Opposition YSR Congress Party chief Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy is planning to force by-elections to six Lok Sabha seats on the issue of achieving special status to Andhra Pradesh sometime next year. If he wins the seats again, that would give him a big thrust in the upcoming elections to the state Assembly in April/May 2019, according to sources close to him in the party.

Jagan is busy chalking out a strategy on causing bypolls to the LS seats held by his party MPs so that he would emerge as the sole champion of the special status issue in Andhra Pradesh. YSR Congress MPs would submit their resignations to the LS Speaker during the next budget session and insist on their acceptance at once so that the bypolls could be held within the next six months.

If Jagan can get his six MPs re-elected with comfortable margins, it would help him win the 2019 LS and Assembly elections comfortably, a spokesman of the party told The Sunday Guardian on condition of anonymity. In fact, Jagan himself outlined this line of causing by-elections during his interaction with NRIs from AP on the special status issue last month. Jagan’s party has won eight LS MPs in 2014, but two of them — S.P.Y. Reddy (Nandyal) and Kothapalli Geetha (Araku- ST) — since defected to the ruling TDP. Now, he is left with six MPs — Butta Renuka (Kurnool), Mekapati Rajamohan Reddy (Nellore), P.V. Mithun Reddy (Rajampet), V. Varaprasada Rao (Tirupati-SC), Y.S. Avinash Reddy (Kadapa) and Y.V. Subba Reddy (Ongole).

This is the only way in which Jagan can rekindle the hopes in his party cadre and leaders as he has no major issues in his hands in the near future to win the polls. After AP Chief Minister and TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu had settled for a special economic package to the tune of around Rs 2.25 lakh crore offered by the BJP government at the Centre, Jagan is left with only one issue — special status for Andhra Pradesh.

When Jagan mooted the idea of resignations with senior MPs like Rajamohan Reddy and Subba Reddy are understood to have expressed their readiness to follow his directions. Once he takes the decision to quit the LS, Jagan would force for disqualification of two other MPs who had defected to TDP, the sources said.

Causing LS by-elections is the route now available to Jagan who is desperate to come to power in AP in the next elections. Having won a series of by-elections to the Assembly and the LS before that, Jagan had pinned many hopes on winning th2014 elections, but he just managed to bag 67 out of 175 Assembly seats in AP. TDP won 102 and its ally, BJP got 4 seats, besides two Independents.

Though there was a big margin in the number of seats, the gap between TDP and YSR Congress is just 2.06%. The TDP-BJP combine polled as many as 13,372,862 votes (46.3% of the total polled votes), YSR Congress got 12,771,323 votes (44.47% votes) – with a close margin of around 601,539 votes difference.

“This is a very narrow margin and if we can play our strategy well, we will certainly win the next elections. Our leader is very keen on turning the special status issue into a major poll issue in 2019,” Umareddy Venkateswaralu, YSR Congress MLC and former Union minister, told The Sunday Guardian on Friday.

Venkateswarlu, a prominent Kapu leader in Jagan’s party, is of the view that the special status issue along with the inclusion of Kapus in the OBCs issue together can help YSR Congress come to power in the next elections. He, as well as several other seniors in the party, feels that nothing works like YSR Congress MPs quitting and getting re-elected on the status issue.

Jagan has commissioned some surveys recently and found that there is a strong sentiment among the public, especially the youth, that only granting special status would do justice to the newly carved out AP. The Centre has announced industrial tax rebates in seven out of 13 districts of AP, but people in the remaining six districts are unhappy over their exclusion. Seniors in the YSR Congress argue that the MPs’ resignations would send a message among the people that the party doesn’t hanker after power and its MPs are ready to sacrifice their seats for the sake of achieving special status. This contrasts with the message that TDP MPs and their Union ministers are not ready to forego their power and failed to secure the status by mounting pressure on the Centre.

Many senior leaders in YSR Congress recall how a series of byelections had helped shore up the image of Jagan since he formed the party in 2010. Jagan won 15 out of 18 Assembly seats and an LS seat in by-elections held in June 2012. At the stage, Jagan appeared to sweep the 2014 polls, but the bifurcation of the combined AP later.


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