Hyderabad: YSR Congress leader Jaganmohan Reddy took controversial remarks in a by-election campaign to a new low when he said on Thursday that there was "nothing wrong if Chandrababu Naidu is shot dead on the road."
- Nothing wrong if Chandrababu Naidu is shot dead: Jaganmohan Reddy
- Comment comes amid highly competitive by-election campaign in Nandyal
- By-election seen as a bellwether for the 2019 elections
Mr Reddy, 44, was presenting a critique of what he called the "wrongs committed" by Mr Naidu, who is Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, at a public meeting in Nandyal, in Kurnool district, where assembly by-elections will be held later this month.
A local leader of Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has filed a police case against Mr Reddy, accusing him of inciting violence on the basis of caste, creed, race, religion, community or language, under the Representation of People's Act.
YSR Congress leader Roja, who is a former actress and TV anchor, said Jaganmohan Reddy's shocker was a reference to "finishing him (Mr Naidu) politically in Nandyal."
At the rally on Thursday, Mr Reddy raged against the Chief Minister, pointing out that 19 MLAs who won assembly elections as YSR Congress candidates have switched loyalties. That made Mr Naidu a "thief," he alleged.
The YSR Congress chief also accused Mr Naidu of backstabbing his father-in-law NT Rama Rao or NTR, to take away his post of Chief Minister and then using NTR's photos during elections to "make big promises that he will now never fulfill."
Nandyal is considered a YSR Congress stronghold. The by-election is being held because of the death of the sitting MLA Bhuma Reddy, one of those who won as a candidate from Jaganmohan Reddy's party and then joined the TDP after winning on a YSR ticket. His daughter Akhila Priya who won from the neighbouring Allagadda, also as a YSR Congress candidate, is now a minister in the state.
The TDP has fielded Bhuma Brahmananda Reddy, Akhila Priya's cousin from Nandyal. Former TDP leader Silpa Mohan Reddy, upset at not being fielded, is now the YSR Congress candidate.
The by-election has become a huge prestige issue for the two parties and Chandrababu Naidu has campaigned here aggressively, losing his cool twice and making controversial remarks. Last week he shouted at a man who complained about the erratic power supply in the area at a public rally, saying he must have been sent by the YSR Congress. Mr Naidu asked the man how he had dared to "question the chief minister."
On an earlier occasion, Mr Naidu said those who enjoy benefits of the TDP's rule and use roads built by his government, cannot complain against him. "Why shouldn't they vote for us," he asked.
Nandyal has become a big focus as the election comes after three years of TDP rule. A win for the TDP would reaffirm his strength but a loss to the YSR Congress is likely to be seen as an indication of which way the wind is blowing before the 2019 elections. Many say Nandyal could turn out to be another RK Nagar, in terms of the money and liquor flow into the constituency, in the run-up to elections. Mr Reddy points out that Mr Naidu has made several lavish promises to Nandyal, something he has not done even a little for his native Kuppam constituency, "only with the intention of winning here by hook or crook''.
"The entire Naidu cabinet, including Naidu and his son too, are on the roads of Nandyal and it is upto you to mete out justice,'' Mr Reddy said.