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|February 20, 1998|
Jaipal Reddy takes on PCC president in Mahbubnagar
Located in the drought-prone Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister S Jaipal Reddy and AP Congress president Mallikarjun are engaged in a close race in Mahbubnagar where polling will be held on Sunday, February 22.
The ruling Telugu Desam Party controls all the seven assembly segments, but Dr Mallikarjun retained his seat by a little over 5,000 votes in 1996.
Five candidates are in the fray for the seat, including Dr Jitendra Reddy, a Gulf-returned contractor who is contesting on the Bharatiya Janata Party ticket. Dr Reddy contested the last poll on the NTR-TDP ticket and secured more than 50,000 votes.
Dr Mallikarjun has been nominated for a record sixth time. He was elected from the constituency for the first time in 1980, and subsequently in 1989, 1991 and 1996. He made his maiden entry into the Lok Sabha in 1971 as a Telangana Praja Samithi candidate from his native Medak and retained the seat as a Congress nominee in the 1977 election.
Headed by former chief minister Dr M Channa Reddy, the TPS, which once spearheaded a movement for a separate state of Telangana, merged with the Congress.
Dr Mallikarjun lost the Mahbubnagar seat in 1984 to Jaipal Reddy who contested as a Janata Party nominee.
In 1996, he defeated TDP nominee D K Aruna. The ruling TDP attributed the defeat to a division of votes, a consequence of Dr Jitendra Reddy's presence. The BJP candidate took away another 125,000 votes.
In the current election, Jaipal Reddy is supported by the TDP and other United Front constituents, mainly the two Communist parties.
TDP leaders claim that NTR-TDP votes would now go to Jaipal Reddy because Mahabubnagar MLA P Chandrasekhar, who was in the NTR-TDP during the last election, has since joined the ruling TDP.
The backward classes form more than 60 per cent of 1.231 million voters in the constituency, and Dr Mallikarjun, who belongs to a backward community, is expected to get sizeable votes from that quarter.
Muslims constitute more than one hundred thousand votes and the campaign managers of both contenders -- Dr Mallikarjun and Reddy -- are confident that the Muslims would support their candidates.
While the Congress leaders said there has been a change in the Muslim mindset after the party tendered an apology for the Babri Masjid demolition, Janata Dal and TDP leaders claimed that Muslim voters would support Jaipal Reddy in view of the United Front's commitment to the welfare of minorities.
Sonia Gandhi's recent visit to the district has further brightened the party's prospects, Congressmen say.
TDP district secretary G N Reddy and district Janata Dal president Sudhakar said a majority of those at the rally were people who had came to 'see' Sonia and added, "we don't think all that will be converted into votes."
Chief Minister and TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu has extensively toured the constituency, canvassing votes for Reddy.
The Congress leaders claimed Dr Mallikarjun's prospects were "very bright" in view of his "immense" contribution for the development of the backward district. Alampur MLA K Prakash Reddy's recent resignation from the ruling TDP was a setback for the ruling party, they claimed. Reddy resigned from the TDP and joined the Congress after Chandrababu Naidu admitted his (Reddy's) arch-rival Vishnuvardhan Reddy into the TDP.
APCC general secretary P Veera Reddy said reversal of TDP programmes, like hiking the price of subsidised rice and power tariff for the farming sector, would definitely hurt Jaipal Reddy.
He credited Dr Mallikarjun for the conversion from metre to broad gauge of the Secunderabad-Guntakkal railway line via Mahbubnagar -- which was a link between the southern and northern parts of the country.
Asked about the opposition by a section of Congressmen from the district to Dr Mallikarjun's candidature from Mahbubnagar as he was not a 'local', Reddy said, "There was some misunderstanding initially, but all that is now over."
The constituency has seven assembly segments: Alampur, Anaparthy, Atmakur, Gadwal, Kodangal, Mahbubnagar and Makhtal. Women voters (623,454) outnumber their male counterparts (607,741).
UNI in Mahbubnagar
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