The last few months have seen a whirlwind of political activity in Andhra Pradesh, both for the Lok Sabha elections and the highly anticipated state assembly elections. This period has been marked by numerous allegations and counter-allegations from various leaders, shifts in political loyalties and ideologies, and the forging of new alliances, all accompanied by a palpable sense of unease.

The political scenario in Andhra Pradesh is characterized by fluid dynamics and shifting allegiances. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP faced significant challenges due to anti-incumbency, a narrowing social base, disenchanted government employees, and unrest among the youth and corporates. His unsuccessful Backward Class (BC)-centric strategy further complicated the situation. Meanwhile, the TDP’s effective voter mobilization and strategic alliances with the BJP and Pawan Kalyan’s JSP reshaped the electoral battleground. These factors played a decisive role in determining the electoral outcome and eventually delivered a humongous mandate in favor of the TDP alliance, both in the assembly and parliamentary elections.

The TDP alliance nearly routed the YSRCP, securing 165 out of 175 assembly seats, with 56 percent of the vote share, while the YSRCP was reduced to 10 seats, from 151 seats in 2019. Similarly, the TDP alliance maintained its momentum in the parliamentary elections, securing 21 out of 25 seats. Despite YS Sharmila’s efforts, Congress is still not making a significant comeback in Andhra Pradesh; however, it could improve its vote shares slightly.

What explains TDP alliance’s victory in the state? The TDP-JSP-BJP alliance was a success in ensuring effective coordination among their party cadres to ensure vote transfers in their respective strongholds. While the TDP-BJP alliance was successful in 2014, Chandrababu Naidu’s departure from the NDA before the 2019 elections led to a significant defeat. Ahead of the 2024 elections, the alliance coordinated well to deliver the result.

It is essential to recognize that this election was not merely a contest between the YSRCP and the TDP alliance but also a continuation of the longstanding dominance of Andhra Pradesh politics by powerful agrarian castes: The Reddys, Kammas and Kapus. These dominant castes wield significant control over the state’s political affairs. More importantly, the Reddys and Kammas have historically dominated, but the Kapu community and other Backward Classes were crucial determinants of election outcomes. Political parties have keenly courted these groups, with JSP’s Pawan Kalyan positioning himself as the representative of the Kapus. Interestingly, it appears that a sizable proportion of Reddys have also shifted their allegiance to the TDP, signaling a substantial blow to the YSRCP’s electoral prospects. Similarly, the Kapus have polarized against YSRCP almost to the same extent as the Kamma community.

Festive offer

Apart from caste dynamics, the rivalry between two prominent political families — the YSR family and the NTR family — further complicates the politics of Andhra Pradesh. NTR, YSR, and “megastar” Chiranjeevi belong to the Kamma, Reddy, and Kapu castes, respectively. The children of ex-Congress CM YSR Reddy head the YSRCP and Congress (AP), while NTR’s family leads the TDP (with Chandrababu Naidu, his son-in-law, at its head) and the BJP’s Andhra Pradesh unit (state president Daggubati Purandeswari is NTR’s daughter). Pawan Kalyan, the founder of the JSP, is Chiranjeevi’s brother. Thus, family ties remain the biggest political capital and have a decisive impact on the electoral outcome in Andhra Pradesh.

The election result suggests that the TDP and its allies have made a significant dent in social categories like Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and minority communities that were traditionally aligned with the YSRCP. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s attempt to emulate caste-based ticket distribution strategies seen in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar has not yielded the expected results. This BC-centric pitch was aimed at consolidating a broad spectrum of BC voters that have traditionally been with the TDP. The TDP and its allies were able to maintain their lead among BCs, indicating a failure in Jagan’s strategy to attract and retain this crucial voter segment.

In Andhra Pradesh, multiple issues found resonance with the electorates in 2024. Firstly, the demand for Special Category Status (SCS) has been a persistent issue since 2014. Despite promises, the state has only received special financial assistance, leading to political tensions between the ruling YSRCP and the opposition TDP. Secondly, the proposal to move the state capital from Amaravati to Visakhapatnam has sparked significant debate. The YSRCP government’s decision to reconsider the location of the capital raised concerns, with the BJP opposing the move but supporting the relocation of the High Court to Kurnool. Thirdly, former CM Chandrababu Naidu faces legal challenges, particularly regarding a skill development scam. The TDP claims the legal actions are politically motivated, while the government insists there is solid evidence of misconduct. Fourthly, employment opportunities are a significant concern, with the TDP’s slogan “Job Ravalante Babu Ravali” (jobs will come only if Babu comes to power) aiming to attract youth and first-time voters.

Despite the challenges, the TDP alliance’s coordinated efforts and focused campaign resonated with the electorate, leading to a decisive mandate in both the assembly and parliamentary elections. Issues such as Special Category Status, the capital relocation debate, legal cases, employment opportunities, development concerns, the alleged arrogance of YSRCP’s administrative machinery, and vindictiveness towards opponents played critical roles in influencing voter sentiments. The election results underscore the importance of adaptive strategies and the need for political parties to continuously engage with and address the diverse concerns of their constituents. As Andhra Pradesh moves forward, the dynamics of caste, political alliances, and leadership will remain central to its political future, setting the stage for the next chapter in its political history.

The writer is Professor of Political Science, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad, Telangana