Naidu had tried his best to prove that CM Jagan had lost popular base in the last two years.


Ruling YSR Congress by Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has won 73 out of the 75 municipalities and all the 11 municipal corporations in Andhra Pradesh for which elections were held last week, thus giving a shock to main Opposition TDP led by former Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu. These elections were held on party symbols.

The elections to the civic bodies came close on the heels of the Panchayat elections which were held on a non-political party basis, thus casting doubts over the claims of the ruling party over the number of gram panchayats it won. However, the municipal elections were held on the symbols of political parties and gave an opportunity to gauge the strength of each party after the 2019 May general elections.

Naidu, who lost power in the 2019 Assembly elections, had tried his best to prove that CM Jagan had lost popular base in the last two years thanks to some of his decisions like shifting of the capital city from Amaravati to Visakhapatnam etc. Naidu who scored just 23 out of the 175 MLAs in the Assembly never lost an opportunity to corner CM Jagan since then.

The political bitterness between the ruling YSR Congress and main Opposition TDP reached a crescendo within a few weeks of the Assembly elections as the Jagan government has ordered demolition of a building complex on the banks of River Krishna used by Naidu when was the CM for five years since 2014. Demolition notices were served on the residence building of Naidu too.

CM Jagan’s decision to go for three capitals—Amaravati as the legislative capital, Visakhapatnam as the executive capital where Secretariat will be located and Kurnool as judicial capital where High Court would be set up—was vehemently opposed by thousands of farmers who had donated their lands for Amaravati as the capital city has given a fillip to Naidu’s fight against Jagan. Naidu and the entire TDP leadership, including his son and party general secretary Lokesh, joined the farmers in their struggle which has been going on for the last 400-plus days at Amaravati. Interestingly, Lokesh lost to his YSR Congress rival from Mangalagiri Assembly seat which is part of the capital region development authority of Amaravati. Naidu thought that his participation in the farmers struggle would give him an advantage to retrieve the lost ground in agricultural rich Vijayawada and Guntur cities, between which Amaravati is located. Naidu even went to the extent of calling these local bodies’ elections as a referendum on the capital city issue. But, YSR Congress captured both Vijayawada and Guntur civic corporations.

Not only that, all the municipalities that fall under the limits of these two districts went to the ruling party, disappointing Naidu and his party leaders. Of course, Naidu has accused CM Jagan of winning these elections through misuse of official machinery, threatening TDP leaders and cadre and influencing the voters, but these excuses couldn’t diminish the impact of his party’s defeat. Days before the polls, the opposition camp got another issue—the disinvestment of the Central sector unit, Visakhapatnam Steel Factory. The Union Cabinet’s decision to go for disinvestment in this over Rs 1.25 lakh crore public sector undertaking has been converted into an election issue by Naidu, though Jagan too opposed the privatisation move. Naidu’s charge was that CM Jagan was in the know of the things about this steel factory, which was set up at Visakhapatnam in 1975 after historic struggles by Andhra people. The Visakhapatnam civic corporation polls were turned into a sort of another referendum by the TDP. Still, YSR Congress won three fourths of the total divisions and captured the mayor post of this port city. Another salient feature of these polls is the dismal show of BJP and Jana Sena which contested together couldn’t win any municipalities. This new combine secured some divisions and wards in some civic bodies, but it will have to be seen if they can sustain the base in the coming days. On the whole, Jagan’s YSR Congress has proved that its popularity in Andhra is intact.

Political fallout of these results is that the Jagan’s government has decided to fix Naidu in a case involving transfer of lands allotted to the SC/STs to others in the Amaravati city region when the latter was the CM. For the last two years, Jagan’s government has been claiming that large scale irregularities have taken place in the pooling of lands for Amaravati city. Based on a complaint by YSR Congress MLA Alla Ramakrishna Reddy, the AP CID police have registered a case and served notices to Naidu to appear before them next week for grilling. Naidu is consulting his legal team on these notices. In an FIR filed by the cops in this case, Naidu has been mentioned as A1 in it. However, AP High Court granted a stay on the notices.