Rail zone of contention – few takers for BJP gimmick in Vizag

Ch RS Sarma Visakhapatnam | Updated on March 31, 2019

A view of Visakhapatnam Railway Station. File Photo

Visakhapatnam has always been a key Lok Sabha constituency, whether in the undivided Andhra Pradesh or after bifurcation, and its electoral battles are keenly watched.

This time around, there is greater interest in the seat as it is held by the BJP and the party is going all-out to retain it and prove that it has at least a nominal presence in the State. In the last election in 2014, as a part of an electoral tie-up with the BJP, the Telugu Desam Party left it to the BJP and the party candidate, Kambhampati Haribabu, defeated Vijayamma, the mother of YSR Congress leader Jaganmohan Reddy, comfortably.

Changed equations

But equations have since changed. The TDP has fallen out with the BJP and the latter is contesting on its own. The TDP has put up its own candidate.

The BJP has fielded former union minister D Purandeswari. She had earlier won on a Congress ticket from Visakhapatnam during the UPA regime and became the Union Minister of State for Commerce. Subsequently, she switched over to the BJP. She is the daughter of the late NTR, founder of the TDP.

The TDP has fielded Sri Bharat, grandson of the late MVVS Murthi, the founder of the Gitam group of educational institutions and deemed university here. Murthi was elected to the Lok Sabha twice on a TDP ticket, in 1991 and 1999. He died in a car accident in the US last year.

Family ties

Bharat, incidentally, is also related to Purandeswari. He is the son-in-law of Nandamuri Balakrishna, son of NTR and brother of Purandeswari. Balakrishna himself is contesting from Hindupur Assembly constituency and his other son-in-law and the Chief Minister's son, N Lokesh, is contesting from Mangalagiri Assembly constituency.

When these family ties were brought to the notice of Purandeswari, she made light of it and said, “In a democracy, it really does not matter. What matters is people's support and whoever enjoys it, wins the electoral battle.”

Others in fray

The YSR Congress has fielded a prominent builder, MVV Satyanarayana, who has constructed many apartment complexes in the city.

The Janasena Party, of film actor Pawan Kalyan, has fielded former CBI official VV Lakshminarayana, who investigated cases against YSR Congress leader Jaganmohan Reddy and filed chargesheets in the CBI court, Hyderabad, as its candidate. After his work in Jagan's cases, Lakshminarayana came to be known in the two Telugu States as JD Lakshminarayana as he had held the position of a joint director in the CBI.

The Congress Party, which is not in the reckoning on any count, has fielded P Ramana Kumari for form’s sake. The party's campaign is lacklustre, to say the least.

The TDP, YSR Congress, Janasena and, to some extent, the BJP are the serious contenders in the fray. The TDP candidate, Sri Bharat, the youngest of the lot, is positioning himself as an eager, enthusiastic young man who has entered politics to serve the people.

Zone of contention

Purandeswari, of the BJP, is laying stress on her earlier achievements as the Member of Parliament from Vizag. She is also trying to sell to the public the railway zone, with Visakhapatnam as headquarters, sanctioned by the NDA government just before elections, but there are not many takers for it.

It is widely felt that the railway zone sanctioned by the NDA government is a truncated one, as the Waltair division is done away with, and rail stations in Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts are excluded. Many dismiss the new rail zone as nothing more than a poll gimmick. Purandeswari is having a hard time trying to convince the public of the usefulness of the zone to the people of the State in general, and the north-coastal districts in particular.

The BJP wants to retain the Vizag LS seat desperately, but it is an uphill task for Purandeswari, in the prevailing mood of anti-BJP feeling in the State, but she is making an earnest effort.

Candidate strengths

Lakshminarayana enjoys the goodwill among the middle classes, at least, as an upright CBI officer who quit his prestigious job and entered public life. But will that be enough to carry the day? Janasena, it should also be noted, is a fledgling party contesting the elections for the first time.

Sri Bharat and MVV Satyanarayana are newcomers to politics, like Lakshminarayana, and as such they have to depend largely on the strength of their parties and the MLA candidates.

It is going to be a keen, multi-cornered contest in Visakhapatnam.

Published on March 31, 2019

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