Politics

As YSRCP Wins Tirupati By-Polls Comfortably, Many Question Pre-Poll Fanfare

For an election whose conclusion was largely foregone, it is a question as to why pitched campaigns took place before it.

Tirupati: The ruling Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party has won the Tirupati parliamentary seat with a comfortable margin of over 2.7 lakh votes over its nearest rival Telugu Desam Party.

The Tirupati seat fell vacant with the death of Balli Durga Prasad Rao, who succumbed to COVID-19.

The TDP which won just 23 of the 175 seats in the Andhra Pradesh assembly and the YSRCP, which won a thumping majority in the 2019 polls, both led strong campaigns. However, the panchayat polls made it foregone conclusion that YSRCP would romp home

Political Party 

YSRCP

TDP

BJP

Congress

Candidate

M. Gurumurthy

Panabaka Lakshmi

K. Ratna Prabha

Dr. Chinta Mohan

Votes polled

6,26,108

3,54,516

57,080

9,585

Percentage

56.67

32.09

5.17

0.87

The YSRCP claims that nearly 80% of its candidates won the panchayat polls though they are officially held without party symbols and agenda.

The subsequent zilla parishad and mandal parishad polls were boycotted by the TDP alleging large scale rigging and highhandedness of YSRCP. The TDP won only one of the 11 municipalities in the state – Tadipatri in Anantapuramu district.

Attention to by-polls

Many have questioned the brouhaha over the polls.

Vitapu Balasubramanium, an MLC from a teachers constituency of Andhra Pradesh said, “YSRCP had won all the assembly segments in the Tirupati parliamentary seat in 2019 and no wave of anti-government sentiment was visible. The polls could have been held in a decent manner sans money and muscle power. One wonders if an ordinary citizen can contest in these circumstances.”

In the recently held municipal corporation elections of the 50 wards in Tirupati city, the TDP won only one ward. Of them, nearly 22 were won sweepingly by YSRCP. Keen contests were seen in 26. In the 2019 assembly polls, YSRCP got 55% votes winning with a massive mandate. Even in 2014, when the TDP won in AP, YSRCP won with 47.84% votes.

“The increase in margin is sharp and YSRCP is on a strong wicket. The opposition knows this. If Jagan lost this poll the opposition narrative that the local body polls were won with misuse of state machinery could have gained currency,” says political analyst K. Nageshwar.

This led to a lot of attention to the by-polls. Even before the announcement of polling dates YSRCP’s chances in the SC-reserved seat was a foregone conclusion.

With the next assembly polls slated to be in 2024, a full three years from now, the lower rung leaders would naturally wish to maintain their allegiance to the party in power.

Cash transfers

In a pandemic year of 2020 when livelihoods have been destroyed, the YSRCP’s strategy of giving cash handouts seems to have worked well for it.

The state’s finance minister B. Rajendranath Reddy explained this in its 2020-21 budget document. “I would urge this House to revisit our definition of capital expenditure,” he said, adding “Consider the fact that every single paisa spent on enhancing the capacity of our citizenry to improve their opportunities in life is a spending on human capital — the central theme of this budget and the core philosophy of the manifesto.”

The YSRCP government, however, faced flak for giving the miss to long term benefits, and opting for immediate gains in all sectors including education. In this milieu, the anti-incumbency factor needed for people to vote against the ruling party became difficult to secure for the opposition.

Condition of opposition

The TDP fielded former Union minister Panabaka Lakshmi, who unsuccessfully contested the seat in 2019, with a target of reducing the victory of YSRCP.

The BJP which got just 16,125 votes in 2019, less than the NOTA count, fielded retired IAS officer K. Ratna Prabha and deployed its national figures and even party president J.P. Nadda paid a visit to the constituency. But BJP too failed to retain its deposit.

The Jana Sena which supported the BJP could ideally have scored better, analysts say. But they aver the BJP buoyed by its win in the Dubbaka assembly polls and GHMC (Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation) were hopeful for a victory.

This over optimism, veteran journalist Aluru Raghava Sharma says, was not rooted in realities and the BJP failed to see the obvious differences in the political climate in AP and Telangana. “Reports of votes being cast by outsiders flashing on the screens quite early on the polling day did not enthuse voters to venture out amidst concerns of coronavirus and the sweltering heat which only led to a fall in voting percentage,” he adds.

Meanwhile, YSRCP bagged 40,000 more votes in the current polls than it won in 2019. The BJP nominee managed to increase it’s votes from 16,125 in 2019, less than the NOTA count then. The Congress nominee Dr. Chinta Mohan’s votes fell further from 24,000 in 2019.

The ruling party by fielding Dr. M. Gurumurthy, a political novice took everyone by surprise – projecting Jagan as the de-facto face for voters.