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Elections in Andhra Pradesh

Voter Preference for YSRCP

E Venkatesu (evs103@gmail.com) is faculty in the Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad.

The Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party, by defeating regional and national parties in the 2019 parliamentary and assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, has secured a massive mandate. Its victory in this multiparty contest can be attributed to the padayatra, consistency in the stand for special category status, promise to implement welfare schemes, and its effective campaign.

The author is thankful to K C Suri for comments and G Srinivas for supervision of the surveys mentioned in the article.
 

The 2019 parliamentary and assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh (AP) were, essentially, a contest between regional parties such as the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP), Telugu Desam Party (TDP), and Jana Sena Party (JSP) on the one hand, and the national parties like the Indian National Congress (INC) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the other. However, the dissatisfaction against the ruling TDP, lack of leadership and an organisational structure in the JSP, state bifurcation by the INC, and denial of special category status (SCS) by the BJP have all resulted in the YSRCP’s coming to power and its creditable electoral performance.

AP includes the rich coastal Andhra, backward north coastal Andhra, and drought-affected Rayalaseema. Of AP’s population, 16.5% is constituted by the Scheduled Castes (SCs), 4.45% by the Scheduled Tribes (STs), 41% by the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), 28.1% by upper castes, 8.5% by Muslims, and 1.55% by other minorities (Srikrishna Committee 2010: 403).

The electoral politics of AP from 1953 to the 1980s saw the domination of the Congress party. Since the 1980s, the INC and the TDP came to occupy power alternately. However, after the bifurcation in 2014, the INC lost its hold in the two states with the rise of Telangana Rashtra Samithi in Telangana and the YSrCP in AP. In the 2014 election, the TDP had an alliance with the BJP and support from the JSP. The alliance put together by the TDP won 106 assembly seats and 17 Lok Sabha seats (Table 1).

Defeat of Ruling TDP

After the formation of the TDP government in AP, with Chandrababu Naidu as the chief minister, the decision on the capital of AP became a major issue even though the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 stated that Hyderabad would be the common capital for 10 years for both AP and Telangana. Following Section 6 of the act, the union government constituted an expert committee (popularly known as the Sivaramakrishnan Committee) to study the various alternatives for the new capital. The committee after a comprehensive study suggested an eco-friendly, more decentralised and distributed model of development by pooling less than 1,000 acres of land for all institutions put together. However, Chief Minister Naidu announced a parallel committee in 2014 before the submission of Sivaramakrishnan Committee report. The committee was headed by his own cabinet colleague and it identified Amaravathi, which is located in the prime agricultural land of Krishna and Guntur districts, for the construction of a new capital. For the building of the capital, the AP assembly enacted the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority Act, 2014.

Within a short span of time, the state government, by using economic incentives, secured 33,000 acres of land from the farming community for the building of the new capital. From 2014 to 2018, Naidu exclusively concentrated on his dream project with a hope that the union government would provide SCS. By February 2018, the union government declined to extend either SCS or a special package. Therefore, there emerged cracks in the alliance of the TDP and BJP.

Overemphasis on Amaravati, breaking of the alliance with the BJP, and forcing elected public representatives to defect from the YSRCP, all accounted for the weakening of the TDP as well as the YSRCP.1 Having broken away from the BJP, the only option left for the TDP was to look towards the INC for an alliance. During the campaigning for the 2018 Karnataka election, Naidu shared a common platform with the INC leader Rahul Gandhi. In December 2018, during the assembly election in Telangana, the TDP forged an alliance with the INC and formed the Mahakutami. It consisted of the INC, TDP, Communist Party of India (CPI), Telangana Jana Samithi and some other social groups. However, the Mahakutami was able to secure only 23 seats with a 30% vote share in the Telangana assembly elections. After the election, the INC found that the reason for its defeat was the alliance with the TDP. After the defeat in Telangana, the TDP and INC parted ways and decided to contest the Lok Sabha and state assembly polls separately.

Just three months before the election notification, the TDP government announced a series of populist programmes, which included: (i) depositing of ₹ 10,000 as a grant for 94,00,000 women members of self-help groups (SHGs) (Pasupu Kumkuma); (ii) 100% increase in the pensions of widows, the elderly, and rural artisans (NTR Bharosa Pension); (iii) depositing of ₹ 9,000 to the farmers in a financial year (Annadata Sukhibhava);2 (iv) providing ₹ 1,000 as an unemployment allowance to the youth in the 25–35 age group (Mukhyamantri Yuvanestham); and (v) providing subsidised breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the rate of ₹ 5 (Anna Canteen).

Table 2 reveals that about three-fourths of women benefited from the Pasupu Kumkuma Scheme and half of them voted for the YSRCP. In the case of the pension schemes, half the respondents had benefited from it. Among them, half voted for the YSRCP. Similarly about six of every 10 beneficiaries of Annadata Sukhibhava Scheme voted for the YSRCP. It was only among the beneficiaries of the Mukhyamantri Yuvanestham Scheme and Anna Canteen that there was a greater support for the TDP. It is, thus, clear that the last-minute welfare schemes did not result in any shift of vote in favour of the TDP.

Emergence of YSRCP

The YSRCP arose as a breakaway group from the INC in March 2011, when the INC refused to recognise the claims of Jaganmohan Reddy to his father Y S Rajasekhara Reddy’s legacy. Reddy had been chief minister in undivided AP and had died in a helicopter crash in September 2009. The YSRCP contested the 2014 elections, but emerged as the leading opposition in the state assembly, winning in 67 constituencies, besides eight Lok Sabha seats. The TDP engineered the defection of 23 members of legislative assembly (MLAs) and three Lok Sabha members of Parliament (MPs) from the YSRCP to the TDP (Business Standard 2017).

In preparation for the 2019 assembly polls, Jaganmohan Reddy commenced an electoral mobilisation strategy involving a padayatra (walkathon) for 3,648 km covering 13 districts of AP. During the padayatra, Jaganmohan was not only critical of the state government, but also heard the grievances of various segments of people. During his campaign, he sought to expose many actions of the TDP government led by Chandrababu Naidu, including the “Vote for Note,” which took place during the legislative council election in Hyderabad, the sand mafia, the corruption in the construction of Polavaram dam and the capital at Amaravathi, promotion of his own kith and kin, negligence towards the farming community, and the domination of parallel committees such as Janmabhoomi in the implementation of welfare programmes at the grass-roots level.

As part of the padayatra, he met a cross-section of people, including farmers, rural artisans, women, unemployed youth, contract employees, and government employees, and heard their grievances. The grievances of these social groups have been converted into an election manifesto called Navaratnalu (Nine Jewels).3 Navaratnalu includes financial assistance of ₹ 50,000 to farmers, zero-interest loans, free bore-wells, a calamity relief fund of ₹ 4,000 crore, nine hours of free electricity supply, cold storage units, and food processing centres in every constituency, fee reimbursement for higher education and providing allowance of ₹ 20,000 by spending ₹ 1 lakh to ₹ 1.5 lakh on the education of each student in a financial year, meeting medical expenses of more than ₹ 1,000 for treatment in corporate hospitals by the government, Jalayagnam (water management) to complete the Polavaram project on a war footing. The manifesto also includes a ban on sale of alcohol across the state in three phases, encouraging families of schoolgoing children with an incentive of ₹ 15,000 deposited in the accounts of mothers, waiving of the loans for women SHGs and zero-interest loans and payment of interests on loans for SHGs by the government itself up to ₹ 50,000, and depositing of ₹ 75,000 in the name of women belonging to SC, ST, OBC and minority communities over a period of four years for those who cross 45 years of age to receive pension in their old age. The YSRCP also promised an increase in the pensions and reducing the eligibility age to 60 from 65 years. It further promised 50% of nominated positions to the OBCs. Above all, the party president categorically stated that achieving of SCS is the top priority of his party.

After completing his padayatra, the election campaign was further intensified. The campaign involved not merely Jaganmohan Reddy, but his mother Vijayamma as well as his sister Sharmila. This campaign clearly paid the YSRCP rich dividends, as the 2019 elections saw a sharp increase in vote share and the party was able to come to power in the state. It was also able to improve its tally in the Lok Sabha. The TDP emerged as the largest opposition with the INC, which fared poorly in the electoral contest.

It is clear that the YSRCP drew support from different social groups. It especially did well among the Reddys, Yadavs, Malas, Madigas, Muslims, and STs. The TDP was able to retain an upper hand only among the Kammas, Kapus, and Gouds. The YSRCP did well, especially in rural areas.

Failure of JSP, INC and BJP

The JSP was floated by actor-turned-politician Pawan Kalyan in 2014. He hails from the Kapu caste, which has a presence in coastal Andhra. In the 2014 elections, the JSP supported the TDP–BJP alliance. The Kapu caste has been a strong support base of the INC for decades in undivided AP. After the bifurcation of the state, it was because of the JSP’s support that the Kapu vote moved towards the TDP–BJP alliance. The Kapus supported the TDP–BJP alliance on account of the promise of being included in the OBC list. During the TDP’s rule, the promise to the Kapus did not materialise and Pawan Kalyan became critical of the TDP.

The JSP contested the 2019 assembly and Lok Sabha polls from the state in alliance with the BSP, CPI, and Communist Party of India (Marxist), and won one assembly seat and secured about 6% of the vote share. The party president contested from two assembly constituencies and was defeated at both places. The withdrawal of the JSP’s support to the TDP resulted in the TDP losing the Kapu vote, which also did not directly benefit the JSP.

The INC has been uninterrupted in power in undivided AP from 1953 to 1982. It continued to be an important player in state politics till the bifurcation of the state in 2014. However, the decision of the INC-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to bifurcate the state has reduced its presence in the residual AP. The CSDS–Lokniti post-poll survey of 2014 found that six of every 10 respondents blamed the INC-led UPA for the bifurcation of the state (Venkatesu 2017: 129). Data clearly indicates that the traditional vote share of the INC is not with the YSRCP in AP.

The post-poll survey of CSDS–Lokniti revealed that close to three of every 10 respondents supported Narendra Modi to be the Prime Minister. Yet, the BJP vote share was less than 1%. The survey data shows that more than eight of 10 respondents held the BJP government at the centre responsible for the denial of SCS to AP.

The verdict in AP was basically against the overambitious, and centralised capital and concentrated model of development initiated by the TDP. The voter desired that issues such as social security, education, women’s empowerment, reducing the distress in agriculture, and protecting the rights and entitlements of the lower castes/tribes need to be addressed. These issues were effectively raised by the YSRCP in the form of the Navaratnalu and helped it win the mandate.

Notes

1 As per Table 1 and Mood of the Nation Survey conducted by CSDS–Lokniti in April 2018, there was a decline of the TDP vote share from 44% to 38% and of the YSRCP vote share from 44% to 32%. The declining vote share of both the TDP and YSRCP was offset by the rise of the INC vote share from 3% in 2014 to 17% in 2018.

2 Annadata Sukhibhava was introduced by the TDP government to deposit ₹ 9,000 for farmers of all categories, which is different from the Kisan Samman Yojana of the National Democratic Alliance government for depositing ₹ 6,000 to the farmers who possess less than
5 acres of land.

3 The YSRCPmanifesto is available at: https://www.ysrcongress.com/sites/default/files/article_images/2019/04/ysrcp_manifesto-2019.pdf.

References

Business Standard (2017): “YSR Congress Complains over Defected MLAs’ Cabinet Induction,” 3 April, https://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/ysr-congress-complains-over-defected-mlas-cabinet-induction -117040300914_1.html.

Srikrishna Committee (2010): “Committee for Consultations on the Situation in Andhra Pradesh: Report,” Government of India, New Delhi, December, pp 115–16.

Venkatesu, E (2017): “The Last Election in Undivided Andhra Pradesh: Defeat to Congress and Dividend for Regional Parties,” Electoral Politics in India: The Resurgence of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Suhas Palshikar, Sanjay Kumar, and Sanjay Lodha (eds), London: Routledge.

Updated On : 9th Aug, 2019

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