Rayalaseema Gave Six Chief Ministers to Andhra Pradesh, But It Still Cries for Attention
According to government records, the literacy level in Rayalaseema stands at 67% as compared to 74.6% in coastal Andhra Pradesh and a national average of 74.7%.
File photos of YSR Congress chief Jagan Mohan Reddy and TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu.
Kadapa: Rayalaseema in Andhra Pradesh has a rich, storied history in politics. Six of the state’s chief ministers, including the incumbent N Chandrababu Naidu, hail from here. N Sanjiva Reddy, Damodaram Sanjeevaiah, Kotla Vijaya Bhaskara Reddy, YS Rajasekhara Reddy and N Kiran Kumar Reddy, all Congress leaders from the area, held reins of the state. N Sanjiva Reddy also served as India’s president.
Former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao hailed from here. YS Congress President and opposition leader YS Jagan Mohan Reddy also has roots in the region.
Rayalaseema, unfortunately, is as far removed from the attention of leaders as it is from development. Encompassing the districts of Kurnool, Kadapa, Chittoor and Anantapur, Rayalaseema has eight Lok Sabha seats and 56 Assembly seats. Residents claim that politicians and lawmakers have largely ignored their plight. Illiteracy, a barren landscape, lack of irrigation, unemployment and a basic lack of security ensured that poverty levels have remained stagnant.
According to government records, the literacy level here stands at 67% as compared to 74.6% in coastal Andhra Pradesh and a national average of 74.7%. At least 76% of the region’s residents are poor, as compared to 47% in coastal Andhra Pradesh and 51% on a national basis. Unemployment rates in Rayalaseema are at a staggering 82% -- the corresponding figure for coastal Andhra Pradesh is 49% and 62% for the rest of India. The figures are part of a 2014 report from the United Nations Development Programme.
While violence across the four districts has declined since the 1980s, factionalism still rules – the state police in 2015 had identified as many as 69 such groups. Rayalaseema is a law unto itself, a region of violent factions and gangs. Government officials and teachers dread being posted in its interior towns.
According to records with the local police, political violence here has claimed the lives of as many as 8,465 civilians, including 970 workers of the Congress and 560 from the ruling Telugu Desam Party.
“I have been selling fruits here for 25 years. I have seen many leaders. During election time, they come here asking for votes… after that, they won’t think about us,” Rajyalaxmi, a fruit vendor, tells News18. “We don’t even have the basic amenities, but all the chief ministers came from this place.”
It’s a straight fight between the TDP and the YSR Congress in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The state will also hold Assembly polls, with voting for both elections on April 11. YSR Congress chief Jagan Mohan Reddy has promised to bring smiles to people’s faces and has accused TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu of practicing “murder politics”.
Naidu, on other hand, has blamed Jagan Mohan Reddy and described him as a “criminal”. “Our government has committed to developing Rayalaseema,” the chief minister has promised.
The battle lines in the region are tightly drawn along the lines of caste, particularly the forward castes. Chandrababu Naidu is wooing the Kamma community, which constitutes 22% of the population. The TDP chief himself belongs to the community. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s is another powerful caste, making up 34% of the region’s population.
The region, so far, has played a crucial role in elections. It remains to be see whether the next chief minister of Andhra Pradesh will also hail from Rayalaseema.
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