Seasoned Geetha Giving PK a Tough Fight in Pithapuram

PITHAPURAM: This otherwise sleepy coastal Assembly constituency of Pithapuram has become a cynosure of all eyes in Andhra Pradesh ever since Jana Sena chief and film hero Pawan Kalyan decided to test his electoral fortunes from here.

He got a severe drubbing in the 2019 polls when he was defeated in both the Assembly segments he contested - Gajuwaka and Bhimavaram.

Contrary to his ‘above-the-caste-politics’ public posture, Pawan this time picked up Pithapuram simply because of the presence of the largest Kapu voter base, it being a predominant caste in the coastal region, and to which community he belongs.

However, his rival and ruling YSRC nominee Vanga Geetha Vishwanath, one among a few affable leaders in contemporary politics in the region, is giving him sleepless nights.

"But for Geeta, our victory could have been a cake walk,” admitted a senior Jana Sena leader. She is presently Kakinada MP. In her career spanning over three decades, she served as Zilla Parishad chairperson, Rajya Sabha member and MLA.

A non-controversial politician, Geetha earned a huge support-base for her by being accessible to all. In fact, her local roots have been pitched against what the ruling party dubs as “tourist politician Pawan Kalyan.”

For decades, this constituency elected a Kapu leader from either the Telugu Desam or Congress, and on one occasion the BJP, till S.V.S.N. Varma of Telugu Desam broke the hegemony. He, however, had to sacrifice his seat to the alliance partner Jana Sena.

After initial hiccups, Varma pledged his support and has been vigorously campaigning in the constituency, brightening the film hero’s chances.

According to rough estimates, the number of Kapu voters in the constituency is 84,000 followed by the 75,000 Backward Classes, 34,000 Scheduled Castes and 11,000 Reddys.

Strong support from the fishermen community came as a shot in the arm for the Jana Sena.

“We enjoy greater support among BCs and SCs because we extended different social welfare schemes on a saturation mode,” Geetha told Deccan Chronicle. “In addition, I enjoy the support of a major chunk of Kapus,” she added. Geetha also belongs to the Kapu community.

Interaction with locals including those receiving cash benefits showed they are divided on caste lines. In P Rayavaram village, for instance, two septuagenarian beneficiaries were quarrelling with each other on why pensions were not delivered at doorstep and why old people were forced to come all the way to banks this month.

While one beneficiary blamed it on Chandrababu Naidu, another farm labourer see in the move a conspiracy by Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy to bring disrepute to Naidu and Pawan Kalyan.

“It’s not correct to say that the secretariat staff didn’t know our houses. They should have come in place of volunteers,” argued K. Satyanarayana, a small farmer waiting outside the bank.

Unwilling to take chances, Pawan Kalyan mobilised his party leaders from different districts to Pithapuram and gave each of them the responsibility of a few villages. Interestingly, NRI fans of the film actor sent donations to their relatives asking them to make use of it in support of Pawan Kalyan. They have been sponsoring camps to provide buttermilk and cold water free of cost since the onset of summer.

A resident of Madhavapuram who settled in nearby Kakinada city has been camping in Pithapuram and carrying out the election campaign spending `20 lakh so far out of his pocket.

On the other hand, Jagan Mohan Reddy took the constituency as a prestigious issue and asked his partymen to defeat the Jana Sena chief at any cost. The party is said to have offered its cadre unlimited resources to achieve the task.

Geetha, who is fondly called as “madam”, spent crores in funds to form roads and develop other civic infrastructure, hitherto neglected, after she took charge of the constituency a few months ago. “The CM’s thrust on welfare and Geetha’s candidature will ensure a drubbing for Pawan this time too,” felt Burra Anu Babu, vice chairman of the Zilla Parishad.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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