Will Jagan hold on to family bastion Pulivendula?

Such has been the grip of the YSR clan over the Pulivendula Assembly constituency for over four decades that the outcome of successive elections was never in doubt and often the wait was only to know the margin of victory.

From Yeduguru Sandinti Rajasekhara (YSR) Reddy to his brother, uncle, wife and son all have represented this constituency in the family’s home district Kadapa, now named after the late Chief Minister.

Despite his revolt against Congress, to which his father was associated till his tragic death in a helicopter crash in 2009, and even after floating a new party YSR Congress, Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy ensured that the family maintained its vice-like grip on the constituency.

With his victory in 2019, Jagan became the second MLA from Pulivendula after his father to occupy the post of Chief Minister. Five years later, he is not only facing a challenge to retain power but is also battling a spirited opposition on home turf.

If the ruling YSR Congress coined the slogan ‘Why not 175’ with the target to make a clean sweep in Assembly polls, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) upped the ante with the counter slogan ‘Why not Pulivendula.’

While Jagan tried to capture TDP supremo N. Chandrababu Naidu’s stronghold of Kuppam, the former took the fight to the YSRCP Chief’s doorsteps.

TDP, which is contesting the May 13 elections in alliance with the Jana Sena and BJP, is making every effort to upset Jagan on his home turf.

TDP’s Mareddy Ravindranath Reddy, who is known as ‘B.Tech’ Ravi, is working hard to deny Jagan a hat-trick from Pulivendula but what has added to Jagan’s problems is the rift within his family.

Jagan’s sister Y. S. Sharmila, who stood with him in every election since he floated YSRCP in 2011, has not only joined the rival Congress but is contesting from Kadapa Lok Sabha constituency against their cousin and sitting MP Y. S. Avinash Reddy.

Pulivendula is one of the seven Assembly segments of the Kadapa Lok Sabha constituency, which is also considered a pocket-borough of the YSR family.

However, the sibling rivalry and acrimony caused by the allegations over the murder of their uncle and former minister Y. Vivekananda Reddy seems to have queered the pitch for Jagan.

Vivekananda Reddy was murdered a few days before the 2019 elections and five years later the sensational case has returned to haunt Jagan with the slain leader’s daughter Y. S. Suneetha joining hands with Sharmila in the fight for justice.

The cousin sisters are questioning Jagan why he fielded Avinash Reddy once again despite the CBI naming him as an accused in the case.

Jagan’s allegation that his sisters were misguided by the TDP has led to more questions from the duo, who have called up on people to defeat him for shielding the murder accused.

The YSR family never faced this situation ever since YSR won Pulivendula for the first time in 1978. After three terms as MLA, YSR entered the fray for Lok Sabha polls from Kadapa, leaving Pulivendula for his younger brother Vivekananda Reddy. After four terms as MP, YSR returned to Pulivendula in 1999 and since then focussed his attention on the politics of then-united Andhra Pradesh.

The big moment for YSR came in 2004 when led the Congress party to power. He retained power in 2009 but a few months later died in a helicopter crash.

In the 2010 by-election, YSR’s wife Y. S. Vijayamma was elected unopposed from Pulivendula as Congress candidate as no other fielded its candidate. However, the revolt by YSR’s son and then Kadapa MP against Congress leadership and the subsequent developments dramatically altered the political equations.

Jagan and his mother resigned from Congress and floated YSR Congress to force by-polls in 2011. Vijayamma retained the Pulivendula seat, defeating her brother-in-law and Congress candidate Y. S. Vivekananda Reddy by a margin of over 81,000 votes. Jagan retained the Kadapa parliamentary seat by a huge majority of over 5.45 lakh votes.

After the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, Jagan moved to Pulivendula in the 2014 polls, leaving Kadapa for Avinash Reddy. Jagan’s victory margin in 2014 was 75,243 against TDP’s S. V. Satish Reddy while in 2019 it went up to 90,000 against the same rival.

B. Tech Ravi, who was named as a TDP candidate more than a year ago, is determined to wrest Pulivendula this time. He had contested as a TDP candidate in 2011 but finished a poor third with little over 11,000 votes.

He believes that the anti-incumbency coupled with the rift in the YSR family will help him score a victory.

It’s also interesting to note that B.Tech Ravi defeated Vivekananda Reddy in the 2017 MLC elections from Kadapa local authorities constituency. Vivekananda Reddy had contested the election as YSR Congress candidate.

The main opposition party, which opened its office in Pulivendula only last year, has been making consistent efforts to loosen Jagan’s grip over the constituency.

Sharmila has fielded Dhruva Kumar Reddy as the Congress candidate against her brother.

Sharmila’s presence in the fray from the Kadapa Lok Sabha constituency is also likely to impact Jagan’s prospects.

Interestingly, Shaik Dastagiri, an accused turned approver in the Vivekananda Reddy murder case, has also entered the fray as Jai Bhim Rao Bharat Party.

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