Three more YSR Congress MLAs have defected to the Telegu Desam Party this week, giving credence to accusation that the ruling party is poaching MLAs. The development comes at a time when there is a general perception that Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu is targeting his rival, opposition leader and YSR chief Jagan Mohan Reddy’s stronghold among the Reddy community. Popular Reddy MLA from Srisailam in Kurnool district, Budda Rajasekhara Reddy, and Araku MLA Kadiri Sarveswar Rao defected from YSR Congress to TDP, taking the total number of defectors to 16 out of Jagan’s 67 MLAs so far.
CM Naidu is said to be keen on admitting into his fold top Reddy leaders who have been Jagan’s close aide for the last six years. Prominent among them are former Rajya Sabha member and senior leader M.V. Mysoora Reddy, former ministers Gade Venkata Reddy and M. Maheedhara Reddy.
This may impact the composition of the 175-member Assembly in the newly carved out Andhra Pradesh, which got 102 TDP MLAs and 67 YSR Congress MLAs after the 2014 elections. Congress and the Left parties had drawn zero in the polls. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which had four MLAs, joined the Naidu government with two Cabinet berths.
Jagan retained his base among the agriculturally rich Reddy community in Rayala Seema and parts of AP like Guntur, Prakasam and Nellore districts. This is evident from the fact that 31 out of his 67 MLAs are Reddys. Losing Reddy leaders at the grassroots would affect the political future of Jagan, who is desperate to come to power in the state. “There is a systematic onslaught by CM Naidu to get our MLAs into his party. They (TDP leaders) are spending around Rs 30 crore to purchase each MLA, and if he or she is a Reddy MLA, the price tag is even more,” YSR Congress MLA Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy told The Sunday Guardian.
He said the YSR Congress has learnt the ruling party was offering Rs 10 crore to the defectors, while also promising them Rs 10 crore more through developmental works and schemes that would be allotted to the contractors of their choice. “Strangely, they (TDP) are offering ministerial berths to some of the defected MLAs,” said Ramachandra Reddy.
While Mysoora Reddy quit the YSR Congress alleging that Jagan’s attitude towards seniors in the party was not proper, Gade Venkata Reddy reportedly told his followers that it was time to back Naidu’s leadership in AP in the face of multiple challenges including building a new capital. Venkata Reddy’s entry in the TDP is likely to alter the caste quation in Guntur and Prakasam districts as Reddys are traditionally pitched against Kammas, who are TDP supporters. If Reddys soften their relations with TDP, the party may win in these constituencies.
Naidu has already admitted strong Reddy leaders—former minister Anam Ramanarayana Reddy and his brother and former MLA Vivekananda Reddy. In Kurnool district, which is a stronghold of Reddys and YSR Congress, Naidu admitted powerful Reddy leaders Bhuma Nagi Reddy and Adinarayana Reddy into TDP.
Sensing Naidu’s alleged design to weaken his base among the Reddys, and to some extent among the Kapus (another community supporting Jagan in the coastal belt), Jagan rushed to New Delhi and complained about the poaching game being played to leaders of different parties.
Jagan also prepared a booklet titled “Chandrababu Naidu, Emperor of Corruption”, alleging that the CM has amassed wealth to a tune of around Rs 1.34 lakh crore in the last 22 months through various corrupt deals. He said the CM has bought his MLAs “like cattle in the market”. Jagan called on Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley, but failed to get appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In 2012-13, the TDP had published booklets alleging that Jagan had benefitted to the tune of around Rs 1 lakh crore through various corrupt deals when his father Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy was the CM between 2004 and 2009. TDP Chief Whip Kaluvala Srinivasulu denied charges that TDP was purchasing YSR Congress MLAs.