KEY CONSTITUENCY: Tirupati
This temple town has been in the political limelight ever since Telugu megastar Chiranjeevi decided to contest from this prestigious Tirupati Assembly constituency.
In fact, it was from here last August that Konidela Chiranjeevi launched his ‘Praja Rajyam Party’ to capture power in Andhra Pradesh on the twin planks of ‘social justice’ and ‘social security.’
Significantly, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) founder, the late N.T. Rama Rao, chose the same constituency to make his electoral debut in 1983, when he went on to break the Congress’ hegemony in the State.
Mr. Chiranjeevi is also contesting from Palacole in his native West Godavari district to satisfy ‘local sentiment,’ but says his candidature in Tirupati is to fulfil ‘divine sentiment.’
The entry of ‘Chiru,’ as he is fondly known by his fans, has pepped up what otherwise have been a sedate contest in a constituency in which the Congress and TDP have shared the honours almost equally.
With its four lakh population, the town is fast emerging as a major educational and economic hub. The burgeoning city has expanded so much that its peripheral areas have been delinked during delimitation exercise and annexed to the contiguous Chandragiri, once the capital of the Vijayanagara rulers.
Locking horns with the matinee idol are B. Karunakar Reddy of the Congress, a former Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam (TTD) Board Chairman and blue-eyed boy of Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, and K. Sankar Reddy of the TDP, a close associate of former Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and a former Tirupati Municipal Corporation chairperson. G. Bhanuprakash Reddy is the BJP candidate.
But for the ‘Chiru’ factor, the contest in Tirupati would otherwise be a neck and neck race between two formidable candidates of two equally formidable parties. Mr. Chiranjeevi is a huge crowd-puller; but it remains to be seen whether this will translate into votes.
The Congress and the TDP downplay the crowd factor as mere cinema glamour, but Chiru fans and members of his community — Balijas/Kapus who have thrown their lot behind him almost en masse — call it wishful thinking. Incidentally, the Balija community is the single largest in Tirupati, with 23,000 voters.
While Mr. Karunakar Reddy pins his hopes on the work he did for Tirupati-Tirumala as TTD Chairman, Mr. Sankar Reddy, the former civic chief, is confident that his developmental work will see him through.
Mr. Chiranjeevi’s image and the PRP’s hype has taken a beating in the last one week after resignations by senior party leaders alleging huge kickbacks in the allotment of party tickets to business tycoons. But, the ‘Chiru’ factor is too big to be ignored.
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