Corruption to be key issue during Andhra bypolls

Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh is witnessing a bizarre political show as it heads for by-elections to one Lok Sabha and 18 Assembly seats on June 12. Corruption is the centre-stage on which the by-elections are being fought and every player is engaged in a game of one-upmanship.

Everyone is slinging mud at the other and all are washing their dirty linen in the public. But one man common to everyone`s attack is YSR Congress president and Kadapa MP Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, who is also finding himself on the wrong side of the law.

Contrary to initial expectations that there would be a "wave" in favour of the YSR Congress in the by-elections, the situation still remains fluid. Reports from different constituencies suggest that a certain "swing" in the voters` mood is becoming apparent following some recent political developments.

The political developments that are expected in the next few days, like the possible arrest of Jagan in the disproportionate assets case, will also have a bearing on the by-elections.

The by-polls are an acid test more for the ruling Congress than any other party as an adverse outcome could spell doom for the Kiran Kumar Reddy government. Of the 18 Assembly seats, 16 were hitherto held by the Congress and as such the stakes are high for it. It has to primarily fight the anti-incumbency factor apart from other political challenges to keep its flag flying.

For the fledgling YSRC, the by-elections hold the key to party chief Jagan`s single-point agenda of becoming the state Chief Minister at the first available opportunity.

A good show by his party now could take Jagan closer to realising his dream in the next general election, it is assumed. The by-elections will also determine whether the main opposition Telugu Desam Party can nurture hopes of returning to power in near future. The Congress and the TDP are projecting Jagan as the "epitome of corruption" while the Kadapa MP is seeking to turn the adversity into sympathy.

Ironically, the Congress` strategy of demonising Jagan on the corruption issue is clearly backfiring as the buck is coming to stop right at its own government`s doorstep.

When Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy is going hammer and tongs at Jagan, accusing him of amassing Rs one lakh crore through dubious means, the question immediately being asked is: "Is it not the Congress government that let Jagan do so?"

The Congress has been pushed into such a miserable state that it is now parroting what all opposition parties have been saying for the past few years vis-a-vis corruption. And the very issue could come to haunt it in the by-elections, being touted as the "mini general elections" or the "semi-finals" before the next general elections actually due in 2014.