AP polls: Dissidence in TDP, JSP as alliance with BJP upsets balance

As BJP, TDP and Jana Sena finalised their alliance just two months ahead of the Assembly elections it dashed the hopes of many aspirants within their ranks.
Former TDP MLA Nallamilli Ramakrishna Reddy (on left), JSP leader Pothina Mahesh (on right)
Former TDP MLA Nallamilli Ramakrishna Reddy (on left), JSP leader Pothina Mahesh (on right)Facebook
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The allocation of tickets within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Telugu Desam Party (TDP)-Jana Sena Party (JSP) alliance for the upcoming elections in Andhra Pradesh has stirred discontent among party cadres, with some expressing frustration over being sidelined in favour of candidates as a part of the coalition deal. Andhra Pradesh will be going to polls for the state Assembly as well as Parliamentary seats in the next couple of months. As the three parties finalised the alliance just two months ahead of the elections, it dashed the hopes of many aspirants for Assembly seats, within their ranks.

As a part of the alliance, out of the total 175 Assembly seats, TDP will contest 144 seats, while BJP and JSP will contest 21 and 10 seats respectively. Out of 25 Lok Sabha seats, TDP is set to contest in 17, BJP in six and JSP in the remaining seats. The polling for both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections is set to take place on May 13 in Andhra Pradesh. 

The allocation of seats for Assembly elections has drawn protests from many aspirants both Jana Sena and TDP. While prominent Jana Sena Party (JSP) leader from Vijayawada West, Pothina Mahesh, publicly voiced his dissent, former TDP MLA Sugunnamma from the southern constituency of Tirupati became emotional in front of the media. In Anaparthy, a tense situation prevailed among the TDP cadre as BJP announced its candidate in place of former MLA Nallamilli Ramakrishna Reddy. Similar scenes have emerged from other constituencies. Meanwhile, party leaders are consulting the disgruntled aspirants and assuring them that they will be compensated for their support. 

Read: How Vangaveeti-Devineni clans and their blood feud shifted political discourse in Andhra Pradesh

Pothina Mahesh from JSP in Vijayawada West constituency has been expressing dissent with a ten-day hunger strike and actively engaging on social media platform X. “Everyone is asking me about elections. I did not get a chance. I tried to cry but there were no tears. Every day, I fought for this chance but I did not get it," Mahesh expressed his disappointment at a meeting at the party office. He also criticised the TDP for allegedly interfering with the affairs of JSP and said that fulfilling duties towards the alliance applied to TDP as well and not just to Jana Sena. 

Mahesh contested the 2019 elections from JSP and polled over 22,000 votes, coming in third behind the winner from YSRCP and the TDP candidate. Though he was keen that he would be allocated the Vijayawada West ticket, the seat was given to former Union Minister Sujana Chowdary from BJP, who will be contesting against YSRCP candidate Shaik Asif. 

The disappointment isn’t just among Jana Sena members. Following the announcement of the Tirupati ticket, former TDP MLA Sugunnamma questioned the party’s rationale behind her sidelining when there was an alliance and claimed that she had been working for the party’s development in the constituency. "How come a candidate who was not preferred by his own party been nominated?" she questioned as she became emotional in front of the media. The Tirupati seat was allocated to JSP candidate Arani Srinivasulu, who is the MLA of Chittoor. Arani Srinivasulu joined Jana Sena after being denied a ticket by the YSRCP on March 7.

In Araku (ST) constituency, tensions arose when TDP’s initially announced candidate Siyyari Donnu Dora was replaced by Pangi Raja from the BJP. Donnu Dora is a prominent leader who stood second in the 2019 elections as an independent candidate and later joined TDP. "There is no BJP presence in Araku," he told TNM, questioning the decision to allocate the seat to a BJP candidate and added, “I joined TDP, an opposition party, even though I had a winning chance. However, I will decide after I consult with the party supremo (Chandrababu Naidu).” 

Similarly, in Anaparthi, former TDP MLA Nallamilli Ramakrishna Reddy and his supporters have been protesting for the past three days after the BJP was allotted the seat. Though TDP initially announced Ramakrishna Reddy as its Anaparthy candidate, his candidature was withdrawn later following BJP’s decision to field M Shiva Krishnam Raju. Alleging collusion between the YSRCP and BJP to weaken the TDP in the constituency, Ramakrishna Reddy went around in a cycle rickshaw in the town collecting public opinion along with his mother, in protest.

Many of these candidates have also spent huge amounts of money in the past five years. “It is not easy to be active in a big party like TDP. I spent Rs 1 crore only for one party campaign meeting. However, there is no chance to blame Chandrababu Naidu too when BJP is adamant. If they promise me a position, then I will remain in the party,” a TDP leader who was denied a ticket told TNM. 

A source in TDP told TNM that the party is holding meetings with disgruntled aspirants. “Senior leadership understands leaders’ struggle and it is common to see such revolts when we are in alliance. We have been in opposition for the past five years and all the leaders bravely did their jobs. They will be compensated in some other way. Chandrababu Naidu is directly talking with them and other senior leaders are also holding discussions,” he said.

One such meeting Chandrababu held, was with Sugunnamma.  Following the meeting, the protesting aspirant on Monday, April 1 urged the TDP cadre to support the candidate chosen by the alliance. "We met the party chief (Chandrababu Naidu). We have to work together and help our leader become the CM again,” she said.

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