From Left: Vallabhaneni Vamsi, N Chandrababu Naidu
Amaravati: As violence between political parties are becoming a regular affair in Andhra Pradesh, the ruling YSRCP and Opposition TDP have employed unique ways to propagate their agenda.
The cadre of the two big political parties fought after a heated argument resulting in unrest in Gannavaram. As Gannavaram MLA Vallabhaneni Vamsi held a press conference taking a jibe at the TDP chief as “psycho,” the TDP cadres countered with a “Veterinary Doctor” jeer.
Vallabhaneni Vamsi Mohan, a Telugu Desam Party legislator, has represented Gannavaram since 2014. He was also a Telugu film producer, having worked with Jr. NTR and Ravi Teja. Gannavaram is one of the 23/175 seats which TDP won in 2019. Nevertheless, during the 2019 elections, legislator Vamsi changed his loyalties to the YSRCP.
Political history of Gannavaram
After the bifurcation of the state, with power shifting back to Vijayawada, political leaders put efforts to impress their bosses. This is seen in the recent conflict in Gannavaram between TDP and YSRCP cadres, in which leaders from both parties engaged in violence to showcase their might.
Gannavaram is in Andhra Pradesh’s Krishna district, which has been a stronghold of the Communist party since its inception in 1955. Puchalapalli Sundaraiah, a senior Communist leader, represented this Assembly constituency as an undivided CPI candidate in 1955 and 1962, and as a CPI(M) candidate in 1978.
Nevertheless, with the death of Puchalapalli Sundarayya and the formation of the Telugu Desam Party, the Communist party’s influence waned. Most of the leaders in this constituency hail from the Kamma community and are loyal to the TDP since its inception in 1982 (As the party’s founder NT Rama Rao was from the community). Before that, people always used to vote heavily for Left parties in the constituency. Since then, this Assembly segment has been TDP’s stronghold.
What happened in Gannavaram?
This is the first time Gannavaram has seen such fighting between YSRCP and TDP. Formerly, the war of words was mostly contained to social media, but now that the YSRCP has a prominent MLA, the fighting has moved to the streets. During the violence, police officers, including CI and SI, were attacked.
On 18 February, Gannavaram legislator Vallbhaneni Vamsi took against his former bosses, TDP chairman Chandrababu Naidu and Nara Lokesh. He claimed that the TDP is attempting to smear his reputation. In an interview with the media, he stated, “Who is psycho? Go to Nara Lokesh’s page where he posted a morphed photo of myself with a woman stating ‘Vallabha Vallabha Nannu Gillava’ (A song similar to the MLAs name that translates to Vallabha Vallabha Pinch Me). Nara Lokesh is a young psycho, and Chandrababu is an aged psycho.”
He further slammed local TDP cadres, saying, “Mental dogs and rats who get biryani served with Chandrababu’s should control their mouths, or else I will make Chandrababu and Nara Lokesh’s whole history public.” He went on to challenge the TDP local cadres to invite Chandrababu and Nara Lokesh to run against him.
The TDP women had called for a debate on 19 February, in response to the MLA’s press conference. They attacked MLA Vamsi, satirically stating that he is a veterinary doctor as his language is filthy and which is fit to be used only among cattle and not humans. “Everyone associated with MLA Vamsi are dogs. It was impossible for Jagan’s father, YSR, to get his party’s candidate elected in Gannavaram. How would Jagan get you elected here in 2024?” said Haribabu, TDP in-charge of Gannavaram.
On 20 February, after a heated exchange of words between local TDP and YSRCP cadres, the latter vandalised TDP’s office and set fire to the TDP in-charge’s car. Aware of the incident, the TDP mobilised a counterattack. Local CI and SI were attacked when the police attempted to keep both parties from fighting.
TDP national spokesman Pattabhi Ram, who is aspiring for Gannavaram, challenged the YSRCP cadre to face them over the office’s devastation. Pattabhi was apprehended after the police were alerted. A day after his arrest, he was summoned to the court. So far, Pattabhi and 16 others have been charged with attempted murder and under SC/ST Atrocities Act, while 12 others have been charged under sections 353, 143, 147, and 149.
Addressing the media here, Krishna district SP Jashuva said, “TDP leader Pattabhi sought to persuade a segment of the party to launch an attack on the YSRCP by attacking CI Kanaka Rao. A day after his detention, the court placed Pattabhi and 11 others on judicial remand for 14 days, until 7 March. Pattabhi was ordered to undergo a medical check-up in a government hospital for a third-degree complaint and to submit the results to the court. According to the investigation, Pattabhi was not tortured while in detention.”
Speaking to NewsMeter, YSRCP national spokesperson and APTDC chairman Ravi Chandra Reddy said, “The whole incident has taken place due to the identity crisis of leaders in TDP. As the TDP shows are failing, the leaders want to capitalise on anything and that prompted them to sow such violence. Also, it is Pattabhi who provoked local leaders on both sides. He even abused local YSRCP leaders and challenged them to come for face-to-face fight. When the police tried to stop them, they were attacked.”
In response to TDP’s claim, Mr. Ravi Chandra said, “They only claim that police intervened at the discretion of the YSRCP’s top brass. Why aren’t they saying anything to the court or giving any documents to the magistrate? They’re only attempting to discredit the administration by pulling such stunts. Why would a reputable news daily like Eenadu print Pattabhi’s old images claiming custodial torture? And besides, Eenadu has clarified and apologised for using outdated images. This shows a complete picture of what they are attempting.”
Former minister and TDP leader Kollu Ravindra told NewsMeter, “Vallabhaneni Vamsi and Kodali Nani are being nasty to our chief Chandrababu Naidu. As a result, our leaders are reacting to unparliamentary words here and there. Donthu Chinna, our main leader in Gannavaram, also responded with a press conference. For this, he received threatening calls from Vamsi’s close aides. Our leaders convened to file a case against YSRCP officials and are preparing to file a complaint against Vamsi and co. Meanwhile, Vamsi and his cadre arrived at our party headquarters and incited violence. We made a call to the police to alert them of YSRCP’s destruction of our office, but the CI ignored us.”
He went on to say, “We have submitted a complaint with details of 42 culprits to the police, but no action has been taken. Despite there being no caste clash, more than 20 to 30 people were charged under several provisions, including the SC/ST Atrocities Act. The CI belongs to the Christian community, yet our TDP leaders have been charged under the SC/ST Atrocities Act.”
New-age politics: IVRS vs Radio
As violence between political parties are becoming a regular affair in Andhra Pradesh, the ruling YSRCP and principal Opposition TDP have employed unique ways to propagate their agenda.
YSRCP launched the IVRS campaign where Gannavaram residents will get phone calls from current legislator Vallabhaneni Vamsi. The call says, “Namasakar, I am your Gannavaram MLA Vallabhaneni Vamsi. After Chandrababu started Idemi Karma (Why is this misfortune?) campaign it turned out to be ‘Babu is misfortune.’ Lokesh padayatra has turned out to be the final yatra for TDP. From both events, it is clear that people have stopped paying attention to TDP. Clueless TDP has now stooped too low and planted violence. People were brought from Gannavaram’s surroundings i.e., Penamaluru and Vijayawada, to loot and destroy Gannavaram. Police have been attacked for trying to stop them…All truths about TDP will be settled and proved by courts. Our course of action depends on the way the TDP acts.”
A senior journalist said, “IVRS is not a new campaign; it was launched in 2009 as well. My seniors told me that at the national level, parties would acquire bulk data from network providers and make messages and calls to geographically targeted citizens. In recent years, they have made extensive use of Interactive Voice Response Systems (IVRS) and Short Message Services. These kinds of advertising have always fascinated and persuaded the general public. Political and media critics are also astonished. An ordinary individual receiving a phone call from his charismatic leader and listening to his appeal is something big in rural areas.”
However, hitting back, the TDP has also started an online campaign called ‘TDP Radio.’ The TDP chief Chandrababu’s open letter to the DGP has been recorded and sent on all groups and social media pages. It accuses Vallabhaneni Vamsi of deliberately inciting the violence. YSRCP senior leadership is also blamed for directing the local police. It also accuses the police of torturing TDP cadres in custody and conducting biased investigations with false charges.
Local residents say they received MLA’s calls through IVRS and TDP’s through the radio show and WhatsApp. They said, “Both don’t interest us. In fact, it irritates us to listen to them.” However, some of them opined, “It is their responsibility to convey what has happened from their side. The rest is up to the public.”
Today, with the power of new methods being established, residents are now in the mid-way mark of the adoption process. With most political parties having accepted various outreach strategies as an election tool, the coming elections will be an indicator if any major progress has been made.