YSRCP’s victory in all three proposed capital regions shows people’s support for the trifurcation move, the party has said.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy wearing a white shirt with his arms folded, with the map of Andhra Pradesh in the backdrop
news Politics Monday, March 15, 2021 - 18:27

The YSRCP secured a massive win in the urban local body elections last week, decimating the opposition parties. The ruling party won in 73 out of 75 municipalities and 11 out of 12 municipal corporations, with counting of votes in Eluru corporation put on hold due to directions from the High Court. The sweeping win is reminiscent of the similarly massive victory for the party in the 2019 Assembly elections. On Sunday, YSRCP National General Secretary and MP Vijayasai Reddy said that the party’s huge win is a reflection of support from the people of Andhra Pradesh for the three capital proposal by the Jagan Mohan Reddy government. 

“The election results prove that not just the people of Vizag, which is set to be the executive capital, but people of all three regions (Kurnool, Amaravati and Vizag), are also in support of the capital trifurcation. The people of Vizag, Vijayawada and Mangalagiri have taught Chandrababu Naidu a lesson,” Vijayasai Reddy said. 

Over the two years that the YSRCP has been in power, the decision of trifurcating the capital has been one of the most contested issues in the state. Even as uncertainty prevailed over the stalled development works in Amaravati, Chief Minister Jagan announced in December 2019 that the state would have three separate capitals, in Visakhapatnam (executive),  Kurnool (judicial) and Amaravati (legislative). YSRCP has won not only in the Visakhapatnam and Kurnool municipal corporations, but also in Vijayawada and Guntur corporations and Mangalagiri municipality near the Amaravati capital region. 

Read:  ‘Hold referendum on three capitals move’: Chandrababu Naidu dares Jagan

However, this isn’t necessarily akin to a referendum on the Amaravati issue, according to political observers. E Venkatesu, a political analyst and professor at the University of Hyderabad, notes that there are multiple explanations for YSRCP’s victory, starting with the government’s implementation of its welfare promises. “The welfare programs are reaching the grassroots level, whether its pensions, or financial assistance to the poor through various schemes, or loans to micro entrepreneurs and unorganised workers,” he says, however adding that questions remain over how long these schemes can continue, considering the financial burden they have imposed to the already cash strapped state. Moreover, the opposition leadership, particularly that of the TDP, has been weakened from the village and mandal level to district level, with allegiances shifting to the YSRCP owing to pressures from the ruling party, Venkatesu says. 

Echoing these views, political analyst and senior journalist Telakapalli Ravi says that victory indicates the people’s endorsement of the YSRCP government’s welfare measures. “In the three tentative capital areas too, the YSRCP has won. But that doesn’t necessarily mean people have endorsed the three capital plan,” he says, adding that the three capital issue is anyway not to be decided through local body elections but is to be decided in the court.  

Read: Andhra Dy CM asks protesting Amaravati farmers to meet YS Jagan for justice

As the issue is pending in the courts, YSRCP must take the victory as people’s mandate to do justice, particularly to Amaravati which is caught in a stalemate, and also expedite the setting up of the high court in Kurnool and development projects in Vizag, Ravi says. Noting that the privatisation of the Visakhapatnam steel plant is the foremost issue in the Vizag region, he says that the win puts added responsibility on the ruling YSRCP to tackle these concerns successfully. “They cannot have a one-sided interpretation of the verdict, as the polls were not held on this (Amaravati) plank,” he says. However, it does demonstrate a huge loss of credibility for the TDP, which has been supporting the protests seeking sole capital in Amaravati for more than 450 days now, he adds. 

“Rather than seeing it as a referendum on the Amaravati issue, the results can be seen as people’s rejection of the TDP’s policy of putting all their eggs in one basket,” says Palwai Raghavendra Reddy, another political observer. Apart from the issue of capital trifurcation, the main  opposition TDP  hasn’t been able to pin down the YSRCP government on any other development issue, he notes. 

The TDP has only managed to win two municipalities — Tadipatri in Anantapur district and Mydukur in Kadapa district. The party has blamed the YSRCP of having influenced police personnel and other officials and ward volunteers towards achieving the sweeping victory. Refuting the YSRCP’s claim that the results reflect peoples’ support for the capital trifurcation, TDP leader Syed Rafi questioned whether the win also reflects people’s support for other policies like increase in property taxes and privatisation of the Visakhapatnam steel plant. He also stated that the YSRCP government is unable to stand up to the Union government on any issue concerning the people of Andhra Pradesh. 

“All governments have implemented welfare schemes, but this government has created an atmosphere of fear that these schemes will be revoked if they don’t vote for the ruling party,”  Syed Rafi alleged. In the run up to the civic polls, the State Election Commission (SEC) had issued orders to keep ward volunteers away from the election process to maintain neutrality. Citing complaints from opposition parties that volunteers were trying to influence election outcomes in  their interactions with beneficiaries of welfare schemes, the SEC had directed district authorities to not assign any election related duty to ward volunteers, and also to withhold the volunteers’ phones as they contain the database of beneficiaries of government schemes which could be misused. However, the state government challenged these directions in the High Court, which suspended them. 

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