Nani vs Chinni: Vijayawada to witness battle between brothers

Two brothers are pitted against each other in Andhra Pradesh’s Vijayawada Lok Sabha constituency for the May 13 elections.

Kesineni Sivanath is contesting on the ticket of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) while his elder brother Kesineni Srinivas, who was till recently with TDP, is the candidate of ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP).

The fight between two businessmen brothers has generated political heat in Vijayawada, known as the political capital of Andhra Pradesh.

Popularly known as Nani, Srinivas was elected twice to Lok Sabha from Vijayawada on TDP ticket. He was keen to score a hat-trick but TDP President and former chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu decided to field Sivanath, who is popular as Chinni.

It was in early this year that Nani himself revealed that Naidu had decided not to give ticket to him this time. He assured that he will abide by the leader’s directions.

However, supporters of the two brothers clashed when Naidu appointed Chinni as constituency in-charge in place of Nani.

A few days later Nani quit the TDP and after a meeting with Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy joined YSRCP. The ruling party lapped up the opportunity to cash in on the chinks in Kesineni family and also TDP to declare Nani as its candidate.

Chinni, who worked in TDP under the shadow of his elder brother for long, opened up and started targeting him after the latter made serious allegations against Chandrababu Naidu.

Chinni said he never had any aspirations to compete with his brother. “He had distanced himself from the party and cadres. He never bothered to participate in party programmes including Mahanadu,” said Chinni explaining the reasons that led to Nani being denied re-nomination.

Chinni claimed that despite several complaints, Chandrababu Naidu gave Nani the opportunity for two terms. Nani should have been grateful to the TDP chief but he resorted to mudslinging against Chandrababu Naidu and Lokesh, said the younger brother.

While Nani slammed Chandrababu Naidu for creating rift in the Kesineni family, Chinni claimed that there have been disputes in the family since 1999.

Chinni said he never spoke about what happened within the family but he was forced to speak out due to the allegations made by his brother. Chinni revealed that he left the family’s travel business to Nani by taking a very meagre share.

Nani entered politics by joining Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) floated by popular actor Chiranjeevi in 2008.

“Despite differences, I supported him when he joined PRP and abruptly left it by making serious allegations against Chiranjeevi,” said Chinni. He also claimed that he facilitated his meeting with Chandrababu Naidu at that time and helped him join TDP.

Amid the war of words, Chinni predicted that Nani would lose the election by a margin of 3 lakh votes.

With TDP having an electoral alliance with the BJP and Pawan Kalyan-led Jana Sena Party, Chinni is likely to have an edge in the battle.

Nani and Chinni belong to the well-known family of businessmen in Vijayawada. Their grandfather Kesineni Venkaiah had started the first inter-city bus transport service in Andhra in 1928. Nani had established Kesineni Tours & Travels in 1992, which became one of the largest transport operators in South India. He later diversified the business with Kesineni Group, which is into intercity transportation, logistics and hospitality.

Chinni is the CEO of Kesineni Developers, a leading construction company. He has also been actively involved in politics.

Vijayawada was once a stronghold of the Congress party. Though TDP had bagged the seat in 1984, 1991 and 1999, the Congress party was a key force. However, public anger over bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014 led to the grand old party being wiped out and Vijayawada was no exception.

In 2014, Nani won the Vijayawada seat, defeating his nearest rival Koneru Rajendra Prasad of YSRCP by a margin of over 74,000 votes.

In July 2018, Nani on behalf of his party had moved a no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha against the NDA government. During his speech on the motion, he had slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not fulfilling the promises made in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act 2014.

In 2019, Nani’s margin of victory came down to 8,726 in 2019. Prasad V. Potluri of YSRCP had finished runner-up.

Vijayawada was one of the only three Lok Sabha seats (out of 25 in the state) won by the TDP in 2019.

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