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TDP holds the edge in Andhra Pradesh

By Mohammed Siddique in Hyderabad
April 22, 2009 17:26 IST
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Even as Andhra Pradesh gets set for the second phase of polling in 20 Lok Sabha and 140 state assembly constituencies on Thursday, it was increasingly clear that like the first phase, the opposition Telugu Desam Party is comfortably ahead of the ruling Congress in a majority of the seats.
Though the Praja Rajyam Party of actor Chiranjeevi is unlikely to cross even 20 in the state assembly and may win be one or two Lok Sabha seats, it has caused big damage to the prospects of Congress by eating in to its vote bank among the Kapu community. The TDP has been a big beneficiary of PRP's presence and if Chandrababu Naidu returns to power in the state next month, he should thank Chiranjeevi.
The din of the electioneering has stopped and silence descended on the ten districts of Andhra Pradesh in coastal belt and Rayalaseema as a bitter and no holds barred campaign ended on Tuesday evening.
As all the top three players of the electoral battle in the state -- Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy, TDP president Chandrababu Naidu and PRP president Chiranjeevi -- are contesting assembly elections from different constituencies in the Rayalaseema region, they chose to conclude their campaign in this politically sensitive region.
Rajasekhar Reddy, who is seeking re-election from his family pocket borough Pulivendula in Kadapa district, addressed his last election meeting in Nandikotkkur town of neighbouring Kurnool district seeking another term to continue his development work.
"If TDP and its allies come to power, all the major irrigation projects in Rayalaseema will be abandoned and the region will turn in to a desert", he warned the people. In a remark aimed at the sizeable Muslim population in the belt, YSR also warned that Naidu's commitment to secularism was shaky. "As the Left front is becoming weak in Kerala, West Bengal and other places and there is no hope for Third front, Chandrababu Naidu can once again go back to the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance. The efforts have already started in this direction", YSR said.
Vidyasagar Rao of the BJP and K Chandrasekhara Rao of Telangana Rashtra Samiti were trying to persuade Naidu, he added. 
Naidu, who addressed an election meeting in Tirupati along with the top leaders of the Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India-Marxist A B Bardhan and Prakash Karat declared the victory of Grand Alliance. "Elections are a mere formality. We have already won the elections," a confident Naidu told his concluding rally in his Kuppam assembly constituency in Chittoor. His brother in law and popular film star Balakrishna also addressed the meeting urging the people to elect Naidu. "He is the next chief minister of the state," Balakrishna said.
Naidu, who had offered special prayers at the Balaji temple in Tirupathi before starting his campaign, again went up the hill after the end of the campaign and offered prayers.
Chiranjeevi, who was campaigning in his home turf of Godavari including his constituency Palacole in West Godavari till Tuesday, took a helicopter to reach temple town of Tirupathi, his second assembly seat amid the reports that his prospects were not too good in the second constituency either. Chiranjeevi is the second film star after TDP founder N T Rama Rao to contest from this seat.
"The end of the Congress rule has come. People have decided to bring PRP to power for a social change. The silent revolution will be seen when the votes are counted," he said one of his last election meetings at Kakinada.
The security has been tightened in all the ten districts and its borders with other parts of Andhra Pradesh as well as other states to check the flow of money and liquor, which reaches its peak a day or two before the polling.
The politicians have also taken out their calculators and note pads to analyse their prospects and make an educated guess of what the post poll scenario might be.
Their assessment of the scenario shows that out of the 140 assembly constituencies in the second phase, the TDP led alliance was ahead in more than 70 seats taking its possible total of seats to about 150.  The TDP was also leading in 9 Lok Sabha seats and is poised win about 18 Lok Sabha seats in total.

The Congress party is a distant second with a lead in 38 assembly seats in the second phase of polls and 52 assembly segments in the in the first phase, its total strength in assembly was unlikely to cross a 100.

In the Lok Sabha, the Congress was ahead in only 12 seats, down from 29 in 2004. While Majlis-e-Ittehadul Musilameen was likely to retain the Hyderabad seat and the PRP is likely to win Anakapally seat, the remaining ten Lok Sabha seats will witness a close contest between two or more candidates. 
The PRP was seen as comfortably ahead in two assembly seats after the first phase will add 11 in the second phase taking its total to 13.  Observers say that the PRP's tally was not likely to cross 20 in the state assembly.
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Mohammed Siddique in Hyderabad