The poll bugle has sounded in Andhra Pradesh. Voting takes place on May 13. Both for assembly and Lok Sabha. The big fight is between Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP and former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party, which is allied with the Bharatiya Janata Party and actor Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena, a three-way tripartite tie. The last assembly elections, YSRCP polled nearly 50 percent and won 151 seats. Will it retain hold?

Naidu’s TDP believes it won’t. In the overall all-India scenario, Andhra Pradesh is like a different planet. TDP and Jana Sena have by signing alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party sworn allegiance to a third Modi term. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP isn’t bothered whether Modi remains or Modi is evicted. Andhra Pradesh, ever since its division into two, has cut a lonely path. Part of the reason is Jagan Mohan Reddy’s strictly regional image. Not that rival Chandrababu Naidu is “national”. Andhra Pradesh has 4.08 crore voters, nearly half of them female. There are also 3,482 transgender voters. AP has 175 assembly constituencies and 25 parliamentary constituencies. Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy says he will retain power. The TDP, which got 23 percent of the vote share in 2019, believes the YSRCP will bite dust this time. Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena got 1 percent of the vote-share in 2019.

The candidates’ lists of the YSRCP for the 175 assembly seats and 25 Lok Sabha seats have been out for weeks. 50 percent of the candidates are from SC, ST, OBC and minority communities. The names are irrelevant but they seem to have the backing of the party’s rank and file. Also, the TDP is satisfied with “pulling all stops” to take control of AP with BJP and Jana Sena in tow. The Congress and Left parties are bit players. There is a seat-sharing deal between TDP, BJP and Jana Sena. The BJP got six Lok Sabha and 10 assembly seats. TDP got 17 parliamentary and 144 assembly seats Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena two Lok Sabha and 21 assembly seats. The BJP will be the junior-most partner in the government if the alliance wins the assembly. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi is more interested in the Lok Sabha count. If the TDP wins all 17 Lok Sabha seats allotted to it, there is no guarantee Naidu will not ask for more than his pound of flesh.

Naidu is sure the TDP-BJP-Jana Sena triumvirate will defeat YSRCP easily and Andhra Pradesh will be rid of Jagan Mohan Reddy and his evangelical party. Religious conversions in Andhra Pradesh has been a sore point for years but whether it is an election issue is not apparent to outsiders though why Andhra Pradesh and Punjab are hotbeds of Christian evangelism will be an interesting study for a serious student. That being said, Pawan Kalyan is the most excited about the elections. The Jana Sena cannot wait for elections to be held and results to be declared. June 4 for Pawan Kalyan is so excruciatingly far. If Jana Sena wins both its Lok Sabha seats, there will be statewide celebrations. Add to that a good share of the 21 assembly seats allotted to it, and Pawan Kalyan wouldn’t be asking for a BO Blockbuster again, ever.

What perhaps irritates Chandrababu Naidu, however, is Jagan Mohan Reddy’s equanimity in the face of TDP claims. TDP is also fighting several disappointed “seat hopefuls”. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been holding rallies. Pawan Kalyan has to win the two Lok Sabha seats allocated to Jana Sena for Modi’s sake. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s confidence is bothering both Modi and Naidu. Jagan’s “welfare-dependent statecraft” has both these leaders in their 70s sweating. Reddy’s slogan “why not 175” is giving the TDP sleepless nights. Modi’s nervousness must be only skin deep. What if Reddy’s party YSRCP sweeps all 25 Lok Sabha seats? Willy-nilly even Jagan Mohan Reddy might have a say in deciding whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi gets a third term or not. The Congress party comeback is being led by Jagan’s sister Y S Sharmila and she has been talking big. The Congress is also fighting “all the assembly and Lok Sabha seats”. YS Sharmila is not shy of throwing a challenge to YS Jagan Mohan Reddy.

YS Sharmila is fighting YS Jagan Mohan daggers drawn. The Congress will be happy winning a couple of assembly seats. Andhra Pradesh is the only South state where the Congress is angling for a toehold. Time was when it had a foothold and those days are long gone. The NDA partners with their “welfare-heavy manifesto” is what is making news. Naidu did the honours for all three allies. The manifesto has “super six” apart from a slew of welfare schemes. The “super six” includes a Rs 1,500 monthly pension to women in age bracket 19-59. Plus 20 lakh jobs for youth. And Rs 3,000 monthly unemployment stipend. Also, free bus travel for women. Naidu said both BJP and Jana Sena contributed to the manifesto. Three free LPG cylinders to every household is another “super six”. As also, Rs 15,000 to school-going children and Rs 20,000 aid for every farmer. The fact that the manifesto promises “youth employment” is evidence Modi rule was hard on the jobs generation front. So much so, political parties cannot avoid promising jobs in their election manifestos. Naidu’s manifesto talks of a “mega teacher recruitment drive”, “annual job calendar” and “dedicated employment zones”.

BJP’s “national manifesto” was mentioned by Naidu who expressed faith that BJP would play by the coalition dharma as people’s lives matter. Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy scoffed at the manifesto and noted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photograph was missing from the TDP-BJP-Jana Sena manifesto, which told a story.

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