The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Desam poll hint

Hyderabad, Oct. 20: The Telugu Desam Party is thinking of holding snap polls to exploit the sympathy wave generated in . Chandrababu Naidu’s favour after he survived an assassination attempt on October 1.

The Desam politburo and executive, which met for the first time after the People’s War attack on the chief minister as he was heading to the Tirupati temple, discussed the political fall-out of the attack.

No official announcement has been made in this regard, but Naidu has been authorised to take a decision. Finance minister Ramakrishnadu almost let the cat out of the bag when he said: “The budget for 2004 will be presented by a new government…”

The chief minister told the politburo and executive of the outpouring of love and sympathy he received when he visited Tirupati on October 16. “The admiration and love of the people has rejuvenated me to work forever for them,” he said.

Naidu said the public response was the same all over Andhra Pradesh.

Assembly elections are due in September 2004. Polls to the 13th Andhra Assembly could be held early next year if the House is dissolved next month. This means Assembly and Lok Sabha elections might be held simultaneously in the state, even though the chief minister has opposed this in the past.

It is widely expected that polls will be held in February, with Naidu dissolving the House in the second week of November. The Desam is expected to forge an electoral alliance with the BJP, but this could change depending on the result of the November-December Assembly elections in five states.

The Desam has 179 MLAs in the 294-member House, besides three Independents who are supporting the government – it has expelled controversial legislator Krishna Yadav who figures in the stamp-paper scandal.

The Congress, which has 88 MLAs, is being supported by one Independent legislator.

An independent survey by a local-language newspaper has shown that there are 35 Assembly segments in the state where the Desam has not lost during the last five Lok Sabha elections. The Congress and BJP have been unbeaten in only three segments and the CPM two. The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen has never lost in four segments.

There are 20 Assembly segments where the Telugu Desam has never won.

Naidu’s aides have visited 110 prominent Assembly segments over the last 15 days to gauge the public mood – their assessment indicates that the assassination attempt should boost the chief minister’s electoral prospects.

The Desam has also engaged a Mumbai-based company to conduct opinion polls in Andhra. Its report indicates that “the sympathy wave is moderate, but good enough to give Naidu a third term”.

The Congress also expects an early poll. State leader Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy said the chief minister was keen to exploit the sympathy factor as “any elections later will be affected by the incumbency factor and the impact of the severe drought in the state”. He said the Congress was ready to face elections even though it is wracked by indiscipline and groupism.

The BJP, which is expected to be the Desam’s electoral ally, hopes to benefit from the sympathy wave. But it fears that the “nuisance value” of the Telengana Rashtra Samiti, which has inducted many BJP deserters, might hurt the ruling party in the Telengana belt.

The Andhra BJP is also demanding more tickets this time – it is eyeing nearly 75 seats. In the 1999 Assembly election, the BJP won only 12 of the 35 seats it contested, but triumphed in all seven Lok Sabha seats.

This morning, Naidu failed to hoist the Desam flag at the party headquarters in his first attempt. The chief minister usually manages in his first attempt, but it took him two more tries before he could unfurl the flag as the rope tied to the top of the flag pole fell down twice. It was Naidu’s first visit to the party office since the October 1 attack.

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