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Telugu Desam Party appears to be on comeback trail in Andhra Pradesh

With a year to go for the Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, the political equation in the state appears to be changing.

After a humiliating defeat in 2019 polls and the loss in every election since then, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) appears to be on comeback trail.

The recent victories in Legislative Council polls have infused a new life into the TDP, which was looking no match for the ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) till a few months ago.

The TDP’s winning four Council seats has not changed the power equation in the state but it has definitely lifted the sagging morale of the opposition party.

While TDP winning three Council seats from graduates’ constituencies indicates that the party regained lost ground among the electorate, the shock defeat of YSRCP in one of the seven Council seats from the MLA quota shows despite the vice-like grip of Jagan Mohan Reddy, the ruling party looks vulnerable.

The cross-voting by four MLAs of YSRCP, which helped the TDP candidate win the seat, exposed the chinks in the ruling party’s armour.

Political analysts say with back to back wins, TDP president and former Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu has sent a clear message that he may be down but is certainly not out.

TDP, which was left with 19 MLAs in 175-member Assembly after four of its MLAs switched loyalties to YSRCP, did not have the required strength (22) to win the seat while YSRCP with the support of four rebels of TDP and lone legislator of Jana Sena Party (JSP) was confident of winning all seven seats.

YSRCP’s strategists had not taken into account two MLAs who had recently raised a banner of revolt. They were still sure of a clean sweep but they received a big shock when results revealed that two more MLAs had revolted. As a result, TDP’s candidate Panchumarthi Anuradha was elected with 23 votes, one more than the required number.

Chandrababu Naidu called it God’s script. “The Almighty has redrafted the script,” the TDP chief remarked, in what is seen as a response to the remark made by Jagan Mohan Reddy after TDP lost power in 2019 and could win only 23 Assembly seats.

Jagan Mohan Reddy had stated after YSRCP stormed to power that God had punished Chandrababu Naidu for his misdeeds. He alleged that Naidu had purchased 23 MLAs of YSRCP after the 2014 elections. “Now TDP got only 23 seats and the results also came on May 23. God has written a beautiful script with 23,” said Jagan.

Jagan had also pointed out that Naidu illegally took away three MPs of YSRCP and now his party got only three Lok Sabha seats.

The morale boosting win for TDP came close on the heels of the party bagging three Council seats from graduates’ constituencies.

The TDP received a big boost with victories in north Andhra, East Rayalaseema and West Rayalaseema graduates’ constituencies.

Naidu’s party bagged West Rayalaseema (Kadapa-Anantapur-Kurnool districts), which is considered a stronghold of Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSRCP. It also won the North Andhra (Srikakulam-Vizianagaram-Visakhapatnam) and East Rayalaseema (Prakasam-Nellore-Chittoor) seats.

The defeat in all three graduates’ constituencies is seen as a major setback for the ruling party as they were spread in 108 of the total 175 Assembly segments.

YSRCP, however, won both teachers’ constituencies (East Rayalaseema and West Rayalaseema) and four local body segments.

TDP’s win has come at a time when YSRCP was exuding confidence of winning all 175 Assembly seats in the next elections.

At the YSRCP plenary in July last year, he asked the party cadre to gear up for winning all 175 Assembly seats in 2024 polls.

Sounding the poll bugle, he said that Mission 175 is not impossible as the party swept all local body elections by winning the hearts of people.

Jagan Reddy called upon the cadre to carry the welfare initiatives taken in the last three years to every household and highlight the deceptive maneuver of the TDP and the ‘band of thieves’.

After the recent setbacks for YSRCP, Chandrababu feels that the days of Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy, are numbered as the people are no longer reposing faith in him.

“When a service-minded leader like Mr Giridhar Reddy could not continue in the party, how can a common party activist continue in the YSRCP,” asked Chandrababu while welcoming the YSRCP MLA into TDP fold.

“Now the slogan of psycho should go and cycle (TDP’s election symbol) should come back has been resounding across the state,” he said.

Political analysts believe that buoyed by the recent victories in the Council polls, the TDP will now go for the offensive against YSRCP in the run up to the polls. “Naidu may look to woo more disgruntled YSRCP leaders to the TDP fold to add to the problems of the ruling party,” analysts said.

Naidu’s son and TDP general secretary Nara Lokesh, who is currently on a statewide padyatra, has also received a shot in the arm. The young leader is likely to further step up his campaign against the YSRCP.

TDP’s win is also expected to hasten the process of political realignment. Jana Sena Party (JSP) leader and actor Pawan Kalyan is likely to initiate serious efforts for the TDP-JSP-BJP alliance against YSRCP to prevent split of anti-incumbency votes.

Pawan Kalyan, who already has an alliance with the BJP, is expected to mount pressure on the saffron party to decide quickly on the proposal for the grand alliance.

The actor, who recently met Naidu twice to discuss the possibility of alliance, will also be keen to jump into fray to take on Jagan Mohan Reddy.

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