» Election » For Cong, TDP chief may be a tough nut to crack

For Cong, TDP chief may be a tough nut to crack

By Desaraju Surya in Kuppam
April 22, 2009 13:10 IST
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He was the poster boy of reforms in Andhra Pradesh when he was ousted from power and now Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu is striving to regain the lost glory though rival Congress has taken it upon itself to see him grounded.

Naidu is facing Congress nominee M Subrahmanyam Reddy in the assembly polls on Thursday.

The former chief minister won the seat four times in a row and has been the state Chief Minister for nine years. However, much has changed in the last five years when he remained the leader of Opposition in the assembly, as many of his close followers switched loyalties to other parties, notably the Congress.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Rajasekhara Reddy rolled out benefits like permanent houses, pensions etc in Kuppam mainly to eat into his bete noire Naidu's vote bank. That the TDP was gradually losing ground in Kuppam became evident when the Congress won two mandal parishads and one zilla parishad territorial constituency in the Panchayat polls in 2006.

However, Naidu undertook swift damage-control measures by interacting regularly with local leaders to ensure that his vote base remained intact.

The TDP supremo won by a margin of 60,000 votes in 2004 but this time it may come down by a few thousands as his stronghold V Kota mandal has been merged with the neighbouring constituency after the delimitation.

Meanwhile, the Congress started grooming its nominee against Naidu and made him the chairman of the Chittoor Zilla Parishad in 2006 to help him raise his clout and emerge as a strongman against the TDP chief.

However, Naidu still has huge support among the locals. "He is going to be the Chief Minister again. So where's the question of his losing from Kuppam," wonders Muni Naidu, a local businessman.

Of the total 1,60,124 voters in Kuppam, only a negligible 553 belong to the Kamma community of Naidu. However, the former chief minister has always enjoyed the backing of a 1,28,099-strong OBC vote bank.

Nevertheless, the YSR government has striven its best to snatch an edge over Naidu. For the first time, it has sanctioned 50,000 houses for the poor in here. While most of the houses have been completed, others are under construction.

On top of that a polytechnic college and a degree college have been sanctioned.

"Chandrababu Naidu failed to sanction a degree college even during his stint as Chief Minister for nine years," Reddy alleged.

He is also using the "outsider" tag against Naidu to win over the electorate. "A man whose permanent residence is in Hyderabad cannot become a local in Kuppam. Moreover, he migrated to Kuppam from Chandragiri long ago," he pointed out during the campaigning.

The state government has also started work on the long-pending Paler irrigation project, which was not taken up during the Naidu regime.

Naidu has for the first time in 20 years conducted an election rally in Kuppam on the final day of the campaigning to woo voters in the last minute along with brother-in-law and film star Nandamuri Balakrishna.

His son Lokesh earlier undertook a low-key campaign in the area for a few days and interacted with the local party workers to ensure that things moved smoothly for his father.

Against this backdrop, though the Congress has sufficient reasons to hope for a surprise here, Naidu is still expected to be too tough to be cracked easily.

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Desaraju Surya in Kuppam
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