Both the Lok Sabha and legislative assembly polls will be held simultaneously in the state in a single phase on April 11. There are 25 Lok Sabha and 175 Assembly seats in Andhra Pradesh. Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) won the last Assembly polls and Telugu superstar and Jana Sena Party (JSP) leader Pawan Kalyan from the Kapu community had overwhelmingly supported it. Kalyan had kept away from the electoral fray and threw his weight behind the TDP and its ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This time, as the state prepares for both Assembly and parliamentary polls, the JSP is emerging as a major force of disruption for the ruling TDP, which is fighting anti-incumbency and a strong challenge from the YSR Congress. Now the question is: Will the TDP lose the bulk of the Kapu community to Kalyan’s JSP?
The Kapus, Reddys and Kammas are traditionally the three big castes in Andhra. Kalyan belongs to the Kapu community and Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu is a Kamma. YSR Congress leader Jaganmohan Reddy — Naidu’s main opponent — is a Reddy. All three communities are forward castes in Andhra Pradesh. Kalyan is contesting from two constituencies in the Assembly election — Bhimavaram in West Godavari and Gajuwaka in Vishakapatnam. It is not just Kalyan’s popularity that is increasing the momentum for the JSP, in several districts of Andhra Pradesh, particularly in the East and West Godavari, Kapu community forms a major vote base. Today, the Kapus, according to their leaders, form the single largest community in the state. Many from the community believe that Kalyan can emerge as the kingmaker after the counting of polls on 23rd May. AP has alternated between the Congress and the TDP over the last 35 years and they believe that poll outcome will see a complete break from the two parties. Even as Reddys are rallying behind YSR Congress, a strong mobilization of the Kapus behind the JSP would leave very little room for Naidu to navigate.