It’s an alpha-election on Wednesday for Seemandhra, the regions that will, starting June 2, form the downsized state of Andhra Pradesh.
Voters will pick 25 parliamentarians and 175 state law-makers in an election that is largely a contest between two regional powerhouses -the veteran Chandrababu Naidu and Jagan Mohan Reddy, whose fledgling party derives considerable strength and popularity from the legacy of his famous father, YSR, who died in 2009 while he was chief minister.
Mr. Naidu, 65, has linked his Telugu Desam Party or TDP to the BJP. Mr. Reddy’s new YSR Congress is contesting the election without a partner.
Mr. Naidu, who was chief minister a decade ago, is aware that this election offers him the strongest chance at a comeback in years. The BJP is being forecast to win the maximum seats in the national election. Mr. Naidu hopes to gain from that momentum.
For Jagan Mohan, who was jailed for 16 months on corruption charges, an electoral triumph would offer the chance to proclaim that voters believe in his innocence; it could also alter the pace of the investigation against him.
The stakes being what they are, it is an open secret that candidates for both major parties have been selected largely on the basis of how well they can fund their campaigns.
That is why no one is really surprised that over 134 crore rupees or nearly half of the unaccounted-for money seized before the elections has come from Andhra Pradesh. Many say that’s just a drop in the ocean.
Lagadapati Rajagopal, formerly of the Congress, grabbed national headlines after spritizing pepper spray in parliament to protest against the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. He is not contesting this election. “The reports we are getting is that for an assembly seat, the minimum spending is some 10 crore rupees. Which means around 70 crore rupees for a parliament seat,” he said.
It helps that many candidates are businessmen with deep pockets.
Ramachandra Murthy, chief editor of a Telugu daily and news channel, points out that businessmen and corporate honchos have replaced those who’ve been in politics for years.
“Earlier politicians used to depend on capitalists, businessmen and industrialists. Now businessmen and industrialists have become politicians,” he said.