Seemandhra Yet to Make up Mind on Whom to Vote
By G S Vasu | Published: 03rd May 2014 07:42 AM |
In olden days, soon after a movie release, the “talk” would generally be on whether it’s meant for the “mass” (working sections) or the “class” (middle and upper classes). Hit movies of either form used to celebrate “100 days” - the only difference between the two being the composition of the audience.
Much of what is happening in the Battle for Ballot-2014 in Andhra Pradesh is akin to this - on the one hand, there is an essentially welfare agenda being sold by Y S Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress and on the other, is a development story the Telugu Desam campaign is heavily relying on with its chief N Chandrababu Naidu scripting the same with BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi.
Post-division of Andhra Pradesh, thanks to its own leaders, the Congress has been pushed so deep into the pit that it is finding it difficult to get out of it. As you travel across the three districts comprising North Coastal Andhra -- Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam – considered as backward as the newly-carved out Telangana, you still find a section of the traditional Congress voters remaining faithful. It is just that the leaders have abandoned the ship, while the brave are still putting up a fight. With the Congress by and large not in contention, the fight has essentially turned two-way, making it the keenest one would have ever seen -- both the YSR Congress and TDP positioning their poles in every colony, every village and every town to go for the kill on May 7.
If the YSR Congress was seen as having an easy ride before the division, a series of subsequent events -- fall of the Congress, concerns about the future of the residuary state and realignment of political forces at the local level -- have brought the Telugu Desam back into the reckoning.
Unlike Rayalaseema or the south of Coastal Andhra Pradesh where voters generally align with a political party based on caste lines, north coastal belt comprising five Lok Sabha seats and 34 Assembly constituencies is heavily dominated by Backward Classes and SCs, and is known for its “undecided voters” who swing either way close to the polls.
Whether you travel on the quadrilateral road that takes you from Visakhapatnam to Srikakulam or hit the connecting roads that take you to the hinterland, the refrain is the same.
“We are listening to what everyone is saying. But, we are yet to make up our mind. I don’t know what my wife will do when she enters the booth? How can I tell you who is going to win,” asks Govinda, an auto-driver at Bitwada village near Palakonda town.
What is unmistakable is that there is no wave either for the YSR Congress or the Telugu Desam. Leaders are clueless as voters keep the cards close to their chest. “I have to admit there is no one-way swing. It is a tough fight, but we feel it will be positive for us,” confesses a YSR Congress candidate as he takes a break for lunch.
Both the YSR Congress and TDP made mistakes in the selection of candidates and the alliance the Telugu Desam chose to have with the BJP is working both ways -- it is adding some votes, but is also hurting the party in constituencies that it gave up for its partner.
The line-up, though, is clear: a vast majority of the poor, who do not seem to have much stake in the development model, are with the YSR Congress. The middle class, a section of farmers and upper classes, who look for development and the consequent creation of employment and other opportunities, appear to be backing the Telugu Desam.
Rahul Gandhi and his party may be out of the reckoning in this election, but it is that newly-created section of society that he talks about -- above the poverty line but below the middle class, still dependent on welfare schemes and at the same time, nursing higher aspirations -- that could tilt the balance.
But, at the end of the day, none of the above will matter more than liquor and money.