happen. In terms of cost, Shankar reckons holography will cost just 1/20th that a regular movie promotion roadshow incurs. Political parties spent 3-4 crore rupees this election with the speech shown at some 150 to 200 different locations.
Red Chillies Entertainment has already contacted Shankar to promote `Happy New Year’ and Salman is also likely to come on board for `Kick’. Atleast four individuals can be seen together at the same time on the 3D screen, unlike a politician who usually delivers the speech alone.

 

Notes from polling day


tss at lb
By T S Sudhir
My previous blog that talked about a neck-and-neck fight in Seemandhra with a slight edge to Naidu, exposed me to much abuse from YSR Congress. Not that TDP supporters are any better. You say anything remotely critical of their boss and they come at you like an organised troll army. I wonder why either of them expects unbiased mediapersons to be biased?
I am a passionate student of politics and to cheapen this fascination by attributing motives just exposes their own biases.
Here are my observations from my own field trip to Krishna district on polling day and talking to my friends and colleagues who were present in different districts of Seemandhra on May 7.
Is there a wave? 
I did feel a strong, silent, determined wave in favour of the TDP-BJP alliance but only in the urban pockets. Not so much for Narendra Modi but for Chandrababu Naidu. With `development’ as the sole criterion, many of them – from Srikakulam to Chittoor – seemd to have voted for giving Naidu another chance. And this was across different age groups. First time voters, who I thought may have perhaps preferred a younger Jagan than an older Naidu, plumped for experience over an unknown, untested commodity.
The Minorities factor in our cities and towns
But there is a flip side to the urban vote as well. A directive had been issued just before polling day both to Muslims and Christians by respective religious groups not to vote for the TDP because of its alliance with the BJP. In many assembly segments, the Muslim vote is critical and if the voters of the two communities have indeed voted as per the diktat, we could have tight contests going either way. This could significantly neutralise the TDP traction in urban areas.
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Urban vs rural divide
The elections, I feel, is going to throw up a sharp urban vs rural divide. While the TDP-BJP will do reasonably well in the urban and semi-urban constituencies, the rural areas are likely to plump for Jaganmohan Reddy. The Reddy-Dalit-Muslim-Christian-rural youth plus YSR legacy votebank that Jagan has sewn up is likely to deliver rich dividends in the countryside. The welfare agenda pursued by YSR is like a fixed deposit that Jagan will be able to tap. The TDP perhaps made a mistake by over focusing on the urban constituencies and was not able to penetrate into rural pockets as well as Jagan did. The YSR Congress chief also with his penchant for yatras, ensured he was among the people all the time, creating a connect and a feeling of being one of their own. That familiarity may have worked better compared to the star appeal of a Pawan Kalyan. I suspect the final seat tally of the TDP and YSRC will display a sharp urban-rural divide.
Will high polling be a factor?
Yes and No. The usual thumbrule is that low polling benefits the ruling party while high polling indicates a wave of anger against the incumbent government. But in Seemandhra, you have the peculiar situation of the government that was in power till a couple of months ago, not being in the race virtually. Except on paper. In the absence of the Congress putting up a serious fight, the battle for Seemandhra is between two opposition parties – TDP and YSR Congress. So in that sense, polling percentage won’t make much of a difference. However, high polling indicates that the people want to get their voice heard. And a high turnout in the rural areas would be to Jagan’s advantage. The critical factor would be how many rural constituencies the TDP is able to win.
Would cross-voting have happened?
Given how keenly fought this election was, it would seem that tactical voting (that is, a voter choosing TDP-BJP in assembly and YSRC in Lok Sabha or vice versa) would be unlikely on a large scale. Most voters I spoke to, or my colleagues interacted with, were clear about what they were looking for. It ranged from development, corruption-free regime, growth for the new state, welfare schemes, sops. Naidu scored better on the development factor while Jagan won the race by a huge margin when it came to implementing a better welfare agenda. But I still feel that the Modi factor would play a role as voters who are aware of the difference between a PM and a CM would plump for the alliance rather than the standalone YSRC. I think the TDP-BJP alliance will do better in LS than in the assembly elections because voters realise that a friendly central government is critical to a new state in dire need for funds.
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Is Corruption an issue?
 
Yes, a huge issue in the urban pockets. Many urban, educated voters did not have anything nice to say about Jagan and felt that between Naidu and Jagan, the former was comparatively (yes comparatively) less corrupt. Somewhere the TDP’s sustained campaign about YSR Congress party’s “CBI candidates” has struck a chord in the cities and towns. Even in rural pockets this was an issue, but not to the extent as in urban polling centres, with many arguing, “who is not corrupt?”
 
Naidu’s problem is Naidu
Government officials who had voted enmasse against Naidu in 2004, angry with the kind of insults he heaped upon them during his surprise inspections, this time, seemed open to giving him a chance. “Ten years in the opposition would have sobered him,” one of them said. But doubts persist especially among farmers, weavers, the landless class. Naidu’s credibility is suspect and he is still seen as someone who will be more happy being the CEO of AP Inc. For the poor, looking for free medical facilities, free power, free education, Naidu does not seem the man to go to. This despite the freebies Naidu is promising to dole out. The trust factor is still missing as far as Naidu is concerned.
Naidu’s best bet is a desperate TDP cadre
The TDP cadre has worked hard in Seemandhra. Because a third successive defeat will mean curtains for the party. Already the TDP is close to extinction in Telangana and the karyakarta cannot afford the same in Seemandhra. Because if the TDP folds up, they cannot go to a YSRC or a Congress. So 2014 is a do-or-die battle for them too. Just like it is for Naidu. That also explains the pitched battles that were fought between the TDP and YSR Congress workers in different parts of the region on May 7. The TDP cadre tried to get as many to the polling stations yesterday and would hope that would be enough.
Where will the Congress vote go?
Will it go to the TDP or the YSRC? My sense is that the Lok Sabha vote will go to the TDP and the assembly vote distributed depending on individual candidates and their appeal and anti-incumbency in the case of sitting MLAs, between the TDP and YSRC. Congress itself will find itself plumbing to never-before depths. That would also be a plus for Jagan.
Seemandhra is known to swing one way and not giving vague verdicts. But this election is likely to go down to the wire. The vote margin between the two parties isn’t likely to be much even though in a straight contest, even a small difference could result in a rich harvest of seats.

Battle for Andhra Pradesh : Naidu vs Jagan


ts office
By T S Sudhir
Disclaimer : This post is not about predicting who will win the battle for the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh. At least I will not stick my neck out in public because in the age of social media, I do not want my Twitter timeline to be abused by trolls using inappropriate vocabulary. 
It is a fascinating contest taking place in the heat and dust of Seemandhra. The mood is angry out there as the wounds of bifurcation haven’t healed completely, the feeling of `we will show them’ is burning in their hearts. They are still uttering the `D’ word but this `D’ is not about division but about Development. Despite the loss of Hyderabad, those in Seemandhra want to show that they can build a state better than Telangana and a brand new capital city that would be the envy of those living in the city of the Charminar.
That is the context in which this match is being played between Nara Chandrababu Naidu and Y S Jaganmohan Reddy in the 25 Lok Sabha and 175 assembly constituencies of Seemandhra. With the Congress out of the race and also-rans like Kiran Kumar Reddy there only as side actors, it is a clear one-on-one fight. No holds barred.
These are my takeaways from my travelling around Seemandhra districts and conversations (and phone chats) with both partisan and neutral observers of politics in this region.
Modi wave 
The most obvious question that every visitor from the north of the Vindhyas would like to know the answer to. On the surface, there is no Modi wave. No one even talks about the NDA’s PM candidate in these parts. But listen carefully and you will realise why Seemandhra’s results may well leave Modi smiling.
The disgust against the Congress is so deep, so intense that the natural beneficiary of that anger is Modi. When people look for a national option that is fiercely anti-Congress, Modi becomes the most obvious choice as far as Parliament is concerned. That is where Naidu has done the smart thing by tying up with Modi. Because then Naidu gains from the desire of those voters who are looking at who should occupy 7 RCR next and those votes are likely to go into the TDP-BJP alliance kitty.
In contrast, Jagan has virtually nothing to offer as far as New Delhi is concerned. Apart from a feeble proclamation that he is willing to do business with anyone but the Congress. For a state looking for dollops of grants from Delhi, having ruling party MPs would help. This factor will give Naidu a decisive edge over Jagan in the Lok Sabha polls in Seemandhra, particularly in constituencies with a higher awareness quotient. The tide may not be against YSRC to the same extent in LS seats with a higher proportion of not-so-politically aware voters.
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The Pawan Kalyan factor
The reason why Modi is not such a talking point is also because the BJP in this region is a non-entity in Seemandhra. With Kishan Reddy reducing the Andhra Pradesh unit in the last five years to a Telangana unit, the Seemandhra unit of the BJP was a decrepit outfit. But what is helping its cause is the pinch-hitting that actor Pawan Kalyan has done for Modi in the last one week of the campaign. The actor has a tremendous fan following and he is using his fan clubs and Jana Sena to take the message of `Modi for PM’ to the masses in Seemandhra far better than the BJP. If the BJP-TDP alliance does well, they owe it in large measure to Pawan Kalyan.
Kapu vote
The hope is that like elder brother Chiranjeevi whose party Praja Rajyam polled a large number of Kapu votes in 2009, Pawan would be able to net a majority of the 27 per cent Kapu vote in Seemandhra. A large number of first-time voters in Guntur told me that they will vote for TDP only because Pawan Kalyan told them to. While a large number of votes he would attract would come from the community, the flip side is that he is seen more as an actor, some kind of a youth icon and not so much as a Kapu representative. Also the Kapus are not entirely comfortable voting for a Kamma party (TDP) so I doubt how many votes will get transferred because of Pawan’s campaigning for the alliance.
The fact that Naidu at the last minute announced that one of the two deputy CMs will be a Kapu, reveals his desperation and perhaps an indication that Pawan has not been able to convince the community to plump for the bicycle. This is significant. 
As a damage control measure, YSR Congress has managed to persuade Kapunadu, an umbrella organisation representing the community to back the party. Moreover, YSRC has fielded a fair number of Kapu candidates in key constituencies.
Development Development Development
Like Vidya Balan in `The Dirty Picture’ says “Entertainment Entertainment Entertainment”, Naidu has gone into overdrive uttering the Development word. With hoardings of Naidu with Bill Gates and Hi-Tec city plastered all over urban constituencies of Seemandhra, Naidu is promising to create another Cyberabad. Talk to people who have seen Naidu as CM between 1995-2004 and they want to give him a chance. They see in him a more mature and visionary leader, wiser from having been dumped twice by the voters, who would put Seemandhra on the path to development. In contrast, to this section of the electorate, Jagan comes across as an inexperienced leader along with also the taint of corruption cases against him.
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Naidu’s credibility crisis
 
But then this does not mean everyone is in favour of Naidu. The former CM still suffers from a credibility crisis, especially in the countryside and most remember his tendency to use and throw. There are also two Naidus who are campaigning. One is for the urban areas promising development and the other offering dollops of unimplementable and economically nonsensical sops. Politicians who offer fish to eat without making the unskilled learn fishing, can be disastrous.
 
Corruption
This is the cuss word Naidu utters everytime he has to abuse Jagan. He calls him a psycho and derides him by saying his place is in jail. Jagan too has provided ammunition by giving tickets to people like industrialists like Koneru Prasad (Vijayawada LS) and Ayodhya Rami Reddy (Narsaraopet LS) who are chargesheeted in different cases, like him. But is the criticism working? Among the educated lot in urban centres, yes. But talk to people in rural Seemandhra and they ask you who is not corrupt and whether Naidu is 100% clean.
Jagan’s argument that the cases were politically motivated too has worked for him as most people believe that he would not have gone to jail if he had stayed on in the Congress.
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YSR legacy
More than himself, his mother and sister, it is his dad’s legacy that is working like a fixed deposit for Jagan. Eight of every ten YSR Congress supporters who I spoke to, in any part of Seemandhra, have good things to say about YSR and how they want to give the son a chance because the father passed away soon after they had given him a second term in May 2009. But will this feel-good factor alone work magic for Jagan, up against the might of Modi-Naidu-Pawan Kalyan, is the question. But if he has to encash it, it has to be now. 2019 will be too far away.
The Minorities factor
Losing this vote is a calculated risk Naidu has taken and this entire bloc could move to Jagan. Muslims constitute 4.5% of the coastal AP population but it is the Christian population that is his biggest strength. On paper, they are an insignificant number but a large of practising Christians are still seen in census as Dalits and other backward classes. That number is estimated roughly as around 10%. The BJP tie-up will make them shun the TDP even though they know Jagan too could go with Modi post polls if he gets the seats.
Telugu Congress Party
The biggest blunder Naidu committed was to admit a whole lot of Congress turncoats into the TDP, converting it into a branch office of Indira Bhavan. If they were liabilities in the Congress, how can they win elections in the TDP. Getting TDP cadre to gel with the campaigners of the Congress turncoat and to canvas for someone who you criticised till a month ago, has been Naidu’s biggest challenge. If the TDP suffers in the assembly contest, it will because of this singular reason. I suspect many of them will lose.
Have money, will contest
 
It does not matter if you have never been in politics before. If you are loaded and willing to splurge, you are welcome to wear the party colours. Any party. Look at the profile of the candidates and you will know why. From Jaydev Galla to Koneru Prasad to Rami Reddy to Kesineni Nani, both the TDP and YSRC have fielded crorepati candidates. Those in the know of things say, many a candidate is spending between 10 to 25 crore rupees in an assembly contest and upto 70 crores in a Lok Sabha contest. Imagine the next few years will be spent in recovering that money with interest. “In politics, it is easy,” said a former MP. Thankyou.
 
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Congress = Zero
This is the side story of this election. The ruling party that sent 29 and 33 MPs to Parliament in 2004 and 2009 respectively is poised to fall to unimaginable depths this election. Its vote share is unlikely to even touch double digits in Seemandhra and it will be a miracle if it wins any Lok Sabha seat. Chiranjeevi, its star campaigner, has not drawn any crowds and if you asked people to name the Congress candidate, in most cases they did not even know. But the anger against the Congress is not just because of bifurcation, it is also due to lack of good governance in the last five years. The electorate is fed up with the Congress and they want to deliver it a stinging electoral slap. “Iss thappad ki goonj suni tum ne” (Did you hear the sound of this slap?)
At the Guntur rally, the only one Sonia Gandhi addressed in Seemandhra, hired crowds (for 100 to 200 rupees per person) admitted they were upset with the Congress decision to bifurcate but came only because money was offered. A farce of a democracy Indian elections have become.
Kiran Kumar Reddy, a non-entity
A traffic constable manning the crowded Kaleshwaram market in Vijayawada, where Kiran Kumar Reddy was addressing a public meeting, told me, “If it was not for the fact that he was our CM, we will never allow him to hold a meeting in such a place, throwing the traffic out of gear. He is a loser.” One wonders why Kiran is even bothering to campaign since he is not even a serious player in the race. At best, he will eat into a bit of the Jagan vote and only help TDP in the bargain.
Since this is a straight contest, even a margin of 2 per cent difference between YSRC and TDP-BJP can result in a huge difference in the harvest of seats and convey the impression of a sweep. But on the ground, each seat is being very fiercely contested.
At the moment, Naidu seems to be ahead in the race, with a clear edge. Partly because of the alliance’s focus on 94 of the 175 seats that are urban or semi-urban. But poor candidate selection (two in every district, by TDP’s own admission) means the party starts with a minus of at least 25 assembly seats.
Elections are usually decided in the last 48 hours. A lot will also depend on the distribution of money and liquor at the last minute by both parties and whether that will sway a large number of voters. Also established merchants of community votebanks also will be purchased enmasse by both parties. The voting percentage will also matter as a higher turnout will work to the TDP-BJP’s advantage.
A defeat for Jagan will leave him licking his wounds and put him at the mercy of a Chandrababu Naidu who is on record saying he would like to send him to jail. A defeat for Naidu – a third one in a row – would end his political career and poachers would gobble up the TDP. As far as the Congress is concerned, it will take a lot of effort for it to ensure it does not go the Tamilnadu way in Andhra Pradesh.