Post-poll violence exposes deep rifts in Andhra Pradesh politics | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Post-poll violence exposes deep rifts in Andhra Pradesh politics

May 19, 2024 10:55 PM IST

The fierce competition between YSRCP and TDP has led to post-election violence. Incidents of stone pelting and assaults were reported in ten districts.

A do-or-die battle between the ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) and the opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) to rule Andhra Pradesh coerced the frazzled party cadres of both camps to resort to violence, political leaders of all hues reckon. Leaders from the two regional parties blamed each other for the violence while disapproving of the police and the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) handling of the situation.

Tirupati, May 13 (ANI): Security personnel stand guard as voters wait in queues to cast their votes for the Andhra Pradesh Assembly polls and Lok Sabha elections 2024, at a polling booth, at Sullurupeta in Tirupati on Monday. (ANI Photo)(Lakshmi) PREMIUM
Tirupati, May 13 (ANI): Security personnel stand guard as voters wait in queues to cast their votes for the Andhra Pradesh Assembly polls and Lok Sabha elections 2024, at a polling booth, at Sullurupeta in Tirupati on Monday. (ANI Photo)(Lakshmi)

A long tradition of quarrelsome politics was displayed again in the days following the election on May 13 in at least ten districts where both parties and the castes backing them are fighting hard to secure more seats than the other. What began with YSRCP MLA A Siva Kumar slapping a voter for questioning him about jumping the queue, quickly turned into episodes of recurrent violence of stone pelting and torching vehicles.

Although the simultaneous elections for the 175 assembly seats and 25 parliamentary seats in Andhra Pradesh concluded on May 13, incidents of arson continued for days until the ECI summoned the chief secretary (CS) and the director general of police (DGP) on May 16 to New Delhi to convey their displeasure.

The ECI has sought a detailed report on the poll-related clashes to be submitted on May 20, a detailed order of the EC read. “The commission directed CS and DGP to ensure that such violence is not repeated and all SPs are to be tasked with taking pre-emptive measures to avoid such a situation in future,” the order read. Following the EC’s orders, a special investigation team (SIT) was constituted by the state government, with 13 police officers who will report to senior IPS officer Vineet Brij Lal. State election commissioner Mukesh Kumar Meena, in his preliminary report, stated that incidents of assault, setting the offices of the opposite party on fire, verbal threats, stone pelting, damaging campaign vehicles and electronic voting machines took place.

Taking a tough stand against the post-poll violence, the ECI also approved the suspension of at least 12 subordinate police officers from Palnadu, Anantapur, and Tirupati districts and police superintendents (SPs) of these districts. In its six-point order to the state CS KS Jawahar Reddy and DGP Arun Kumar Gupta, the ECI ordered a departmental enquiry to name those responsible for the violence.

Political expert Prof Chandrasekhar from Andhra’s Sri Krishnadevaraya University said, “A deep mistrust between the Reddys and Kammas represented by the Congress and the TDP has caused this rift. Each looks at the other not as a legitimate opposition but as an enemy. Also, politicians stoke distrust, the social media amplifies squabbles into fights and there is rampant misinformation.”

Senior TDP leader Somireddy Chandra Mohan Reddy agrees that the battle for the state is tough and that the stakes are high for both parties, saying, “The cadre of the YSRCP led by incumbent chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy are deeply disturbed if you look at the recent incidents in the state. They know the TDP is going to win this election; hence they are resorting to violent tactics.”

Countering this strongly, Raghav Reddy, a senior advisor to Jagan Reddy charged former CM and TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu of encouraging post-poll violence in Anantapur, Chittoor, and Tirupati. “Naidu and BJP president D Purandareswari asked for the existing police officers to be removed and be replaced by officers of their choice. This indicates taking law and order into their hands despite not being in power,” Reddy alleged.

However, BJP Andhra general secretary S Vishnu Reddy pointed out that the sudden change of IPS officers and junior election commissioners led to chaos and violence. “The ECI in Delhi is unaware of the law-and-order situation in specific districts in the state. Without a proper understanding of the on-ground situation, they deputed officers who could neither handle the surge of voters nor the mobs who stormed polling stations,” he said.

While the INDIA bloc led by the Congress has allied with the two communist parties, the TDP and Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party are part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Jagan’s YSRCP is fighting alone to retain the state.

“There is no actual debate over policy or promise,” lamented MM Pallam Raju, Congress leader and former human resources development minister during the UPA II term. “This (violence) was bound to happen. Politics in Andhra has reached a low since 2014 when the state was divided. There is an atmosphere of fear and the regional parties see each other as adversaries rather than opponents. While there is a lot of resentment, people are afraid to voice their opinion fearing backlash,” he said.

To contain further incidents of assault, the ECI has directed the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) to camp in the state for 15 days after the results of the general election and assembly election are announced on June 4. The order from the Nirvachan Sadan in New Delhi has asked SPs of all the districts to take preemptive measures to avoid violence.

In the 2019 election, YSRCP swept the state winning 151 of the 175 seats in the assembly and 22 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats. The TDP, on the other hand, won a measly 23 seats in the assembly and three parliamentary seats. JSP, being an entrant could manage just one seat in Andhra Pradesh.

Deepika Amirapu is a freelance journalist based in Hyderabad. Each week, Southern Lights examines the big story from one of the five states of South India.

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