Will Chandrababu Naidu’s winning streak continue in Andhra’s Kuppam?

Monday, June 24, 2024

While Telugu Desam Party (TDP) President N. Chandrababu Naidu has his eyes set on another term in power, the ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) in Andhra Pradesh is going all out to defeat him in Kuppam in his home district Chittoor.

As part of its slogan ‘why not 175’, the YSRCP has been focusing on Kuppam, which is represented by the former chief minister since 1989.

Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has been trying to undermine his arch-rival in Kuppam since 2014 and he stepped up the efforts after coming to power in 2019. The same year he upgraded Kuppam town from Nagar Panchayat to Grade-III municipality.

Jagan’s efforts yielded results as YSRCP won Kuppam municipality and all rural local bodies in the 2021 local body elections.

For the first time in three decades, the TDP lost all local bodies in Chandrababu Naidu’s home constituency.

It was following this win that the ruling party came up with the ‘why not 175’ slogan to win all Assembly seats in the 2024 polls.

After YSRCP’s sweep in local body elections, Jagan Mohan Reddy visited Kuppam in 2022. Since then the party made consistent efforts to undermine Naidu’s supremacy on his home turf.

YSRCP’s Chittoor strongman and minister Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy led the attempts by launching various welfare programmes in Kuppam on a mission mode. Ramachandra Reddy’s son and MP P. V. Midhun Reddy personally oversaw the implementation of the schemes

Jagan visited Kuppam again early this year to inaugurate several developmental projects and also released water to Kuppam town through the recently constructed branch canal from the Handri Neeva Sujala Sravanthi reservoir. The YSRCP claimed that this met a long-pending demand of the people of Kuppam which Naidu did meet despite being in power.

The Chief Minister accused Naidu of completely neglecting his own constituency, which he had been representing for the last three and a half decades. “He has lost his eligibility to be your MLA,” he said.

Naidu, however, claimed that 87 per cent of works on the Kuppam canal were completed during his regime itself and asked why it took five long years for Jagan to complete the remaining works.

At the same public meeting, Jagan introduced KRJ Bharat as the YSRCP candidate from Kuppam. He appealed to people to elect the OBC candidate as their representative.

Jagan went on to promise a ministerial position for Bharat and assured the people that the government would launch further development and welfare initiatives in the Kuppam constituency.

Bharat is the son of retired IAS officer K. Chandramouli, who had contested as a YSRCP candidate from the same constituency in 2014 and 2019.

Chandramouli gave a tough fight to Naidu in 2019. The TDP chief, however, managed to retain the seat with a majority of 30,722 votes.

In the 2014 election, Naidu’s margin of victory over Chandramouli was 47,121 votes.

After Chandramouli’s death in 2020, YSRCP made his son Bharat the party in charge of the constituency.

The drop in victory margin since 2009 and YSRCP’s special focus on Kuppam forced Naidu to put in place a counter-strategy.

The TDP chief started frequently visiting the constituency to reinforce his connect with the people. He promised to transform Kuppam into a model town. Naidu announced the creation of a special cluster, spread across 100 acres, for granite sculptors. He also unveiled plans to ensure the welfare and development of various sections.

The former chief minister also promised an outer ring road and a four-lane road to Bengaluru to improve connectivity and infrastructure in Kuppam.

Naidu’s wife N. Bhuvaneswari also visited the constituency last month to file a nomination on his behalf. On April 20, she celebrated Naidu’s 74th birthday with party leaders and interacted with voters from various sections.

Kuppam, which is in close proximity to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, has 2.25 lakh voters. A total of 13 candidates are in the fray but the main contest is between Naidu and Bharat, who belong to Kamma and Vennekula Kshatriya communities respectively.

While Naidu has a long track record in the constituency, Bharat is fighting the polls on the plank of YSRCP’s development agenda for the segment.

Krishna Raghava Jayendra Bharath or KRJ Bharath is 35-year-old and has done Bachelor of Technology. It remains to be seen if he would achieve what his late father could not do in the two previous elections.

Naidu, who was born in Naravaripalle in the Chandragiri Assembly constituency, made his electoral debut on a winning note in 1978 from Chandragiri as Congress party candidate. He, however, lost the 1983 election from Chandragiri to the candidate of TDP, which was floated by Naidu’s father-in-law and matinee idol N. T. Rama Rao.

After switching loyalties to TDP, Naidu moved to Kuppam in 1989 and since then he never lost an election from there.

It was as MLA from Kuppam that Naidu served as chief minister for 14 years including nine years as the chief minister of united Andhra Pradesh.

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