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|February 13, 1998|
Constituency Profile/ Eluru
Ramaiah faces popular anger, powerful rivals
Union Minister of State for Commerce Dr B B Ramaiah will have to overcome popular anger directed against his Telugu Desam and a stiff challenge from opponents in West Godavari.
Of the 11 candidates in the fray for the West Godavari district seat in Andhra Pradesh, he faces threats from Bharatiya Janata Party nominee Y Jayalakshmi, Congress candidate Venkateswara Rao and Rytanga Samakhya president Maganti Seetaramaswamy.
Dr Ramaiah, who successfully contested the seat three times out of four, may have to use every trick he knows to convince people that his party is the best bet. But, remember, these same people are seething with discontent over erratic power supply, the power tariff hike, the death of four farmers in police firing near Kovvur, and the suicide of cotton growers in some parts of the state. The state's decision to modify the reservation quota for jobs too has engendered much resentment.
The Congress has won this seat on six occasions from 1957, three wins coming consecutively off the bat of K Suryanarayana in 1967, 1971 and 1977. However, once the TDP was formed, its candidate, Ramaiah, won the seat in 1984, 1991 and 1996. The Congress had to settle for second place.
But the situation could change this time, with the Congress living off the negative votes of people upset with the TDP and the goodwill left behind by Sonia Gandhi. Which is why Venkateswara Rao hopes he will break the jinx this time.
Meanwhile, the BJP too has been making steady progress with the voters, and could even end up on top of the heap with its woman candidate. That is a smart ploy, considering women outnumber men in the constituency. Earlier, two female candidates have won Lok Sabha elections from this constituency. In 1957, Mote Vedakumari won on a Congress ticket, and in 1962, Vimaladevi won on the ticket of the then undivided Communist Party of India.
The constituency, spread over Chintalapudi, Dendulur, Eluru, Kaikaluru, Tadepalligudem, Tankuku and Ungutur has an electorate of 1,109,524. Of these, 558,128 are women. The Kapu community accounts for 205,000 voters, the backward classes 275,000, the scheduled castes 195,000 and the Kammas 145.000.
In the 1994 assembly election, the TDP had won from Dendulur, Eluru, Chintalapudi, Tadepalligudem, Tanuju, and Ungutur while the Congress had won from Kaikulur. However, in the last Lok Sabha election the TDP lost some ground in Tanuku (-471), Dendulur (-3,079) and Eluru (-19,308) while the Congress gained in Chintalapudi (+13,646), Kaikaulur (+2,998), Tadepalligudem (+2,071) and Ungutur (+5,757).
The NTR-TDP candidate had secured a huge mandate -- 94,890 votes -- in the last poll. Now that party is being wooed by all the other parties, hoping that with that kind of vote bank on their side, they would be home free.
P Pulla Rao, the NTR-TDP nominee, entered the fray this time as an Independent after he was denied a Congress ticket. However, persuaded by senior Congressmen he later withdrew from the contest.
Ramaiah, speaking at Pothunur in the Dendulur assembly segment, said he was confident of retaining the seat with a substantial majority this time. He had defeated M Venkateswara Rao by 1,636 votes in the 1996 election. He claimed that almost all the members of the NTR-TDP had joined his party and that he expected about 80 per cent of the votes polled by that party's candidate in 1996 to come over to him.
The West Godavari district administration has identified 263 villages as sensitive. As many as 5,880 polling personnel are expected to man the 1,323 polling stations in the constituency.
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