Hyderabad

Like any other ruling party chief in the country, YSR Congress party president and Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy is keen on returning to power for a second successive term in the state assembly elections scheduled in early 2024.

While Jagan is confident of coming back to power again riding on his welfare agenda, his focus is now mainly on defeating his bête noire, Telugu Desam Party president and former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, on his own home turf – Kuppam assembly constituency in Chittoor district.

Hitherto, Kuppam has remained an invincible bastion of Naidu. He has been representing this constituency for the last seven consecutive terms since 1989. Even in 2019 assembly elections, when Jagan Mohan Reddy was sweeping the entire state, Naidu won the Kuppam seat, though with a reduced margin of 30,722 votes, compared to the margin of 47,121 votes in 2014.

Such was the dominance of Naidu in Kuppam that he had been able to win the seat though he had hardly campaigned for himself in the constituency. His campaign managers handled the entire electioneering in the constituency. Even when he was in power, there were not many occasions when he visited the constituency.

But the situation in Kuppam has changed completely in the last three years after the YSRCP came to power in the state. More than his own constituency, Pulivendula in Kadapa district, Jagan has been focussing on Kuppam.

While nurturing the constituency in terms of development, the chief minister has also started strengthening the YSRC at all levels, so as to put an end to the decades-long dominance of the TDP there.

“Jagan appears to be of the view that if he can conquer Kuppam in the next elections, it would be the end of the road for the TDP president, who has vowed to enter the state assembly again only as the chief minister,” political analyst Ramakrishna Sangem said.

A defeat in Kuppam will definitely be a setback for Naidu and the party may find it difficult to recover in the coming years, he said.

Thanks to the special focus laid by Jagan in Kuppam, the YSRCP had swept all the local body elections in Kuppam last year. It had captured Kuppam municipality by winning 19 out of 25 wards, besides 75 out of 89 gram panchayats, 62 out of 65 block parishad seats and all four zilla parishad seats in the constituency.

“The people of Kuppam had reposed their faith in the YSRCP government which is implementing welfare schemes. They taught a lesson to Naidu for cheating the backward classes,” Jagan said at a public meeting held at Kuppam on September 22.

The man behind YSRCP juggernaut

The man who is striving to realise the ambition of Jagan to defeat Naidu in Kuppam is 33-year-old Krishna Raghava Jayendra Bharath, son of retired bureaucrat late K Chandramouli.

A 1990-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, Chandramouli entered politics in 2014 after taking voluntary retirement from service. He joined YSRCP and contested against Naidu in 2014 and 2019 assembly elections. However, he fell sick a few days before the polling and died of cancer a year later in April 2020.

After his death, Bharath took over the party reins in Kuppam and has been nurturing the constituency since then. Jagan appointed him as the in-charge of the constituency and entrusted him with the task of building up the party network across the constituency.

A post-graduate in rural development, Bharath played a key role in the YSRCP sweeping the local body and municipal elections in Kuppam. “He has been doing excellent work for the party in the constituency. He is young and dynamic and has been staying put in Kuppam to oversee the implementation of welfare and developmental works,” the chief minister said at his recent meeting at Kuppam.

Last year, Jagan nominated Bharath as a legislative council member (MLC) and announced that he would be the party candidate from Kuppam for the next assembly elections. “If you elect him as an MLA, I will make him a minister, so that he will show what the real development means for Kuppam,” Jagan said.

Bharath belongs to Vannekula Kshatriya community, an OBC group, which constitutes nearly 40% of the 213,000 electorate in Kuppam. “In fact, this seat belongs to the OBC, but has been usurped by Naidu, an upper caste leader. For the first time, the OBCs will get a chance to represent the constituency in the assembly, if you elect Bharath,” Jagan said.

While it is Bharath who is doing a lot of groundwork for the YSRCP in Kuppam, he is getting the support from state minister for energy, forests and environment Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy, who represents adjacent Punganuru assembly constituency. Reddy is said to be looking after extending support from the government to the works in Kuppam.

More funds to Kuppam

For the first time, the chief minister is spending huge money on the development and welfare works in Kuppam, though it happens to be the constituency of his arch rival.

“We are spending massive funds on schemes like Nadu-Nedu, village clinics and Rythu Bharosa Kendras, while village and ward secretariats have taken governance to the village level in a transparent manner,” Bharath told HT.

He said the government had distributed benefits of welfare schemes worth over 1100 crore in Kuppam, besides another 550 crore worth of developmental works. “The change is very much visible in the constituency and people even in hardcore TDP strongholds are welcoming my initiatives,” Bharath said.

Some of the works including construction of integrated official complex, railway underbridge near Reddipalli, Ramkuppam power substation and sanction of 20 crore for Dravidian University. “During the recent visit of the chief minister, we got another 65 crore for various developmental works to Kuppam municipality,” he said.

Naidu to choose alternative constituency

Following the humiliating defeat of the TDP in the last year’s local body elections and steady growth of the YSRCP in Kuppam, speculations were rife that Naidu might chose a second constituency to contest the next assembly elections.

“We don’t know how much truth is there in that speculations, but it will help the YSRCP more in Kuppam,” Bharat said.

Political analyst Ramakrishna Sangem said there was nothing wrong in Naidu choosing a second constituency to contest. “Every top leader in the country has been doing the same. Indira Gandhi had done it in the past, Rahul Gandhi did the same in the last Lok Sabha elections. Even Naidu’s father-in-law N T Rama Rao had contested from two seats. But, it will definitely be a moral victory for Jagan,” he said.


By Shadab

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