Hyderabad: A three-cornered contest is likely in Andhra Pradesh’s Badvel Assembly constituency, where by-elections are scheduled to be held on October 30.
With the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) staying away from the contest, the ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) will be taking on the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which are struggling to have some presence in the state legislature.
Badvel is a reserved constituency for scheduled castes and it is located in Kadapa, the home district of chief minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy. While the YSRCP looks confident to retain the seat, both the Congress and the BJP will be trying to make their presence felt.
The death of sitting MLA Dr G. Venkatasubbaiah of the YSRCP in March this year necessitated the by-election. In a move to cash in on the perceived sympathy factor, the YSRCP has fielded his wife Dasari Sudha.
The main opposition TDP decided to stay away from the Badvel by-poll. The party, which had announced its candidate a month ago, took a U-turn after the announcement of the poll schedule by the Election Commission.
TDP leaders claimed that their decision is in line with the party’s tradition of not contesting a by-election where a family member of the deceased sitting legislator is seeking the public mandate.
“It was our party which started this tradition and hence we decided to continue this tradition,” said TDP’s state president K Atchannaidu.
The decision of the TDP on October 3, came to a day after actor-politician Pawan Kalyan announced that the Jana Sena will not field a candidate as the deceased MLA’s widow is contesting the by-poll. His decision baffled his alliance partner BJP as he was in talks with the BJP leaders to finalise a candidate.
After the decision by the TDP and Pawan Kalyan, it was thought that Badvel may see a unanimous election. However, ignoring Pawan Kalyan’s move, the BJP decided to contest the by-election. The party’s central leadership named Punathala Suresh as its candidate.
A youth leader of the BJP, Suresh, held various positions in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and later in the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM). It may be noted that the saffron party and the Congress party won only around 1% of the vote share in the 2019 state elections.
BJP state president Somu Veerraju said the BJP will contest the by-election with all seriousness to oppose the “dynastic politics and family rule of Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy (chief minister)”. He believes that Suresh, who took up people’s issues during the last 14 years as a student leader and for the last five years as a youth leader, will get the blessings of the people of Badvel.
Suresh (38) had contested as a BJP candidate from Railway Koduru constituency in the same district in 2019 but finished a distant sixth, polling 1,049 (0.77 per cent) votes.
The results of the previous elections in Badvel show the BJP has hardly any presence in the constituency. In the 2019 election, its candidate T. Jayaramulu had finished seventh, garnering only 735 votes (0.47 per cent).
Venkatasubbaiah of the YSRCP was elected in 2019 defeating his nearest rival Obulapuram Rajasekhar of the TDP with a margin of 44,734 votes.
However, BJP leaders are confident that the result will be different this time. GVL Narasimha Rao predicted that the state’s politics will witness the beginning of a change with the outcome of the Badvel by-poll. The MP claimed that people were fed up with YSRCP’s misrule and wanted to give the BJP a chance. “In the next two-and-a-half years we will fight and end their misrule,” he said.
Political analysts say with the TDP staying away, the BJP is keen to at least project itself as the main opposition. In 2019, the YSRCP had stormed to power winning 151 seats in the 175-member Assembly. The BJP drew a blank while the TDP secured 23 seats. The Jana Sena had bagged one seat.
The YSRCP, which has swept all the rural and local body elections held over the last two years, is confident of a cakewalk in Badvel. In May this year, the party retained the Tirupati Lok Sabha seat by a huge margin.
The Congress party, which is looking to revive its fortunes, has fielded former MLA P. M. Kamalamma from Badvel. Still reeling under the humiliating defeats in the 2014 and 2019 elections, the grand old party will be making another attempt to salvage its pride by having some representation in the Assembly.
Kamalamma, a government teacher, had joined the Congress party in 2009 at the invitation of then chief minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy. Contesting as the Congress candidate in Badvel in the 2009 polls, she defeated the TDP’s L. Chennaiah by over 36,000 votes.
She remained with the Congress party when Jagan Mohan Reddy raised the banner of revolt following the death of his father Rajasekhara Reddy in a helicopter crash and later floated the YSRCP. Kamalamma served as a member of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes from 2014 to 2017.
In the 2014 elections, Congress was wiped out due to public anger over the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh to create Telangana State. The YSRCP wrested Badvel from the Congress, whose candidate J. Kamal Prabhash polled just 1,524 votes (0.98 per cent). In 2019 Kamalamma again contested on a Congress ticket but garnered only 2,337 votes (1.49 per cent).
Badvel has a total of 2,16,139 voters including 1,07,340 women and two transgenders. A total of 35 nominations have been filed for the seat. Several non-recognised parties and independent candidates have filed their nominations besides the nominees of the YSRCP, the Congress and the BJP.