Hyderabad: Amid a line-up boasting three chief minister hopefuls and two Union ministers, the surprise package in Andhra’s battlefield tomorrow is Chiranjeevi.
The actor-turned-politician, in the fray from Palacole in West Godavari district and Tirupati in Chittoor district, has emerged as one of the contenders for the state crown alongside the Congress’s Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy and Telugu Desam Party’s N. Chandrababu Naidu.
“My campaign is against Naidu’s false promises and the Congress’s anti-Backward Classes stance,” Chiranjeevi said on his campaign trail in Vijayawada over the weekend, possibly alluding to the Desam’s free rice, free gas and cash transfer schemes.
The triangular fight between the Congress, the Desam and Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam dominates polling in the second and final phase, in which the Opposition Telengana Rashtra Samiti and the Left parties have little role to play.
The Praja Rajyam is contesting all seats — 20 Lok Sabha and 140 Assembly — in this phase and is banking on anti-Congress and anti-Desam votes as well as the support of the Backward Classes, especially the Kapus.
Chief minister Reddy has pinned his hopes for a second term on support from Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra districts where he expects the anti-Telengana sentiment fanned by him to pay dividends.
“People will not vote for freebies but for programmes that give long-term benefits,” Reddy said. He appeared confident his son Jaganmohan’s elevation to Parliament would be as smooth as his was 30 years ago.
Desam chief Naidu, who managed to get the TRS and the Left to join his grand alliance, expressed hope that his cash transfer scheme for the poor would prove a winner. His Stanford-returned son Nara Lokesh campaigned for him in Kuppam from where Naidu has been winning since 1998.
“The people will vote out the corrupt Congress and ignore the daydreaming of Chiranjeevi (who feels) that politics is child’s play,” Naidu said while electioneering in Chittoor.
There are fears that mass rigging and poll violence in Rayalaseema might affect poll percentages in tomorrow’s round of voting. Another factor at play could be the large number of women in coastal Andhra who are expected to vote for Chiranjeevi.
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