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With bifurcation as core, campaigning picks up in Seemandhra (Election Special)

Posted on Mar 23 2014 | IANS

By Mohammed Shafeeq, Hyderabad, March 23 : More than one and a half months before the elections in Seemandhra, campaigning is picking up with leaders of the Congress finally hitting the road to salvage the party's image in the aftermath of Andhra Pradesh's bifurcation.

Jolted by exodus of several leaders including former central and state ministers to other parties, the Congress launched 'bus yatra' to enthuse party cadres ahead of the May 7 simultaneous elections to the state assembly and the Lok Sabha.

Led by former Telugu superstar K. Chiranjeevi, who is heading the party's campaign committee, the 'bus yatra' launched Friday is the first attempt by the party to reach out to people after bifurcation.

Fearing a public backlash for splitting the state, the Congress is lagging far behind the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) in the campaigning.

Even Jai Samaikyandhra Party (JSP) floated by Kiran Kumar Reddy, who resigned as chief minister last month to protest bifurcation, has already addressed public meetings in parts of Seemandhra or residuary Andhra Pradesh which comprises 13 districts of Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra.

The elections in undivided Andhra Pradesh are being held in two phases - April 30 and May 7.

Simultaneous polls to 119 assembly seats and 17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana will be held April 30 while elections to 175 assembly seats and 25 Lok Sabha seats in Seemandhra are scheduled for May 7.

The elected legislators will be allotted to their respective states, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, which will formally come into being June 2.

If the Congress and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in Telangana are seeking vote by claiming credit for separate statehood to the region, the Congress, TDP, YSR Congress and Jai Samaikyandhra are slugging it out in Seemandhra blaming each other for the state's division.

Waking up late to the attack by its rivals, the Congress is trying to explain to the people that it was the last party to take a decision on bifurcation after all others favoured division.

The Congress leaders are also trying to turn tables on Kiran Reddy.

"The first person in Andhra Pradesh to know about the centre's decision was Kiran Kumar Reddy but he kept quiet to enjoy the power," said Chiranjeevi.

The Congress is promising to build 'modern Andhra Pradesh' and claiming credit for the special package announced for the state.

"The division is painful but irreversible. We are committed to make Andhra Pradesh the most developed state in the country," said Raghuveera Reddy, president of the Andhra Pradesh unit of the party.

Adding a new dimension to the poll battle, popular actor Pawan Kalyan has launched a new political party, Jana Sena. The youngest brother of Chiranjeevi has given a call for burying the Congress and has even joined hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

With talks still on between the TDP and the BJP, an alliance of three parties is likely to be firmed up in next few days. Even the Lok Satta formed by bureaucrat Jayaprakash Narayan has hinted at an alliance with the BJP.

The campaigning will gain momentum once Pawan, who is likely to be the star campaigner of the proposed alliance, hits the road.

The TDP is already riding high on influx of several Congress leaders including sitting MPs and state legislators. Its chief N. Chandrababu Naidu is aggressively campaigning in Seemandhra. Claiming credit for transforming Hyderabad into a vibrant economic and IT hub when he was chief minister from 1994 to 2004, Naidu is promising to build Andhra Pradesh and a new capital on similar lines.

YSR Congress chief Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, his mother Y.S. Vijayamma and sister Sharmila are criss-crossing Seemandhra to garner support for the party. The party floated by Jaganmohan Reddy in 2010 after resigning from the Congress is ahead in campaigning but has failed to attract political heavyweights from the Congress, who are preferring to join the TDP.

At all their public meetings, YSRCP leaders are holding all their political rivals responsible for bifurcation. Jagan is promising to bring back the 'golden rule' of his father Y. S. Rajasekahara Reddy, who launched many welfare schemes as chief minister from 2004 to 2009.

Kiran Reddy, who floated the party on the slogan of Telugu self-respect, is blaming all other parties for the division.

In a three-cornered contest in 2009, the Congress had bagged 107 assembly and 21 Lok Sabha seats in Seemandhra. The TDP had won 56 assembly and four Lok Sabha seats. Praja Rajyam Party (PRP), floated by Chiranjeevi a few months before the polls, had finished a poor third with 16 assembly seats. It drew a blank in the Lok Sabha polls.

In 2010, Chiranjeevi merged his PRP with the Congress.

(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at m.shafeeq@ians.in)

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