When 2.19 lakh voters of Nandyal Assembly constituency in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh exercise their franchise in the by-election tomorrow, they will be virtually setting the trend for the general elections due in May 2019. If the ruling Telugu Desam Party loses, it will be seen as an “anti-establishment” vote. If it wins, the opposition YSR Congress will take it as a harbinger for its race for power in 2019. The outcome will sure alter the political equations in the state with speculation rife that defections will start once again, depending on the winner. The BJP, though on TDP’s side now, is said to be keenly watching Nandyal to fine-tune its strategy for 2019. The bypoll is necessitated by the death of sitting MLA Bhuma Nagi Reddy, who won the seat by a margin of 3,600 votes as YSRC candidate in 2014 but switched over to the TDP in February 2016. The TDP has fielded Reddy’s nephew Brahmananda Reddy while the YSRC put up former minister Silpa Chandra Mohan Reddy, who lost the seat as TDP nominee in 2014. “The Nandyal byelection is not about making a person an MLA. It is a vote against the three-year misrule of Chandrababu Naidu. This is a precursor to the 2019 elections,” YSRC president Y S Jaganmohan Reddy observed. “It’s a referendum on the corrupt and inept TDP rule,” he said. Senior TDP leader and minister Somireddy Chandramohan Reddy told PTI that the YSRC has only made the by-election a high-stakes game. “A party president touring one single constituency for 13 days hasn’t happened before. He only made this election a significant one,” he pointed out.
Significantly, the TDP did not win the Nandyal seat in the 2004, 2009 and 2014 general elections. In all, 15 candidates, including Congress’ Gaddam Abdul Khadar, are in the fray but the principal fight is between the TDP and the YSRC candidates. The Rayalaseema Parirakshana Samiti, an unregistered political outfit, also fielded its candidate as an independent and he might eat into the votes of both the TDP and the YSRC. It will be interesting to see to what extent the Congress candidate will dent the two main contenders by splitting the 45,000-odd Muslim votes is also seen to be crucial in deciding the outcome. For the first time, Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system is being used in the by-election in Nandyal where there are 255 polling stations. Being the party in power, the TDP has promised various developmental schemes for Nandyal. Chief Minister and TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu toured Nandyal twice before the election schedule was announced and also campaigned in the constituency after the poll process got under way.
Ten ministers and over 20 legislators vigorously campaigned for the TDP candidate while YSRC chief Y S Jaganmohan Reddy led his party’s campaign, extensively touring the segment for 13 days. The campaign had often turned mury with both sides attacking each other sharply.