The ruling Congress in Andhra Pradesh has never been in such a dicey situation as it finds itself now.
It has literally been pushed into backward defense as it heads for the crucial by-elections to Kadapa Lok Sabha and Pulivendula Assembly seats, slated for May 8.
An aggressive onslaught, combined with a mind game unleashed by rebel leader Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy ahead of the by-polls is proving too tough to handle for the grand old party. The stakes are indeed very high for the two sides in the battle that could well alter the political future of Andhra Pradesh.
A victory in the by-polls will see the emergence of former MP Jagan not only as a leader in his own right but also as a powerful challenger to the ruling party. A defeat – which of course, is seen as a remote possibility – will seal his political fate.
While Jagan will contest the Kadapa Lok Sabha seat, his mother Y S Vijayalakshmi will seek re-election from Pulivendula. In the by-polls in December 2009, Vijayalakshmi was elected unanimously from Pulivendula following the death of her husband and former CM Y S Rajasekhara Reddy.
She too resigned from her post along with her son and also quit the Congress on November 29 last year. This time, however, she will have to face the contest as the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party have decided to field their candidates.
For the Congress, winning the by-elections is critical on one hand to ensure longevity of the Kiran Kumar Reddy government and on the other to sustain its hegemony in the state politics.
As part of the mind game, Jagan declared that the by-elections would indeed be a fight between (the legacy of) his late father YSR and Congress president Sonia Gandhi whom he accused of splitting his family.
Incidentally, the by-elections are not just a fight between Jagan’s new political party, the YSR Congress, and the Congress but a power tussle within Rajasekhara Reddy’s family as well. For, it is Jagan’s uncle Y S Vivekananda Reddy who will be fighting his mother for the Pulivendula seat.
Viveka, AP’s Agriculture Minister, stayed on in the Congress much against Jagan’s will after the mother and the son quit the party.
Younger brother of late YSR, Viveka actually holds more clout in Kadapa and Pulivendula but Jagan is trying to beat him emotionally.
"He (Viveka) is going to fight his own sister-in-law (Vijayalakshmi) who is regarded as a mother. Would my late father’s soul rest in peace," Jagan asks, trying to score a sentimental point.
At one point, the Congress decided not to field any candidate against Vijayalakshmi to beat Jagan in his own "sentimental" game but it was Viveka himself who insisted on jumping into the ring from Pulivendula rather than Kadapa.
Left with no choice, the party had to give in to his demand. Now, it is desperately searching for a suitable candidate to take on Jagan in Kadapa.
Jagan, who won the Kadapa seat by a margin of over 1.75 lakh votes in May 2009, now aims to bag it by a margin of over three lakh votes. While he is already racing ahead with the poll campaign, the Congress is still on a manhunt. (PTI)