A major internal political rift in the YSRCP, the chief opposition party in Andhra Pradesh, has come to the fore, over which leader will get the contentious Vijayawada Central Constituency Assembly ticket from the party. On one side is Malladi Vishnu, who joined the party in July 2017 and was made the constituencyâ€™s coordinator. On the other, is Vangaveeti Radha, the son of former Congress MLA and Kapu leader Vangaveeti Mohana Ranga Rao.
Speculation has been rife for a while that Radha was unhappy over the party granting Vishnu the post within the YSRCP, but things have taken a heated turn this week, after he got to know that the party is considering Vishnu for Vijayawada Central ticket.
Radha, who was with the Congress like his father, was denied a Vijayawada Central ticket, the seat he had won as an MLA in 2004. In 2009, he contested on a Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) ticket but lost, before moving to Jagan's YSRCP in 2014, only to lose again. This time around, Radha and his allies are determined to prove that they still enjoy influence in the region and are irked at reports that the ticket might go to Malladi Vishnu.
A top source from YSRCP told TNM that Radha was asked to either contest from Vijayawada East constituency or the Machilipatnam Lok Sabha seat. The source also said that Radha is not interested in either at the moment, and wants the Vijayawada Central ticket, which has been the bastion of his family.
There is also caste politics involved as dissenters say that the YSRCP leadership is considering Vishnu, a Brahmin, as the community has a considerable vote bank in the constituency. This, others say, will upset the Kapu vote bank.
Signs of dissent
The ambiguity over Radha getting Central ticket has triggered public chaos among his followers. Earlier in September, several leaders, including corporators, staged a protest at the statue of Vangaveeti Mohana Ranga Rao demanding that the party not give the ticket to Vishnu. Some threatened to kill themselves if the YSRCP went ahead with the decision and even poured petrol on their own bodies to set themselves afire, but their attempts were foiled by the police. The crowd was pacified after Radha, who was inside his home nearby until then, reached out to his followers and asked them to call off their protest.
In a more recent incident, Radha recently held his fatherâ€™s 30th death anniversary at Katuru in Krishna district, where Vangaveeti Ranga hailed from. However, unlike every year, the event barely saw a presence of YSRCP flags, instead being confined to a congregation of Ranga's followers.
Radha's speech during the event also suggested that there could be possible shift in his political platform. Speaking about his future course of action, he said â€śNot for one caste, one religion, one party but we stand by all who have believed in Ranga. Definitely we will take the suggestions and blessings of Ranga's fans and take future steps.â€ť There are rumours that Radha may join actor-politician Pawan Kalyanâ€™s Jana Sena Party.
While Radha was unavailable over phone to comment on the developments, Malladi Vishnu spoke to TNM and said that he was confident of getting the Vijayawada Central constituency ticket. However, he did not respond to further queries.
Radhakrishna's father, Vangaveeti Ranga, was a former MLA, who made his way up through gang rivalries and faction wars in the 1970s in Vijayawada, before he joined politics and became a Kapu leader in the 80s. In the early hours of December 25, 1988, Ranga was on an indefinite fast in Vijayawada, when he was assassinated by members of a rival group in public. Over 40 people were killed and property worth several crore rupees were destroyed due to the violence that followed Ranga's murder in Vijayawada. The violence only abated after the then Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister NT Rama Rao made TDP legislator Devineni 'Nehru' Rajasekhar surrender. The then home minister Kodela Sivaprasada Rao also had to resign.