An interesting multi-cornered contest is on the cards in Andhra Pradesh as a former central minister, a former IPS officer who served as joint director of CBI and a film producer-businessman, are going up against each other for the Visakhapatnam Lok Sabha constituency. The are under the constituency spans the port city of Visakhapatnam, its suburbs and rural areas in neighbouring Vizianagaram district.
Candidates of five major parties are among the 20 aspirants who are in the fray in this constituency, which has over 18 lakh voters. D Purandeswari, daughter of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) founder and former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N T Rama Rao, is contesting as a candidate of the BJP, which she joined after quitting the Congress following Andhra Pradesh's bifurcation in 2014.
Elected in 2009 from Vizag, Purandeswari went on to become a minister in Manmohan Singh's cabinet. In 2014, she unsuccessfully contested from the Rajampet constituency on a BJP ticket after the party turned down her demand for a ticket from Vizag.
A K Haribabu was elected from Vizag and this was one of the two Lok Sabha seats bagged by the BJP, which then fought the polls in alliance with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
With Haribabu opting out of race this time, the BJP has fielded Purandeswari, who faces a tough battle with the TDP snapping ties with her party. Purandeswari is the elder sister of Nara Bhuvaneswari, the wife of Chief Minister and TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu.
Among the candidates Purandeswari is facing is young businessman Sri Bharat from the TDP, son-in-law of her actor brother and TDP MLA N Balakrishna.
Additionally, Purandeswari and her husband, Venkateswara Rao, began their journey together in the Congress in 2004 but the latter recently joined YSRCP and is contesting for an Assembly ticket.
In Vizag, the YSRCP has fielded M V V Satyanarayana, a film producer and promoter of MVV Builders. In 2014, YSRCP president Y S Jaganmohan Reddy's mother Y S Vijayamma had finished the runner-up from here.
The entry of former CBI joint director V V Lakshminarayana into the fray from Vizag on a Jana Sena ticket has made the contest more interesting.
A well-known figure in Andhra Pradesh for heading probes into several high-profile cases like the Satyam scam, the OMC mining scam and the disproportionate assets case against Jagan Mohan Reddy, Lakshminarayana is contesting as the candidate of actor Pawan Kalyan's Jana Sena Party.
Lakshminarayana, who was the Additional Director General (ADG) of Police in Maharashtra, quit his job last year to enter politics. There was speculation that he might join TDP or the BJP or might even float his own party. He, however, finally joined Jana Sena.
However, it is interesting to note that Pawan Kalyan himself will be contesting for from Gajuwaka, one of the Assembly segments under the jurisdiction of the Lok Sabha seat.
The Congress has fielded Pedada Ramani Kumari, chief of Congress party's women's wing in Vizag. Vizag has traditionally been a Congress stronghold till 1984, when it was snatched by the TDP. The regional party won it again in 1991 and 1999.
With the Congress drawing a blank in the 2014 elections due to public wrath over bifurcation, the BJP in alliance with TDP captured Vizag.
Out of seven Assembly segments, the TDP had won six and its ally BJP one in 2014. The situation has since undergone a change with YSRCP making inroads while the BJP is facing rough weather over denial of the Special Category Status (SCS) to the state.
The recent announcement by the Centre to create a new Southern Coast Railway Zone with Vizag as the headquarters may not help the party due to protests by various groups for bifurcation of the Waltair division to give the revenue-rich part of it to East Coast Railway headquartered in Odisha.
Water supply, agriculture and migration from other parts of North Andhra to Vizag are the other major issues.