Polls in sight, Visakhapatnam harbour fire generates political heat in Andhra Pradesh

Political leaders do not want to leave any chance to gain mileage as the fishermen's community is the deciding factor in the electoral fortunes of candidates in at least three Assembly constituencies.
Gutted boats at Visakhapatnam Fishing Harbour following a major fire outbreak on Monday morning. (Photo | Express)
Gutted boats at Visakhapatnam Fishing Harbour following a major fire outbreak on Monday morning. (Photo | Express)

VISAKHAPATNAM: The fishing harbour fire has generated more political heat in Visakhapatnam district with all major parties joining the chorus to support the affected fishermen families.

At least 30 boats were reduced to ashes and another 19 were damaged due to the fire that engulfed the Zero Jetty at the fishing harbour on November 20. Over 800 families, who are directly or indirectly dependent on the fishing boats, were affected. The State government responded instantly as Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy announced that 80 per cent of the cost of the boat would be given as compensation to the affected owners.

Political leaders of all hues made a beeline for the fishing harbour. They do not want to leave any chance to gain mileage as the fishermen community is the deciding factor in the electoral fortunes of candidates in at least three Assembly constituencies, including Visakhapatnam South and East and Bheemili. In Visakhapatnam South, the number of fishermen community voters is 60,000. Sitting MLA Vasupalli Ganesh Kumar hails from the fishermen's community.

He won from the constituency in the 2014 and 2019 elections on the TDP ticket. However, he crossed the floor and joined the ruling YSRC. With the elections just a few months away, the political parties are in the race to come to the rescue of the fishermen affected by the harbour fire. The YSRC government, which took the lead, distributed the promised 80 per cent compensation of Rs 7.11 crore to the affected families within three days of the incident.

However, according to the grapevine, the YSRC distributed relief one day ahead of the scheduled visit of Jana Sena Party chief Pawan Kalyan to the fishing harbour, only to lessen the impact of his visit. The JSP chief left no opportunity to take on the ruling YSRC and squarely blamed it for the present chaotic situation of the fishing harbour. The JSP distributed Rs 50,000 each to the affected boat owners. Minister for IT Gudivada Amarnath felt that the opposition parties were politicising the harbour fire with any eye on elections. He claimed that Jagan won the hearts of fishermen by swiftly extending aid to the affected boat owners.

The TDP is also not lagging behind as a battery of its leaders, comprising MLAs, MLCs and former ministers visited the harbour to console the affected fishermen. The TDP has announced an assistance of Rs 1 lakh each for the fully destroyed boats and Rs 5,000 each to workers. BJP, CPI and CPM leaders also visited the fishing harbour to console the affected fishermen. The fishing harbour witnessed a beehive of activity with the visit of a large number of political leaders to console the affected fishermen.

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