Bypolls acid test for parties in AP ahead of LS poll

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{image-andhra pradesh_04052008.jpg}Hyderabad, May 4: Major political parties were gearing up for the crucial May 29 byelections to four Lok Sabha and 18 Assembly seats in Andhra Pradesh, considered as a 'litmus test' for them ahead of the 2009 General Elections.

While the ruling Congress, which went to the 2004 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the State forging a grand alliance with the Telangana Rashtra Samiti(TRS) on the one hand and the Left parties on the other hand, lost its allies one after another, the main opposition Telugu Desam Party(TDP), a constituent of the United National Progressive Alliance, got closer to the Marxists after the joint struggles on issues concerning the people, including price rise.

While the byelections to four Lok Sabha and 16 Assembly seats were caused by the enmasse resignation of TRS members on the Telangana issue, two other Assembly seats fell vacant following the death of sitting Congress legislator P Janardhan Reddy and TDP MLA T Jayaprakash.

It is a do-or-die battle for the TRS, which was projecting the bypolls as a ''referendum'' on separate statehood for the Telangana region, even as the ruling Congress, which has lost its allies -- the CPI, CPI(M) and TRS, was going to the people on the plank of development ushered in by the party-led United Progressive Alliance(UPA) Government at the Centre and the Rajasekhara Reddy Government in the State in the last four years.

Maintaining that the ruling party was sympathetic to the demand of separate Telangana but is unable to act due to lack of consensus, PCC Chief K Srinivas told UNI that by leaving the vexed issue to Party President Sonia Gandhi, the Congress Government had been concentrating on all-round development of the State under the stewardship of Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy.

''The good work done by the Congress Government will win us votes,'' he added. Riding on crest of Telangana sentiment, TRS President K Chandrasekar Rao, who had resigned his Karimnagar Lok Sabha seat only to be re-elected in the byelection for the seat hands down last year, was confident that his party members will be able to repeat the impressive performance in this round of byelections. The BJP, which was striving to regain power at the Centre projecting Mr L K Advani as its Prime Ministerial candidate, was projecting itself as the champion of smaller states in a bid to encash on the Telangana sentiment.

''Only the BJP, which had created three new states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttaranchal, will be able to deliver statehood for Telangana,'' party State Chief Bandaru Dattatreya, which had earlier gone back on its promise of ''one vote two states'', maintains.

The stakes were also high for the TDP, which was leaving no stone unturned to regain the faith of the people after its severe drubbing in the last Assembly elections. TDP President and UNPA Convenor N Chandrababu Naidu, who ascended to power staging a political coup against his father-in-law and TDP founder N T Rama Rao, had roped in the late actor's sons and grandsons.

Coinciding with byelections, Mr Naidu was criss-crossing the State by holding a ''Meekosam yatra'' to expose omissions and commisions of the UPA Government at the Centre and the Congress Government in the State, including ''total failure of both the Governments on various fronts''.

The byelections have provided a golden opportunity to the TDP to get closer with the Congress's estranged ally, CPI(M), which had snapped ties with the TDP in the wake of the regional party extending support to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance(NDA) earlier.While the TDP had successfully struck an electoral understanding with the Marxists, leaving two Assembly seats to it, it is being elusive to the CPI, which is eagerly awaiting the possible entry of Telugu matinee idol Chiranjeevi into politics before the general elections in 2009. Though extending support to the CPI(M) in the byelections, the CPI had decided to maintain equidistance from both the Congress and TDP as also the TRS but support ''progressive like-minded parties like the Lok Satta Party(LSP) and Independents with clean image in constituencies other than the two assembly seats it is contesting'', CPI State Secretary K Narayana said.

The TDP, which had all along been advocating unified Andhra Pradesh, made a departure from its stand, stating that ''the party will take an appropriate decision at an appropriate time.'' The party had formed a committee to look into the Telangana issue.

The TRS, which was formed by Chandrasekara Rao, a former TDP minister, with the sole objective of achieving statehood for Telangana, had joined the Congress-led coalition Governments both at the Centre and in the State with a fond hope of realising the demand from within and successfully drew the nation's attention by including it in the UPA's Common Minimum Programme and the President's address to both the houses of Parliament.

Irked by ''inordinate delay'' in formation of the separate State, the TRS first quit the State Cabinet and subsequently the Central Cabinet. After testing the people's mood by resigning his Lok Sabha seat, which was retained with a huge margin by the TRS supremo in the byelection last year, the separatist party had caused these byelections through enmasse resignation of four MPs and 16 MLAs of of the TRS, in a bid to keep its vote bank intact and prepare the party for the next round of battle in the Lok Sabha poll.


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