TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu strives to retain bastion of Kuppam | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu strives to retain bastion of Kuppam

By, Hyderabad
Apr 28, 2024 02:46 AM IST

The TDP has held the largely rural Kuppam assembly segment for more than four decades, an unbroken run since 1983 when the then nascent party fought its first elections

With just around two weeks left for the assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief and former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu has a tall task on his hands – reversing a shrinking victory margin in his citadel, Kuppam, in the face of a concerted campaign by the state’s ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) and rumblings of discontentment among the electorate.

TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu during a door-to-door campaign ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, in Kuppam, Andhra Pradesh. (PTI)
TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu during a door-to-door campaign ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, in Kuppam, Andhra Pradesh. (PTI)

The TDP has held the largely rural Kuppam assembly segment for more than four decades, an unbroken run since 1983 when the then nascent party fought its first elections. Naidu himself, despite the state’s rapidly evolving politics in the decades since, has dug his heels in and held the constituency for seven straight terms since 1989.

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And yet, the party and former chief minister’s base has appeared to erode over the past decade or so, especially after the emergence of the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSRCP, which has fielded 33-year-old Krishna Raghava Jayendra Bharath to take Naidu on.

Read more: Andhra Pradesh polls: Chandrababu Naidu, Purandeswari, Avinash Reddy file nominations

In 2014, when the YSRCP fought the assembly elections for the first time in post-bifurcation Andhra Pradesh, Naidu secured a majority of 47,217 votes, out of around 200,000 votes polled, over YSRCP’s K Chandramouli. It was one of the 102seats the TDP won in the 175-seat assembly as it swept to power.

But the first cracks seemed to emerge just five years later.

Naidu held on to Kuppam despite YSRCP wave in the state that saw it win 151 seats in the assembly and relegate the TDP to just 23. But his victory margin narrowed to 30,722 votes out of the total polled votes of 183,000.

“It isn’t not going to be easy for Naidu this time,” political analyst Thelakapalli Ravi said.

Andhra Pradesh’s assembly elections will be held in a single phase on May 13.

The local body elections in 2022 were another major dent for Naidu and his party, as the YSRCP captured Kuppam, winning 19 of its 25 wards, 75 of 89 gram panchayats, 62 of 65 block parishad seats and all four zilla parishad seats in the constituency.

The previous local body elections in Andhra Pradesh were held in April 2014, just before the bifurcation of combined Andhra Pradesh, in which the TDP had won 5,589 mandal parishad and zilla parishad seats out of 10.745 seats. The YSRCP had won 4.474 seats.

Read more: Narendra Modi in Andhra Pradesh: PM to address 1st NDA rally with Chandrababu Naidu, Pawan Kalyan

“The people of Kuppam reposed their faith in the YSRCP government, which is implementing welfare schemes. They taught Naidu a lesson for cheating the backward classes,” Jagan said at a public meeting held at Kuppam, months after the local body elections in 2022.

It forced Naidu to change tack and do something he had never done - campaign for himself in his own citadel.

For years, Naidu was able to depend on the party’s local leaders and campaign managers to win the seat.

But the local body polls forced him to visit Kuppam often and address roadshows and rallies in the segment, which houses 213,145) voters.

On the other hand, Jagan has focussed on developing Kuppam as much as he is on his own Pulivendula constituency in Kadapa. On February 26, the chief minister visited Kuppam to release water from the Krishna river into Kuppam branch canal, a long-pending demand of the people of the constituency to irrigate 6,300 acres of farmland and channel drinking water to over 400,000 people.

The YSRCP’s Bharath belongs to the Vannekula Kshatriya community, an OBC group that constitutes nearly 40% of Kuppam’s voter base.

“This seat belongs to the OBC, but has been usurped by Naidu, an upper caste leader. For the first time, the OBCs will get a chance to represent the constituency in the assembly, if they elect Bharath,” Jagan said at the public meeting in Kuppam in February.

Naidu, who allied with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after his release from prison, where he was held undervarious sections of Indian Penal Code, including 120(B) (criminal conspiracy), 166 (public servant disobeying law), 167 (public servant framing incorrect document), 465 (forgery), 201 (destruction of evidence) and 109 (bribe), among others, said he was confident of burnishing his credentials in the constituency.

“The people of Kuppam are intelligent and are well aware of who has worked for them,” he told reporters during his visit to Kuppam on March 26.

He claimed that 80% of the work on the Kuppam branch canal was completed during the TDP regime. “Jagan dramatically released water into the canal, even as authorities removed the temporary gates erected over the canal the same evening,” the TDP chief alleged.

“How can he expect to defeat me? He is cheating people who are disgusted with his cheap politics,” Naidu said.

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