The ruling party in Andhra Pradesh is witnessing multiple political battles this season. On the one hand, they’re waging a war against the BJP-led Centre over the issue of Special Category Status (SCS) for Andhra. On the other hand, rivals in the state including the YSRCP are targeting them on multiple issues ahead of 2019, when the state will vote for the Assembly as well as General elections. And in between all this, looks like there is a storm brewing inside the party in Kurnool, with tensions evident between a minister, and her later father’s aide.
Tourism Minister Bhuma Akhila Priya is the daughter of late Nandyal MLA Bhuma Nagi Reddy, who was a powerful leader in the region. She is also the youngest member in Chandrababu Naidu’s cabinet. The 31-year-old has seen much opposition inside the party in her one year in the post. And now, she’s embroiled in a bitter fight with a leader who was considered her father’s right hand man – AV Subba Reddy.
Apparently, Akhila Priya has distanced herself from several leaders in the party including Subba Reddy, and is allegedly focussing on ensuring that her family – the powerful Bhuma clan – continues to stay in powerful positions in Kurnool district. Reportedly, she also snubbed Subba Reddy by not inviting him to her father’s death anniversary last month.
An angry Subba Reddy – who was reportedly looking to Akhila to support him in his political ambitions – is now engaged in a feud with the young leader, and the TDP leadership has been forced to intervene to ensure things don’t get dirtier.
The Bhuma family, and Akhila’s entry into politics
Akhila Priya is the youngest cabinet member in the state and belongs to the powerful Bhuma family, which wields a lot of influence in Kurnool district – especially in the Assembly constituencies of Allagadda and Nandyal.
She came into politics and became a legislator from Allagadda following the sudden demise of her mother, Shoba Nagi Reddy, in a road accident in 2015. The family was with the YSRCP at that point. But in 2016, both Bhuma Nagi Reddy and Akhila switched loyalties and moved to the TDP – and so did Nagi Reddy’s close aide, Subba Reddy.
In March 2017, Bhuma Nagi Reddy succumbed to a massive heart stroke. Soon after his demise, Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu assigned the portfolio of Tourism, Telugu Language and Culture to Akhila Priya, during a cabinet reshuffle.
Family first for Akhila?
Soon after she became a minister, Akhila faced opposition inside the party. Her father’s one-time rival Silpa Mohan Reddy, who was hoping to be the TDP candidate for the Nandyal bye-election, was enraged when Akhila batted for the seat to be kept ‘in the family.’ The seat went to her cousin Bhuma Brahmananda Reddy, and a miffed Silpa Mohan Reddy defected to the YSRCP.
Apparently, Akhila has been staunchly following her family-first agenda in the district. Kurnool MLA SV Mohan Reddy is her maternal uncle, while Bhuma Brahmananda Reddy, who succeeded Bhuma Nagi Reddy’s seat, is her cousin. She has reportedly distanced herself from several strong leaders in the party, including Subba Reddy.
Sources suggest that some TDP leaders believe Akhila Priya is not letting others grow, even ensuring that contracts to different development projects are being sanctioned to her close aides. She wants to ensure that no one can pose a challenge to her, or to members of her family, detractors say.
‘Subba Reddy sidelined’
For AV Subba Reddy, who was a close confidante of Bhuma Nagi Reddy, Akhila’s decision to sideline him has come as a big blow. When Nagi Reddy was alive, Subba Reddy was the one who took care of several ground-level issues for the leader. He also served as the AP State Rural Irrigation Corporation chairman. Subba Reddy’s capability to pull votes during the Nandyal bye-election was widely acknowledged in political circles, including by Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu himself.
However, the appreciation did not convert into power for Subba Reddy. A top source in the TDP on condition of anonymity told TNM, “For some reason – whether it is a question of political equations or something else altogether – Subba Reddy did not get any position of power, unlike his colleagues, who were later sworn in as MLCs.”
And according to the grapevine, Subba Reddy is angry that Akhila did not back him either.
The public rift
The spat between the two politicians came out in the open in March this year, when Subba Reddy was reportedly snubbed by Akhila Priya, who did not invite him to her father’s first death anniversary observance.
In fact, Akhila’s speech at Allagadda is seen by many as a direct attack on Subba Reddy.
She said, “As Bhuma Nagi Reddy has died, all the cunning foxes and back stabbers have come together, as they are waiting loot Allagadda.” Further stating that she had the backing of her entire family and the people of her constituency, she added that no one could shake the support she enjoyed from the people.
Following this, the rift grew wider when the two leaders celebrated the ruling TDP’s Foundation Day on March 29 this year. Both of them were in Kurnool – but they held separate events in the same town, and publicly lashed out against each other.
Subba Reddy said then that if Akhila's father had been alive, he would have 'slapped his daughter.’
He also threatened a political face off: Subba Reddy said that he would not think twice about contesting against Akhila Priya from Allagadda if Naidu gave him a ticket.
Subba Reddy also said that his political fight was not against the Bhuma family as a whole, but only against the ‘attitude’ of Akhila Priya.
As the battle lines were drawn, the two groups even allegedly resorted to physical attacks against each other.
Earlier this week, responding to a call to take out a cycle rally across the state in support of ongoing SCS movement, both political leaders organised separate events.
While Akhila Priya took out a cycle rally with her supporters in Allagadda mandal, AV Subba Reddy took out a separate rally with his aides at Sirivella mandal headquarters, historically considered to be the bastion of the late Bhuma Nagi Reddy.
It was here that some stones were pelted at Subba Reddy’s rally by miscreants, and the politician alleged that the attack was carried out by Akhila Priya’s faction.
In response, Subba Reddy called for a one-day Allagadda shutdown, forcing the district police to beef up security.
Naidu takes stock
The entire political battle has not gone down well with TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu, who took stock of the situation and summoned members of both factions for a meeting in the capital city this week. Sources in the party told TNM that Naidu has asked both the leaders to maintain party decorum and be respectful to each other.
But neither leader seems keen to keep their head down. Akhila Priya skipped the meet, reportedly saying, “there is no intimation from the party to her to meet the CM.” And the buzz is that Subba Reddy is now getting ready to contest the 2019 polls and will not settle for a small post.
However, Kurnool TDP President Somishetty Venkateshwarlu played down the whole issue.
"It is true that there is a feud, but our leader (Chandrababu Naidu) will sort this out," he said. He also ruled out the allegations of autocracy against the minister Akhila Priya.
With inputs from Nitin B.