Guntur: A confident 36-year-old leader walks around the narrow streets of Mangalagiri in the scorching sun, knocks on doors, takes selfies and urges locals to vote for development.
This picture of Nara Lokesh, son of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, in bright yellow shirts (the Telugu Desam Party’s flag has a similar colour base) has now become a common sight in the town, known for its handloom saris, woven with intricate designs.
Lokesh is making his political debut from an Assembly constituency that his father has been promoting as the upcoming information technology (IT) hub of Andhra Pradesh.
Mangalagiri is in Guntur district that falls under the core capital area of Amaravati and is about 15km away from Vijayawada.
Naidu introduced Lokesh into active politics by giving him the charge of the TDP’s campaign in 2014. In September 2015, he was directly made an ex-officio member of the party’s politburo, instead of first becoming a general secretary.
In 2017, Lokesh was nominated as a Member of Legislative Council that helped him get a Cabinet berth and key ministries.
As the IT minister, Lokesh has been able to build some ties in Mangalagiri where the government has initiated several related projects.
The rural parts of the town is agriculture-dependent and Lokesh, who has been camping in Mangalagiri for days now, keeps this mind while campaigning.
“Our priority is development and we have shown that. I am not asking people to vote for me, but for development. Not only IT and allied sectors, I will also concentrate on agricultural issues like construction of cold storage and godowns. I am confident I will win with a good majority.” Lokesh said.
Sitting MLA Alla Rama Krishna Reddy of the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSR Congress is seeking a second term.
In 2014, Rama Krishna had won the seat against TDP candidate Ganji Chiranjeevi with just 12 votes.
After being elected, Rama Krishna, who is known for his accessibility among the people of his constituency, started ‘Rajanna Canteen’ that offered meals at Rs 4. The Naidu government’s ‘Anna Canteen’ provides food for Rs 5.
The MLA has also filed several cases against the state government over land acquisition and other welfare issues.
“I am with the people here and fighting for them. I do accept that Mangalagiri has not been developed adequately as we are in the opposition. This time, after Reddy becomes the chief minister, we will do our best for the people,” Rama Krishna says.
The seat has 32 candidates in fray and this includes Congress’ Shaik Saleem, BJP’s Jaggarapu Rammohan Rao and CPI’s Muppalla Nageswar, supported by the Janasena. However, the main contest will be between the ruling TDP and YSR Congress.
Considered a ‘prestige seat’, most of the important party leaders have paid a visit to Mangalagiri ahead of the polls on April 11.
And, residents are divided. While some want to give the sitting MLA another chance to do more work, there are others who want Naidu’s party to win.
“Rama Krishna is doing well here. He is fighting with the government for the benefit of people. We can give him another chance to him,” says Hussain, a fruit merchant.
“This area is witnessing development as it is comes under the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority. The rates of our lands have increased way beyond our expectations. There are chances of further development. We will give a chance to the TDP once,” says Saibaba, a farmer.
Caste too plays a key role here with the Reddy and Kamma communities being major players along with backward and scheduled castes.
“The Reddys will vote the YSR Congress, while the Kamma votes will go to the TDP. Both the castes have almost the same number of voters. How the backward and scheduled castes vote will make all the difference. It is going to be tough contest here,” says Anil Kumar, a journalist.