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The fledgling YSR Congress party, launched by YS Jaganmohan Reddy after his father YS Rajashekhar Reddy's death, has swept the by-elections in Andhra Pradesh, denting the last bastion of Congress in south. Mohammed Siddique reports
While the YSR Congress got the Nellore Lok Sabha seat and 15 assembly seats in coastal Andhra and Rayalseema region, the Congress could manage only two assembly seats. The lone assembly seat in Telangana was won by the Telangana Rahstra Samiti with a very narrow margin of 860 votes.
As the party workers were celebrating the significant victory, Jagan watched the election results on TV in his cell in Chanchalguda Jail. He has been arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation on the charges of corruption and amassing wealth illegaly.
The seats won by the YSR Congress include all the 8 seats in Rayalseema -- Rayachoti, Railway Kodur and Rajampet in Kadapa district, Anantapur city and Rayadurg in Anantapur district, Tirupati in Chittoor district, Emmigannur and Allagadda in Kurnooldistrict.
Losing Tirupati to YSR Congress was a double whammy for the ruling party, as it fell in the home district of the Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy and earlier it was won by film star-turned-politician Chiranjeevi who later merged his Praja Rajyam Party with the Congress.
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The Congress could manage to win only two seats -- Ramachandrapuram in East Godavari -- and Narsapuram in West Godavari district.
All other seven seats in coastal Andhra were won by the YSRCP candidates. They include Udaygiri in Nellore, Ongole in Prakasham district, Prattipadu and Macherla in Guntur, Polavaram in West Godavari, Payakaraopeta in Visakhapatanam and Narsannapet in Srikakulam district.
Congress candidates forfeited their deposits in Prattipadu and Polavaram and it came in third position in nine other constituencies. In Parkal constituency of Warangal district Congress came at fifth position behind the Bharatiya Janata Party at the third and TDP at tfourth.
M Bhikshapati of the TRS defeated his nearest rival Konda Surekha of the YSR Congress by a margin of 860 votes.
YSR Congress workers burst in to celebrations as soon as the initial trends suggested that the Congress was heading towards a big victory. Thousands of workers gathered at the party's headquarters and Jagan's residence in Jubilee Hills, danced to the victory drum beats, burst crackers and distributed sweets.
"My brother is happy but he was concerned about the three candidates of the party who lost," said Jagan's sister Sharmila, after visiting him at the jail.
A discordant note was struck when a party leader and former Member of Legislative Assembly Abdul Rahman Al Attas became frenzied and opened fire in the air as mark of celebrations. He was subsequently arrested.
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The scene at the Congress state office Gandhi Bhavan and TDP office NTR Bhavan was a total contrast. The places bore a deserted look as the parties were smarting under the blow of a stinging defeat.
It was a bad day for the TDP, which drew a blank in the by-elections, though party president Chandrababu Naidu ran an extensive campaign charging both the Congress and the YSR with corruption and looting of the state resources.
The by-polls were seen largely as a semi-final before the 2014 general elections. But now with an emphatic victory of the YSR Congress, the big question in people's minds was whether the state was heading towards an early elections.
The results have badly rattled the Congress party and there were speculations that more loyalists of Jagan can leave the party to join the YSR Congress.
But there is no immediate threat to the Congress government, as it has 153 members in the House of 294. While 148 marks the half way, the Congress government also has the support of seven members of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen.
If more Congress members of Legislative Assembly switch sides, the state can have a spell of political instability leading to the imposition of president's rule, observers say.
Two distinct messages have emerged from the by election results. The Congress party has truly loss the grip over its only fortress in south and was facing the threat of getting marginalized in Andhra and Rayalseema region.
Secondly, it faces the danger of getting wiped out in Telangana if it does not take immediate decision on the demand for a separate state.
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