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Reddy sibling rivalry turns Pulivendula into battleground, TDP eyes gains

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Pulivendula, May 10 (PTI) This nondescript town in Andhra Pradesh's arid Rayalaseema region has long been the unquestioned bastion of the state's powerful Reddy clan.

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But as voters gear up for crucial assembly and parliamentary polls on May 13, all eyes are on the high-stakes battle in Pulivendula, an assembly constituency that has been a Reddy family stronghold for over four decades.

Late Chief Minister, the iconic Y S Rajasekhara Reddy won the seat for the first time in 1978 on a Congress ticket. Since then, members of his family have consecutively emerged victorious in 13 elections, including three by-polls.

Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, the incumbent chief minister and head of the ruling YSR Congress Party, is vying for a hat-trick win here. But his path to victory has been obstructed by none other than his estranged sister, Y S Sharmila Reddy.

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Sharmila, who recently merged her YSR Telangana Party with the Congress, has thrown down the gauntlet against her brother.

Contesting from the Kadapa parliamentary seat, which encompasses Pulivendula among its seven assembly segments, she has vowed to unseat Jagan from their hometown turf and dislodge his party from power in Andhra Pradesh.

The faceoff has infused the electoral contest with an intense personal dimension, setting the stage for a fierce battle as Sharmila challenges her brother's formidable political legacy built on the pro-poor, farmer-friendly image of their late father, Rajasekhara Reddy.

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"We are telling people that the current YSR Congress is a fake Congress party...the real successor of Rajasekhara Reddy's Congress is his daughter Sharmila," said Dhruva Reddy, Sharmila's young protégé fielded against the chief minister in Pulivendula.

Jagan faces a challenge from Mareddy Ravindranath Reddy (Btech Ravi) of the opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP), who defeated Jagan's uncle Y S Vivekananda Reddy in the 2017 legislative council polls.

The sibling rift that has plagued the Reddy family in the aftermath of Rajasekhara Reddy's tragic death in 2009 has now spilled onto Pulivendula's streets.

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"Sibling rivalry will benefit TDP. We hope to get good results if elections are held democratically," Ravindranath Reddy said, eyeing prospects of the Reddy family's divided voter base.

Voters elected Jagan in 2019 riding on the name of his father, Ravindranath Reddy said, adding that the chief minister has failed to live up to expectations by not developing either the constituency or the state after coming to power.

Sharmila claimed that had the Congress been in power post-2014 bifurcation, Andhra Pradesh would have got all the promises like special status and a new capital, but a decade later "people see what they lost by not voting Congress." She also lashed out at her brother for re-nominating her cousin Avinash Reddy as the YSRCP candidate from Kadapa despite a CBI probe naming him accused in the murder case of her uncle Y.S. Vivekananda Reddy.

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"My uncle was murdered five years ago, and the CBI has named the incumbent MP as an accused. Yet, Jagan has fielded him again. This is something the family cannot digest. So, this battle is about justice," Sharmila said.

Exuding confidence of winning from Kadapa, Sharmila said her goal is to project the Congress as the only alternative to what she termed the "Andhra BJP" - comprising N Chandrababu Naidu's TDP, Jagan's YSRCP, and Pawan Kalyan's Jana Sena.

As verbal volleys are traded, loyalties tested, and caste equations realigned in the divided family's fiefdom, Pulivendula finds itself torn between blood ties and long-held political affiliations in this high-decibel contest.

There are 2.24 lakh voters in Pulivendula assembly segment. Jagan had won by 90,110 votes in 2019 elections, and by 75,243 votes in 2014 polls. TDP had secured up to 27 per cent votes in the previous polls. PTI LUX SA

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