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|August 20, 1999||
Jaya Prada faces her first big test
Shireen in Hyderabad
It is going to be a battle royal indeed in Miryalaguda Lok Sabha constituency in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. It can be nothing less when actress Jaya Prada takes on S Jaipal Reddy, a former information and broadcasting minister and the conscience keeper of the Janata Dal before he rejoined the Congress this week.
Given a choice, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu would have preferred to let Jaipal Reddy, his close friend and the erstwhile spokesman of the United Front, win. But circumstances have made him take the difficult decision of trying to beat the man he admires. Jaipal Reddy's crime was that he got the Janata Dal to sever its ties with the TDP and later quit the JD to rejoin the Congress.
But can Jaya Prada ever be a match for Jaipal Reddy in the battle of September 18? Chandrababu thinks so, but his views on the matter aren't shared by many.
Miryalaguda has long been a battleground for the communists and Congressmen. The TDP had little choice but to align with the two left parties in the Lok Sabha elections between 1984 and 1998. When the TDP backed the BJP government after the 1998 elections, the leftists broke their links with the TDP.
Being in the position of a parachutist in a dogfight can't do Jaya Prada, or the TDP, much good.
The Congress and the communist parties continue to be the major contenders for the Miryalaguda seat.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist has been contesting this seat in alliance with the Communist Party of India and the TDP ever since 1984. In the previous Lok Sabha elections in 1998, the CPI-M lost because a splinter group led by former MP Bhimireddy Narasimha Reddy queered their pitch.
The Congress has all along projected itself as the ideological antidote to communism in this constituency just inside of the coastal belt. The multi-cornered nature of this contest could change things. The CPI-M candidate, supported by the CPI, will be tough for the Congress to beat. But then, the splinter group of CPM, led by Bhimireddy Narasimha Reddy, is putting up its own candidate in alliance with the Mahajan Front.
The TDP will contest the Lok Sabha polls in this constituency for the first time since 1984. The BJP, which has only marginal presence in this constituency, cannot be expected to contribute much to the TDP. Which is why the communists and the Congressmen aren't terrified of the TDP's glamorous candidate.
Jaya Prada has nothing to lose since her Rajya Sabha membership ends only in April 2002 AD.
Jaya Prada, who is from coastal Andhra, will be fighting her first direct election this time from a constituency in the backward Telangana region. She is a Rajya Sabha member but Rajya Sabha polls are 'indirect' elections, with legislators electing the members to the upper house of Parliament.
The suave and soft-spoken actress had joined the TDP in 1994 on the invitation of TDP founder N T Rama Rao, on the eve of the assembly elections then. And she rose quickly in the ranks. At that time itself, there was speculation that she would contest the polls but she preferred not to make her electoral debut although she was offered a seat by NTR.
She campaigned in several constituencies in 1994. After the TDP regained power and NTR became the chief minister Jaya Prada became a family friend. When NTR's son-in-law and then finance minister N Chandrababu Naidu led a coup against the party patriarch and grabbed power from him in September 1995, Jaya Prada back Naidu.
She rose swiftly in the TDP hierarchy when she was appointed one of the party secretaries. Later, in 1996, she was fielded for the Rajya Sabha biennial elections from Andhra Pradesh. She was elected, without a problem, for a six-year term.
Chandrababu Naidu allegedly wanted Jaya Prada to be inducted into the United Front government of H D Deve Gowda after the 1996 elections but it didn't quite work out.
When Inder Kumar Gujral became the second UF prime minister, he inducted Renuka Chowdary into his cabinet in 1997. Another bid by Naidu to have her inducted into the cabinet failed. So he appointed her chairperson of the Telugu Mahila (the women's wing of the party).
Soon Renuka Chowdhary and Jaya Prada were embroiled in a controversy. A truce was effected but the peace did not last.
Hostilities broke out again when Renuka was not renominated to the Rajya Sabha for the third time in March 1998. The party also did not oblige her when she wanted to contest Lok Sabha elections from Rajahmundry or any other constituency in coastal Andhra.
Chowdhary suspected Jaya Prada had to do something in the denial of the Rajya Sabha nomination. She finally quit the TDP and joined the Congress, leaving the field open for Jaya Prada, who is considered close to Naidu and having a great deal of influence.
She campaigned for the TDP in the 1996 and 1998 Lok Sabha elections and attracted bigger crowds than Naidu himself.
"She is more than a glamorous doll. She has got immense clout in the party, more so with Chandrababu. Thanks to her, Chandrababu has decided to field about 40 or so women candidates in the assembly polls, the highest number sponsored by the party so far," says a senior party functionary.
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