The Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh will face the first test of its governance as the urban local bodies (ULBs) in the state go to polls on Wednesday. The ULB elections are being held amid a strong attack on the government by a combined opposition which has accused the ruling YSR Congress of resorting to high-handed tactics, abuse of state machinery, particularly the police, in a bid to grab the civic bodies.

The opposition parties,while targeting the government, have cited the ruling YSRC’s “clean sweep” of Pulivendula (Chief Ministers home constituency), Punganuru (Chittoor district), Piduguralla and Macherla (both Guntur district) municipalities, where it won all civic wards “unanimously”.

Even in many other municipalities, an unusually high number of wards were bagged by the ruling party “unopposed”, forcing the opposition parties to cry foul.

Elections will now be held on Wednesday for 71 municipalities and Nagar Panchayats and 12 municipal corporations in the state, with 78.71 lakh eligible voters.

The Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation is going to polls after over a decade, the first after its expansion.

The ULB elections were abruptly deferred in March last year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, after the nominations were filed.

The opposition parties TDP, BJP, Congress, Jana Sena, CPI, CPM demanded that the State Election Commission cancel last year’s poll notification and issue another afresh in view of alleged malpractices committed by the YSRC.

The SEC, however, gave an opportunity in some municipalities, where the opposition candidates were allegedly made to forcibly withdraw from the race, to file complaints with evidence for their cases to be reconsidered.

In practice, though, no candidate came forward to file nominations afresh as they reportedly faced ‘threats’ in multiple forms.

In Ward No.7 of Tirupati Municipal Corporation, the TDP candidates nomination was “withdrawn” but the SEC cancelled the election in that ward after it was established that the candidate’s signature was forged.

The stakes are very high for the YSRC and the TDP as the main opposition wants to prove the ruling party has lost all credibility because of alleged misgovernance, while the former is banking heavily on its welfare agenda.

But all eyes are on three major Municipal Corporations Guntur, Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam as the outcome in these civic bodies will virtually be seen as a virtual referendum on the contentious state capital issue.

A defeat, particularly in Vijayawada and Guntur, for YSRC will be seen as a clear rejection of its decision to relocate the capital city to Visakhapatnam.

It makes a victory in Visakhapatnam mandatory for it to claim people have endorsed its move to make it the state’s Executive Capital.

The TDP, on the other hand, is keen on winning Vijayawada and Guntur to establish that the people are opposed to relocating the capital from Amaravati, the two ULBs forming part of the present capital region.

A victory in the port city will enable TDP to proclaim that people of Visakhapatnam want no change in the state capital.

Who succeeds will be known on March 14 when the votes are counted.

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