TIRUPATI: With the State Election Commission (SEC) sounding the bugle for panchayat polls, the political scenario in villages across the state is further warming up. The contest would be the first litmus test to gauge the political mood of Andhra Pradesh after the 2019 general elections.
Political experts say the civic polls would take on the form of a referendum on the performance of YSRC government even as the ruling party is seeking to avoid contests and have unanimous election of candidates. The Opposition suspects the aim of the YSRC is to skip a fight and instead engage in coercion.
Both the Telugu Desam Party and the BJP-Jana Sena combine are hard at work to secure more seats so that the ruling party can be taken on with more confidence in the coming months and years. TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu has sent messages to all mandal-level party functionaries and probable candidates to file as many nominations as possible to prevent the unanimous polls move by the YSRC.
“All candidates are preparing the required certificates in advance and we will make extensive use of social media for electioneering. Dissatisfaction over the government and instances of attacks on temples has distanced the YSRC from all the sections. We have exposed the government’s misdeeds. Their defeat is certain if the local elections are held impartially,” claimed a senior TDP leader.
Panchayat Raj minister Peddireddy Ramchandra Reddy has announced financial incentives to encourage unanimous elections, by saying this will enable gram panchayats keep politics aside and concentrate on development work. By announcing rewards ahead of the elections, the YSRC hopes to make elections to more than half of the panchayats unanimous, political reckon.
Opposition party leaders are, however, saying parties mattered more in villages and people will not go after incentives. “In some areas, ruling party leaders may threaten their rivals to make sure they not to field nominations. In some coastal districts, there is high chance of unanimous polls. Yet, in some Rayalaseema districts, village level leaders will never agree for unanimous election,” a senior TDP leader said.
Many ruling party candidates are banking on the photo of chief minister Jagan and on his major push for welfare schemes. The money deposited in the accounts of 50 lakh beneficiaries under the Amma Vodi scheme earlier this month, the 30-lakh house distribution scheme and above all the Navaratnas are cited as strong points for the YSRC to win more panchayats.
However, the situation on the ground seems different. Opposition leaders allege that the money for the pro-poor schemes was being squeezed from the middle-class. For instance, the hikes in petrol and diesel prices as also the RTC fare, electricity charges and municipal taxes in AP are said to be heavier than those in other states. The Opposition is bound to enlighten the masses about such issues during the campaign.