It was a case of déjà vu for the ruling Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) of Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh as it systematically brushed aside the opposition, emerging victorious in elections to the State’s urban local bodies. The party won 11 out of the State’s 12 municipal corporations and 73 out of 75 municipalities/nagar panchayats.
The results to the Eluru Municipal Corporation have been put on hold on the directions of the High Court following the filing of a petition alleging discrepancies in the voters’ list.
Elections to these urban local bodies, which were stopped midway in March 2020 because of the Covid pandemic, were held on March 10 and the counting of votes undertaken on March 14. For the YSRCP, the victory in the local body elections comes on the heels of the party’s good showing in last month’s rural local body (panchayat) elections, when candidates backed by it won around 83 per cent of the seats. In the last Assembly elections, the YSRCP had won convincingly, pocketing 151 of the 175 seats.
As the results poured in from across Andhra Pradesh, it was obvious that the State’s electorate was not convinced by the opposition’s criticism of Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s controversial three-capital formula and his agenda for a plethora of welfare schemes. A jubilant Jagan Mohan reacted to the win by tweeting: “This is a great victory of the people…. this has further increased my responsibility. I will try hard to work as a member of your family.” Ambati Rambabu, YSRCP spokesperson, said: “People have overwhelmingly backed our Chief Minister Jagan’s three capital cities theory.”
Said Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy, YSRCP general secretary: “Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy has not once given a call or campaigned for votes. It is not because he was overconfident but it was his strong belief that the welfare schemes he had initiated will get him the mandate of the people.”
The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) of former Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, Andhra Pradesh’s main opposition party, was routed across the State, managing to win just two municipalities, both in Rayalaseema—Tadipatri in Anantapur district and Mydukur in Kadapa district. Both were wins with narrow margins.The YSRCP will most likely bag the Chairperson’s posts in these civic bodies too, utilising the help of ex-officio votes. This, in effect, means that the YSRCP will control all the civic bodies in the State.
Even Chandrababu Naidu’s diatribe and taunts during his campaign Guntur and Vijayawada, when he attempted to inflame passions sentiments about the capital being shifted away from Amaravati, failed to materialise into votes for his party. The TDP leadership has claimed for long that the people of Guntur and Vijayawada were angry with the Jagan Mohan Reddy government’s plans to shift the State’s executive capital from Amaravati to Visakhapatnam, allowing Amaravati to be just the State’s legislative capital. The party failed to make inroads even in civic bodies where the TDP had a strong leadership or had an elected representative in the Assembly. At Hindupur, though the actor Nandamuri Balakrishna campaigned for the party, it could win only six of the 38 seats. Similarly, Tuni, represented by Yanamala Ramakrishnudu, former Finance Minister, and Peddapuram, represented by Nimmakayala Chinnarajappa, went in favour of the YSRCP.
If the TDP fared poorly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Jana Sena Party (JSP) coalition did worse, managing to capture a few seats, but drawing a blank in municipalities. But, rather interestingly, the junior partner, actor Pawan Kalyan’s JSP, fared better than the BJP, which failed to replicate its recent successes in neighbouring Telangana.
For the YSRCP, the wins in its strongholds such as Rayalaseema, Nellore and Prakasam districts were expected. But what came as a pleasant surprise were the gains chalked up in regions that are viewed as traditional TDP bastions—Guntur and Krishna. In the Guntur Municipal Corporation, the YSRCP won 44 of the 57 seats, restricting the TDP to just nine. Both the BJP-JSP combine and YSRCP rebels won two seats each.
In neighbouring Vijayawada Municipal Corporation, the YSRCP won 49 of the 64 seats. The TDP won 14 and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) won one seat. In the Tirupati Municipal Corporation, where an byelection for the Lok Sabha seat is due soon, the YSRCP won 48 of the 49 seats.
In the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation, the TDP did put up a fight, particularly in Vizag, but the YSRCP managed to win 58 of the 98 divisions. The TDP won 30, the BJP-JSP combine four and others six. While the TDP was able to make some credible gains in the seats that fell within the Gajuwaka, Pendurthi and Bhimili Assembly segments—all in the vicinity of the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, whose privatisation is being hotly contested—the YSRCP almost swept the seats in Visakhapatnam North, West and East.
The YSRCP won 44 of the 52 divisions in Kurnool, the TDP being confined to just six and others winning the remaining two. In Vizianagaram Corporation, the YSRCP won 48 of the 50 wards. The party fared well in the other five civic bodies as well.
In the last elections to the urban local bodies held in 2014, the TDP had won five out of the seven municipal corporations and the YSRCP just two. Of the 92 municipalities, the TDP had bagged 70, the YSRCP 18, the Congress and the Communist Party of India one each in 2014.