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|September 9, 1999||
Balayogi is given a run for his vote
After skilfully handling squabbles within the hallowed halls of Parliament for more than a year, Lok Sabha speaker G M C Balayogi (TDP) is now having to contend with intense intra-party rivalry, shifting loyalties and a host of other problems in his constituency.
Balayogi, who is seeking re-election from Amalapuram (Reserved) that goes to the polls on September 11 in the second phase, is involved in a direct contest with Gollapalli Surya Rao of the Congress. Those sitting TDP legislators in the assembly segments in Amalapuram who were denied tickets for the assembly elections feel Balayogi has blotched their chances and have vowed to work for his defeat.
One of them, A J V B Maheswara Rao is contesting as an independent from the Allavaram (Reserved) assembly segment, supported by the Congress. Though TDP legislator from Nagaram (Reserved) P Narayana Murty, initially revolted against the party high command when he was not re-nominated and decided to file his papers as an independent, Balayogi and other district leaders succeeded in pacifying him.
However, it is doubtful if Murty will extend his wholehearted support to Balayogi.
Senior TDP leader and state-level party treasurer Mutha Gopalakrishna, who is contesting as a TDP rebel from Kakinada (not part of Amalapuram) also holds a grouse against Balayogi and has declared that he will work for his defeat.
The powerful Kapu community and the backward Setti Balijas, all part of the traditional TDP votebanks, have migrated to the Congress, as a backlash to the TDP for reopening the old cases against Kapu leader Dadi Tata Rao. The leaders of the community have mobilised a strong fleet to defeat Balayogi and Dr Metla Satyanarayana Rao, state cooperation minister, who is contesting from the Amalapuram assembly segment.
Similarly, a major faction of the Settibalija community in the Mummidivaram segment headed by Koppisetty Vamanaidu, is making all efforts to defeat Balayogi. A dominant majority group of Malas (Scheduled Castes) headed by state Malamahanadu leader P V Rao, who spearheaded a movement against the TDP government for categorising the Scheduled Castes into four groups to facilitate reservation, has camped in the constituency to mobilise the community to ensure his defeat.
The nomination papers of Rao, an assistant director in the information and public relations department of the state government and assistant editor of the state government periodical Andhra Pradesh who was put up by the Congress in the Allavaram (Reserved) assembly segment, were rejected after the his resignation was not accepted by the state government. This prompted him to intensify his tirade against the TDP, and he is now extending support to the TDP rebel candidate in the same segment, Maheswara Rao.
Finding all the major communities extending support to his Congress rival Gollapalli Surya Rao, Balayogi, along with district TDP leaders has undertaken a rigorous tour to contain the dissension. This pampered VIP constituency was a Congress bastion until the 1984 TDP wave hit it, though it did revert to the Congress in 1989 and 1996. Balayogi won from here in 1991 and 1998 on a TDP ticket.
The contentious issues in this constituency are the non-availability of potable water in the coastal villages, despite the Godavari flowing through the region, and inadequate protection to the island villages which face the wrath of floods and cyclones.
The state government could not solve the problem of water scarcity, even after it launched several protected water supply schemes with central and state aid. The embankments of the Godavari and its tributaries that pass through the constituency, are raised whenever the river is in spate. Some of the island villages, mostly inhabited by fishers, remain virtually cut off from the mainland when the rivers flow above the red mark, as the land routes are not very motorable. Essential commodities are then brought in by boats.
Balayogi is banking on the development schemes launched by his party as well the schemes launched by him to see him through, while Gollapalli Surya Rao is hoping that the anti-incumbency factor, coupled with the traditional Congress votebank and its new supporters will see a swing towards his party.
The Amalapuram parliamentary constituency, situated on the right bank of the river Godavari is predominantly agricultural in nature. Abundant supply of water from the arterial canals of the Godavari ensures that the farmers harvest two-three rice crops a year. The area is also known for its banana and coconut groves, the crop from which is traded across the country, with the former exported even to countries like Russia. This urban-rural constituency has a total electorate of 9,08,254, in which women (458354) outnumber men. There are seven assembly segments in this constituency, of which three are reserved. Women outnumber men in all seven segments, currently held by the TDP.
In the 1998 polls, Balayogi defeated his nearest rival, bureaucrat-turned politician K S R Murty by a margin of 90,240 votes in a triangular contest in which BJP candidate K Umamaheswararao came in third. Though the main contest is between the Congress and the TDP, three other contestants are in the fray, including one put up by the Anna TDP who may cut into Balayogi's votebank.
The campaigning in this constituency is low-key, and has been confined to cassettes and wall posters, as the monsoons have played havoc with public meetings.
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