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Nominee no more, contest lives on
- Children fight mom’s battle

Shobha Nagi Reddy (top); her elder daughter Bhuma Akhila Priya holds a child while campaigning. Picture by G Vijayalakshmi

Allagadda (Kurnool), May 3: This labour is for their Mom.

If Shobha Nagi Reddy’s three children pull off this victory for their mother from this searing Andhra Pradesh dustbowl, it would be, in every sense of the term, a triumph over death.

Shobha, a four-time MLA fielded by Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress (YSRC) from Allagadda, died in a car crash last week. Now her daughters, Bhuma Akhila Priya and Bhuma Mounika, and son Bhuma Jagat Vikhyat Reddy are campaigning for their dead mother.

The Election Commission has clarified that Shobha’s name will not be removed from the ballot papers when the Assembly constituency in Kurnool district votes on May 7.

In a letter to YSRC leader P. Krishna Mohan Reddy, K.F. Wilfred, principal secretary to the commission, said under Rule 64 of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, a “deceased candidate would also be a candidate” and if such a candidate “receives the highest number of votes”, he or she would be “declared elected”.

The letter from Nirvachan Sadan, New Delhi, also clarified that there was “no provision… to declare the candidate who polls the highest number of votes among the remaining candidates as elected if the deceased candidate polls the highest number of votes”.

The “clarification” said a by-election would have to be held later “as per the provisions of … the Representation of the People Act, 1951”.

A commission source in Delhi explained the reason behind going ahead with the election process, saying such decisions often have to be taken in “trouble-torn areas”, even if it means holding a bypoll later if a deceased candidate emerges as the winner.

“This practice was adopted over the past decade, as it was often seen that candidates were killed to have the elections countermanded. Because Andhra Pradesh has a recent track record of being politically violent, such decisions have to be taken, even in case of natural deaths,” the commission source said.

“The provision allows the party of the deceased candidate a fair shot at the polls, even if by-elections have to be held eventually.”

The source said the practice was common in militancy-hit states like Jammu and Kashmir or those affected by Left-wing extremism, such as Jharkhand, and added that such decisions were taken after a case-by-case assessment of situations.

Back in Allagadda, the two young women and their teenaged brother have been braving the heat and dust of the arid Rayalaseema belt, campaigning atop open vehicles for their mother under a scorching 43°C sun.

Akhila Priya, 27, Mounika, 21, and Jagat Vikhyat, 14, have been doing everything they can to make sure that their mother wins. They break down often and speak very little, but have succeeded in spreading a wave of sympathy for Shobha, who died on April 24 while returning late in the night after an election campaign. She was 45.

No claps or slogans punctuate whatever little they say but people give the siblings a tearful assurance. “What could be a better tribute to Shobha than electing her?” YSRC leader Jaganmohan told a condolence ceremony at Allagadda, 326km from Hyderabad.

The Assembly segment is part of the Nandyal parliamentary seat where Shobha’s husband Bhuma Nagi Reddy is in the fray in the simultaneous elections being held in Andhra.

Some 48 per cent of the two lakh voters in Allagadda are women and even the Telugu Desam Party candidate, Gangula Prabhakar Reddy, feels Shobha has a clear edge. In 2009, Shobha had won by 80,000 votes.

“I miss my Mom,” says Akhila Priya, the eldest among the three. “People of Allagadda also miss her and I am confident of a huge (victory) margin of 1 lakh votes.”

Ironically, her mother died a day after she had withdrawn her dummy nomination from the same seat. If Shobha does win the election, Akhila Priya, an MBA, is likely to be fielded for the bypoll.

The three siblings have been campaigning for at least five to six hours every day, a large garlanded portrait of their mother on their canvass vehicle. Sometimes their father accompanies them. “My father is committed to fulfilling all the commitments made by my mother,” says Mounika, a student of fashion designing.

Jagat Vikhyat, 14, studies in Class IX.


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