It might sound weird, but the Telugu Desam Party and the YSR Congress have come together in favour of the Congress in Khammam district of Telangana. The quaint camaraderie was born out of compulsion for a common cause ‘on record’, and for cross-purposes off the record.
The TDP and YSR Congress will support Congress nominee R Sucharita Reddy (wife of the deceased MLA R Venkat Reddy) in the by-election to Palair Assembly constituency in Khammam district of Telangana. They will be fighting Minister Tummala Nageswara Rao, who is contesting as the ruling TRS nominee.
The election is slated for 16 May and is necessitated following the death of incumbent Congress MLA Ramreddy Venkat Reddy who succumbed to cancer recently.
There is an interesting political background to the newer, but highly volatile, equation that brought the arch rivals, the TDP and the YSRC, together.
There is a tradition of electing the family members of any deceased MLA in undivided AP. This came into practice when naxalites of People’s War Group had shot dead D Ragya Naik, Congress MLA from Devarakonda Assembly constituency in Nalgonda district, in early 2002. Ever since, whenever an MLA dies, the spouse of the legislator or anybody from the immediate family of the deceased MLA gets elected to the Assembly unopposed. The clause of “unnatural” death was eventually given a quiet go-by and the “rule” became a convention in the case of any death.
In fact, YS Vijayalakshmi, wife of YS Rajasekhara Reddy, was also elected unanimously as part of the same tradition for the first time soon after the death of Dr Reddy in a helicopter crash in 2009.
Allagadda MLA candidate of YSR Congress Bhuma Shobha Nagi Reddy died in a road accident during electioneering in 2014. However, her name was retained in the ballot paper and election was conducted, as it was too late to countermand the polls. She was elected posthumously with a huge margin. However, in the by-election after that, the TDP did not field any candidate paving the way for the late Shobha’s daughter Akhila Priya’s unanimous election. That Akhila Priya, along with her father and Nandyala MLA Nagi Reddy crossed over from the YSR Congress to the TDP after almost a year and a half of her election is a different story.
When TDP MLA of Nandigama (SC) reserved constituency in Krishna district Tangirala Prabhakar Rao died even before being sworn in the MLA, his daughter Sowmya was fielded by the TDP. While the YSR Congress did not contest the polls as part of observing the tradition, the Congress fielded its candidate who had forfeited his deposit.
TDP MLA from Tirupati M Venkata Ramana died in 2015 and the Opposition YSR Congress facilitated the election of his wife Suguna. However, the Congress fielded a candidate who lost deposits.
When it comes to Telangana, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has given up the practice of letting the kin of the deceased elected in casual vacancies. The TRS fielded a candidate in a casual vacancy caused due to the death of a Congress MLA in Narayankhed in Medak district this year. Even the TDP pitted its nominee against the Congress candidate. The TRS wrested the seat from the Congress.
Now, the TRS has decided to field MLC Tummala Nageswara Rao, Roads and Buildings Minister in the KCR Cabinet, as its nominee against Congress nominee.
Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka, working president of the Telangana Congress committee and Congress MLA from the same district, has called on YSR Congress president YS Jaganmohan Reddy and the Telangana TDP president L Ramana and urged them to “cooperate” with the Congress to have its candidate elected, in consonance with the convention. Both parties agreed to the proposal of the Congress, strangely endorsing the same candidate.
However, the TDP is facing the criticism that it’s decision to withdraw from the race is because it wants to extend surreptitious support to Tummala Nageswara Rao, who still has very strong connections with the TDP, owing to obvious reasons.
Bhatti Vikramarka told Firstpost that the CPI had almost agreed to support the Congress, while the national leadership of the CPI-M would take a call on the contest. “We could not handle the Narayankhed issue properly. But, now the TRS Government is not ready to follow the traditions,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, KCR appointed his son and IT Minister K T Rama Rao as in-charge of the Palair. Much to the discomfiture of KTR, the contestant Nageswara Rao blurted out that he would not support KTR as Chief Ministerial candidate, as he was opposed to dynastic politics. He hastened to cover up that if KTR, on his own, grew to becoming the Chief Minister, he would approve of it.
Paradoxically, the TDP and the YSR Congress have their dagger drawn in Andhra Pradesh. Chandrababu Naidu continues to entice YSR Congress MLAs. The count of “migratory” MLAs into the TDP as on Saturday is 13, while another three are in the pipeline immediately.
YS Jaganmohan Reddy called on the Governor and cried hoarse about the horse-trading of MLAs, especially in the wake of the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections.
He demanded action against Naidu for poaching his party MLAs. Jagan challenged the TDP if it could get all the ‘turncoats’ resign and seek re-election from the respective constituencies. The YSR Congress organised a “candle light protest” on Saturday night protesting the crossovers.