Samaikyandhra party, a castle in the air
A few kms before Nagaripalli village in Chittoor district on NH-71, the ancestral home of Chief Minister Nallari Kiran Kumar Reddy, a group of men squatting on a cement platform near a temple, indulge in the typical time-killing exercise you find in most villages across Rayalaseema where non-farm employment is scarce and farming is a dread in the absence of assured water.
It was only 11 a.m. but 55-year-old Bavuddin, who belongs to a Muslim sect, waits for his village-mate, already on a high, to finish his morning quota of liquor so that he could safely deposit him at his home. For close to four decades, he voted for no one else except a member of the Nallari family — Kiran’s father, Amarnath Reddy, when he was alive and then, for the son.
His loyalty to Nallari family, however, makes him no less pragmatic. “When we conduct a marriage, we do invite a number of guests. Whether they come or not, the immediate family members do eat the food that is prepared,” is how he responds if you ask him about the prospects of a new political party if Kiran chooses to float one. And, then goes on to say that Kiran Kumar will, at best, win from Pileru, the constituency he represents, whether he contests on a Congress ticket again or on the symbol of a new party, but that is where the story will end. Like several other parents in this region, he too is waiting for his son, who completed B Tech (ECE) to land a job so that his dependence on his two-acre farm is reduced.
As you criss-cross villages through the hinterland of Chittoor, Kadapa, Anantapur and Kurnool — the four districts comprising Rayalaseema — before hitting the well laid-out National Highway 7 that takes you to Hyderabad, you get to hear similar responses — it is a party that is dead even before it is born.
Speculation in Congress circles that Kiran might float a new party with Samaikyandhra (united AP) as the chief slogan hardly finds a mention in the typical village soirees in morning or evening and any specific question invites a dismissive response. The only aspect that even voters of Pileru are somewhat sure of is Kiran’s likely success again from this constituency in the 2014 elections because of the developmental activity that he undertook. A sainik school, an engineering college under JNTU, Krishi Vignan Kendra, houses under Indiramma scheme and a massive marketyard named after his father are among the various projects that took shape in the last few years.
Diversion on to a two-lane road for a km takes you from Kalikiri highway to Nagaripalli where Kiran’s well-guarded ancestral house, is located. “We will vote for him. But, we don’t know what happens elsewhere,” says washerman Chandraiah. It’s a small village with just 40 houses and the newly-carpeted road ends near Kiran’s home and villages beyond have to be reached on the usual pot-hole-filled single road.
In Pileru, the constituency headquarter, dental doctor, Dr Adeeb or groundnut farmer Ramana Reddy, too admit that development did take place after they elected Kiran but are sure that his effect would not be felt beyond the constituency. “There is no use of his launching a party,” they believe. You also get to hear protests that development has been confined to just Kalikiri mandal. “He has not done much for the constituency as such and just focused on his home town,” complains Reddappa, a tomato grower in Gurramkonda village, which also forms part of Pileru. He is happy though that his crop is yielding him a good price this year. As against a break-even of Rs 300 per crate (30 kg), tomato is commanding a price of almost Rs 1,000 per crate this year owing to short supply.
Before you enter Pileru, at Bakrapet village in Chandragiri constituency, Sekhar, who recently finished his under-graduation from a college in the temple town of Tirupati and awaiting a job, is more caustic. “What has he done to this region, forget about the State, that people will support him if he floats a party?” he questions. If one notices lush-green paddy fields across the Coastal belt fed by rivers and canals, you will have to do back-breaking travel on badly damaged roads in Rayalaseema with dry lands greeting you on either side. “Look, how buses are flying on our roads,” says Anjamma, an SC woman, sarcastically, pointing to an RTC bus swaying either side whenever the tyres fall into deep cuts.
It is now more than three months since community borewells in this village, Vaddipalli in Tamballapalli constituency, have stopped functioning but no one paid attention to get them repaired. “We have to walk at least a few kms daily for a pot of water,” Anjamma complains. Surprising it could be, but the ground reality is at variance with the feedback that the coterie surrounding Kiran seems to be carrying to him — that he has become a hero in Seemandhra for the manner in which he took on the Congress high command on the issue of division.
“What has he done to keep the State united, except holding a few press conferences and making some statements?” asks Mehboob Basha, sipping tea outside the bus stand in Kadiri town of Anantapur district. Obul Reddy of Pamidi town, does not even believe in Kiran’s deeds. “Somehow, we don’t get a feeling that his efforts to keep the State united are genuine.” Venkatesh, a businessman of Gooty town, points out that if at all, Kiran Kumar Reddy should have resigned the moment he got wind of the Centre’s intention to divide Andhra Pradesh. “He knew it much before the CWC resolution was adopted. Why did he not step aside then itself? May be, it would have halted the division process or at least, forced the Centre to rethink.”
For retired history teacher and human rights activist, Chandrasekhar, active in highlighting the problems of Rayalaseema, irrespective of what Kiran is doing now, he betrays the image of a “defeated hero” — something that is unlikely to work in a divided state when the slogan of Samaikyandhra itself loses its relevance. “Kiran may get some credit if the State remains united. But, even then, his effort may not translate into seats given the lack of charisma and the brass tacks of electoral politics.”
A losing proposition either way?
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