Badvel farewell poll: why Pawan Kalyan’s TDP and JSP do not dispute the ‘tradition’ quote
Political parties in the Telugu states have often followed the standard of withdrawing from by-elections against a family member of the deceased MP or MP.
Ahead of the Badvel Assembly constituency by-election in Andhra Pradesh, necessitated by the death of YSRCP MP Venkata Subbaiah in March this year due to health concerns, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party (JSP)) have both announced they are staying away from the contest. The BJP having decided to contest anyway, claiming to take a stand against dynastic policy, speculation is rife on a possible rupture between the allies BJP and JSP. Both the TDP and the JSP cited the “tradition” of not fielding a candidate when a family member of the deceased lawmaker challenged the exemption vote, out of respect for the family. While the practice of allowing family members of deceased lawmakers to win unopposed in by-elections has indeed prevailed in Andhra Pradesh for decades, political observers note that the anti-democratic convention has not exactly been a strict rule. In recent years, in many cases, this unofficial protocol has been ignored or followed depending on the circumstances and political convenience.
While the TDP claimed that it was his party that started the ‘tradition’, and that it has now chosen to continue it, it was followed even before the party was founded, according to the journalist and political analyst. senior Telakapalli Ravi. The first case he remembers dates from 1978, when CPI lawmaker (M) Guntur Bapanaiah died months after being elected MP for Nidumalu in Krishna district. “He was a very respected and much admired leader. After his death, when the party decided to run his wife in the by-elections, all the major parties withdrew out of respect for him, ”Ravi told TNM. While the independent candidates were still in the running and the election took place, there was no serious opposition. This practice has been followed by major parties since then, he says.
In Badvel’s case, BJP Andhra Pradesh leader Somu Veerraju said the party was opposed to family policy, suggesting that the wife of the deceased MP could be appointed to a post rather than be allowed to stand. present without opposition. The idea of giving up the elected post for compassionate reasons and seeing a by-election as a family affair has also been contested in the past, noted Telakapalli Ravi. “There was a difference of opinion against promoting candidates from the same family. For example, Lok Satta took part in such polls while other parties did not, because it is not a democratic principle, ”he said. Questioning the convention, political analyst K Nageshwar also noted that even when family members are given government jobs for compassionate reasons, it is usually not the same designation as the deceased. “Any election without competition should not be encouraged. The popular mandate must be won by the representatives, and people must trust their abilities, ”said Palwai Raghavendra Reddy, another political analyst.
Exceptions to the unwritten rule
The norm was mainly followed in the 1990s and 2000s, with numerous cases where family members of deceased leaders won without opposition, or with insignificant competition from independent candidates or minor political parties, notes Palwai Raghavendra Reddy. Notably, following the death of former Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy in 2009, his wife YS Vijayamma was presented as a Congress candidate for her Pulivendula constituency and was elected without opposition. In 2011, she again contested and won a by-election in the same constituency, this time from the YSRCP, as the family parted ways with Congress to create the party. The second time around, however, the “tradition” was not followed.
However, in recent years it has not been followed consistently, observes Raghavendra Reddy. In Telangana, which has seen a series of heated by-elections over the past two years, Dubbaka’s by-election in November last year saw Congress and the BJP field their candidates, even as TRS put forward Sujatha, the wife of the late TRS. Deputy Solipeta Ramalinga Reddy. She got the second most votes, with BJP’s Raghunandan Rao winning by a small margin. Months later, in Nagarjuna Sagar’s farewell poll, TRS lined up Nomula Bhagath, son of late TRS MP Nomula Narsaiah. While Congress and the BJP also contested, Bhagath won. While it is presumed that there is sympathy when a candidate dies mid-term, securing a victory for a family member, this is not always the case as seen in Dubbaka, notes Ravi. .
In the case of Andhra Pradesh, in 2014, Bhuma Akhila Priya was unopposed from Allagadda following the death of her mother, YSRCP MP Shobha Nagi Reddy. In Nandyal’s stormy by-election in 2017 following the deaths of Akhila Priya’s father and incumbent MP Bhuma Nagi Reddy, the convention was ignored as candidates were put forward by the TDP, YSRCP and the Congress. However, this was an exceptional case, as Bhuma Nagi Reddy had recently defected to the TDP with his daughter. The TDP introduced his nephew and cousin of Akhila, Bhuma Brahmananda Reddy, who won the election.
The Badvel case
The TDP had announced its candidate for Badvel more than a month ago before the election schedule was announced, appointing Obulapuram Rajasekhar, who had lost the 2019 election. After India’s Election Commission announced the schedule on September 28, the YSRCP nominated Dasari Sudha, wife of late MP Venkata Subbaiah, as its candidate. YSRCP General Secretary Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy said the party stuck to the tradition of giving tickets to the family of the deceased lawmaker, and if the TDP also followed the tradition, the election would be unanimous. In Tirupati Lok Sabha’s recent exemption poll, however, YSRCP candidate Maddila Gurumoorthy was not related to the deceased MP.
Shortly after YSRCP announced its candidate, Pawan Kalyan said that JSP was withdrawing from the competition out of respect for Dasari Sudha’s family, and urged the other parties to vote unanimously as well. Soon the TDP also said it was taking a step back. The BJP said it would challenge the elections, while Congress introduced former MP PM Kamalamma.
Pawan Kalyan’s move came as a surprise, as it followed a meeting with BJP leaders to discuss their strategy for Badvel’s farewell vote. Reports also suggested that the BJP had agreed to allow JSP to run its candidate, unlike recent exemption polls by Tirupati and GHMC (Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation) in Telangana, where JSP simply supported BJP candidates.
Lately, the convention is followed according to the political convenience of each party, observes Ravi. YSRCP scanned Tirupati and all recent local agency polls, channeling the TDP. The TDP even boycotted recent MPTC and ZPTC polls, alleging that the elections were not being held in a free and fair manner.
Read: TDP calls for boycott of ZPTC and MPTC polls, but experts say decision is politically flawed
Ravi says the TDP and JSP appear to want to avoid the competition, under the pretext of continuing the tradition. “The TDP struggles to gain support wherever it challenges. It gives them the opportunity to stay away and not let their image deteriorate through unnecessary competition while showing up in the name of compassion, ”says Raghavendra Reddy, adding that Pawan Kalyan also seems to have decided that JSP was unlikely to achieve anything by contesting. While the BJP has claimed it will continue to have JSP support in Badvel, Pawan Kalyan’s position remains unclear.
The BJP has also been inconsistent in opposing the practice, as K Nageshwar points out. In the farewell poll held in the Lingojiguda neighborhood of GHMC after the death of the BJP founder, TRS did not contest, as BJP leaders asked them to support the BJP candidate, the son of the deceased, to compassionate grounds.
K Nageshwar emphasizes that contesting an election is a political decision, not a personal one. The so-called tradition is probably deployed by these parties to hide their weakness and helplessness, he says.