Once one-sided fight, Andhra's Kuppam seat a loyalty test for Chandrababu Naidu

08:27 AM May 06, 2024 | PTI |

Kuppam: Kuppam Assembly constituency in Andhra Pradesh, the home turf of TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu, is witnessing an unprecedented political upheaval as the unshakable loyalty of its residents towards Naidu and his party is being put to the test by the magnetic pull of the incumbent government’s welfare schemes.
This tug-of-war between steadfast party loyalties and the tempting promise of populist benefits has left the TDP in a panic, making it desperately re-strategise to hold on to a bastion that is suddenly teetering.


In 2019, alarm bells rang as Naidu’s vote share plunged to 55.18 per cent – his worst-ever showing in a place that had handed him resounding mandates since 1989.

The rise of Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) in 2014 injected potent competition into this one-sided battlefield, throwing Naidu’s supremacy into question and forcing the TDP to brace for a fight of its life in what was once considered a sacrosanct citadel.

As the campaign trail heats up, voices from across Kuppam’s villages and mandals reflect a diverse array of perspectives.

Speaking to PTI, Auto driver Yogender from Shantipuram Mandal expresses a desire to “give YSR Congress party one more chance,” while farmer Vasanthamma from Gudipalli mandala acknowledges a “tough fight between TDP and YSRCP.”


The YSRCP’s 35-year-old fiery candidate, KRJ Bharath, has garnered support from residents like Sujatha, a farmer from Kuppam Mandal, who believes “Jagan is distributing wealth to the poor.” Small farmer B Muniswamy from Nalagampalle village echoes this sentiment, having benefited from the incumbent government’s welfare schemes to the tune of ₹ 2.20 lakh over the past five years.

The loyalty to the TDP remains deeply ingrained.

Thimmappa, a farmer from Abbakunta village, proudly declares, “we are a joint family of 80 voters, and we have always voted for one party and one person, i.e., TDP’s Naidu.” Others, like K Ramamurthy from Shantipuram mandal, share tales of ‘victimisation’ by the “YSR Congress government’s rowdyism,” fueling their unwavering support for the TDP.

The allure of welfare schemes is a double-edged sword, with some arguing that Jagan has failed to live up to the expectations set by his father, former Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy.

Balaji, a businessman, warns against the dependency created by “free welfare schemes,” advocating for a visionary leader who can lay a strong foundation for development and attract investments to the bifurcated state.

He raises some valid concerns, insisting that simply providing free handouts without a long-term economic vision could create unhealthy dependencies and hinder sustainable development in the state.

It highlights the difficult balance politicians must strike between meeting the immediate needs of the poor while still pursuing policies that create lasting prosperity and opportunities. Balaji’s perspective adds some nuance to the debate around welfare versus a more development-focused economic approach.

Naidu, 74, has lambasted the “tremendous anti-incumbency”, accusing Jagan’s regime of “destroying the ecosystem of development” while instituting “chaos” and hobbling state institutions.

Yet the aging warhorse exudes confidence his TDP-BJP-Jana Sena alliance will capture 24 of 25 parliamentary seats and 160 of 175 assembly berths in the upcoming twin polls on May 13.

Amid the charged atmosphere, Congress candidate A Govindarajulu, a political novice, harbours the modest ambition of improving on his party’s paltry 3,800-vote tally – potentially splintering opposition votes and helping the TDP.

As the Kuppam clash reaches fever pitch, it has crystalised into a microcosm of Andhra’s roiling political upheaval. Will Naidu’s unshakable bastion withstand the populist tsunami, or will it capsize under the weight of welfarism? The ramifications of this pivotal showdown will be seismic, shaping not just Kuppam’s future but charting the trajectory of a state standing at a crossroads between entitlements and empowerment, dependence and development. For both camps, the stakes could not be higher.


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