by TS Sudhir | 03:21 PM August 09, 2017

Battle for Nandyal turns ugly, sets the tone for Andhra in 2019

Battle for Nandyal turns ugly, sets tone for Andhra in 2019

You know a person's desperation by the outlandishness of his utterances. 

Travel to Nandyal in Kurnool district and you will feel the on-the-edge sensation in the air. This is where the Telugu Desam and the YSR Congress are locked in a by-election battle on 23 August, after the demise of the Nandyal MLA Bhuma Nagi Reddy.

The latest one by Chandrababu Naidu is proof that the TDP has decided to throw stones even at the dead. Naidu has now accused the late YS Rajasekhara Reddy of having a hand in the naxal attempt on his life in October 2003 in Alipiri near Tirupati. 

The fact that the TDP Facebook page has prominently shared this allegation shows the party has decided to go for broke. 

"It was with the covert support from late YSR that Kollam Gangi Reddy, an international red sanders smuggler, had provided logistics in the form of cellphone and money to the Maoists in attacking me," said Naidu. The chief minister also insinuated that YSR had even put pressure on the investigating officer to let Gangi Reddy off the hook. And after becoming CM in 2004, he met Reddy at his village. 

While Naidu's intention is to put YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy on the defensive, the question Naidu needs to answer is why did he remain mum on such a damning charge for 14 years. Three assembly elections have been fought since then - in 2004, 2009 and 2014 - and never has Naidu made this explicit charge. 

If his successor indeed had a part to play in conspiring to eliminate him, did Naidu mention it to the police or the Prakash Singh Commission of Inquiry that looked into the lapses that led to the Naxal attack? If not, Naidu's insinuation only comes across as a brain wave on the eve of the Nandyal election. 

What Naidu is doing is to respond in kind to the low level of political discourse Jagan has resorted to. Last week, the Leader of the Opposition, at an election meeting in Nandyal, accused Naidu of not fulfilling poll promises and said there would be nothing wrong if leaders like him were shot dead in public. 

"Naidu should be shot dead for cheating people of Andhra Pradesh and his false promises and double speak on every issue. Naidu made so many promises to farmers, minorities, women, unemployed youth but failed to deliver. He is treacherous. He is like a Kaliyuga demon,'' he said. 

Jagan's party may explain this rant to the Election Commission as a case of flourish in a speech but it is anything but that. It reflects the kangaroo court mindset of a party and its leader that he thinks nothing much of blood being spilled. 

Not surprising then that Naidu cleverly linked it to 2003 and asked why Jagan wants to get him killed now. Naidu is trying to play the sympathy card that he is being targeted by the YSR family. Three years ago, the people of Andhra Pradesh, hurt by bifurcation, trusted the maturity and administrative experience of Naidu over Jagan. 

Clearly, Jagan has not learnt a lesson from why he was rejected. 

There has been criticism of Naidu for his Amaravati fixation and there is much resentment in the non-Krishna and Guntur districts that nothing much has come their way. But instead of tapping into this anti-incumbency sentiment, Jagan has chosen to deflect the advantage he holds with his loose tongue. 

That Naidu is nervous is only too obvious. Even before the date of the bypoll was announced, he divided Nandyal politically. 
He made it clear that those who voted for the opposition YSR Congress should not expect any benefits from the government, forgetting he is CM of all the citizens of the state, not just of those who voted for the TDP. 

He said, "You take pensions doled out by my government, walk on the roads laid by my administration, take rations and use the glow of the streetlights erected by us. Why wouldn't you vote for us?'' 

Nandyal is a prestige contest for both Naidu and Jagan also because the seat was originally won by Bhuma Nagi Reddy in 2014 on a YSRC ticket. Earlier this year, he along with his daughter Bhuma Akhila Priya defected to the TDP. So now it is important for Naidu to register a win because a loss would be interpreted as thumbs down to the poaching by the ruling party. 

It is evident both sides are leaving no stone unturned to throw muck at each other. 

Now the YSRC has released an undated video that shows Naidu citing a shortage of funds to give to Nandyal for widening roads. YSRC now asks why is Naidu showering Nandyal with goodies on the eve of the by-election?

With the BJP flexing its muscles in Andhra Pradesh after Venkaiah Naidu's departure from the political scene, the result could well have a bearing on alliances in the run-up to 2019. 

It is pretty much certain that Nandyal has lowered the bar for decorum in political life and success or defeat of either side, will only propel them to get into repeat mode.

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