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Venkaiah Nellore contest buzz in BJP

New Delhi, Oct. 30: The first of the pre-Lok Sabha election conundrums in the BJP concerns none other than the party president himself.

Although he denied it several times over, the party headquarters at 11 Ashoka Road was today abuzz with speculation on whether M. Venkaiah Naidu would contest.

The source of the puzzle was an article in an Andhra Pradesh weekly, copies of which were printed by the BJP’s media cell and released to the press yesterday. Captioned “Venkaiah Naidu lives long in Nellore’s history”, the press release mentioned that the weekly in which it had appeared, Zameen Ryot, was “pro-Congress”.

Starting by comparing Naidu with political giants from Andhra like K. Brahmananda Reddy, B.P. Seetaramayya and P.V. Narasimha Rao — all Congressmen — the piece catalogued his “achievements” for Nellore.

The focus on Nellore prompted the BJP to ask whether Naidu was nursing it as a prospective Lok Sabha seat.

Naidu is a Rajya Sabha MP and there is a feeling that most of those who call the shots in the government or the party are from the Upper House and not elected representatives. Those who share Naidu’s company are Arun Jaitley, Jaswant Singh, Arun Shourie, Pramod Mahajan and Sushma Swaraj.

The BJP’s Lok Sabha MPs, some of whom have retained their seats since 1989, feel short-changed by the “uneven” representation in the power structure.

The article started off by claiming: “Venkaiah Naidu is making history; he is in fact rewriting history; (the) district’s (Nellore) landscape is being redrawn; he is proving as to how a politician could put to best use the opportunities that come along the way in the interest of the people he hails from (sic). At least the next four or five generations will remember him for what he is doing for Nellore region”.

The comparison with the Andhra giants was unflattering not from Naidu’s but their point of view.

“Nellore has seen many from its ranks rise to become ministers, chief ministers and leaders who influenced the course of events in the national capital Delhi. But what they could not do or even dream of doing, Venkaiah Naidu is accomplishing. He is dreaming big, relentlessly striving and delivering for the people of his region,” the article said.

Naidu was “different”, the article implied, because while leaders like former President . Sanjeeva Reddy and Rao saw Nellore as a “drop in the ocean in the national geography or political scheme of things”, the BJP chief showed exemplary concern for the place.

“It is all the more worthy of taking note that he is doing much for the region without any electoral considerations. Venkaiah has been saying of late that he would not contest in any polls not only from Nellore but also from anywhere in the state. Not only that, he has been telling his close associates that none from his family would enter (the) poll arena,” it said.

As rural development minister and BJP chief, Naidu has left no stone unturned to lavish largesse on Nellore. They are:

The Somasila reservoir, Nellore’s irrigation mainstay, was allotted Rs 120 crore under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit programme

A radio station

Modernisation of Nellore and Venkatachalam railway stations and reconstruction of Vedayapalem station

A teleconference centre at Venkatachalam as part of the Cyber Gramin programme

Sanctioning 25 acres of land to set up a sports centre and residential training institute at Venkatachalam for physically-challenged people

The Food Corporation of India’s storage capacity at Kakuturu was doubled.

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