The long walk to poll race in Andhra

Elections in Andhra Pradesh are still 15 months away, but the leg work, so to speak, has begun. Last month, on Gandhi Jayanti, Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu embarked on a 2,500-km-long walkathon. Sixteen days later, Y S Sharmila Reddy, sister of the jailed Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, followed suit, beginning a long march from one end of the state to the other.

The embattled Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, whose neck is said to be on the line, is doing his own version of a yatra — he is holding darbars across the state under Indiramma Baata, the flagship programme of the Andhra government. Although the Chief Minister goes by air and then travels in a special bus, he has covered a formidable 4,000 km in nine districts across 65 Assembly constituencies since July 2012. By next February, he aims to have toured the entire state.

Naidu calls his yatra 'Vastunna meekosam (I am coming to you)', while Sharmila's is 'Maro praja prasthanam (Another journey to the people)'. At 62, it could be the TDP chief's swansong, while Sharmila, 35, obviously hopes it's a new beginning for Jagan Mohan.

All of them are going through a yatra urge because politics in the state has never been this volatile. The two main parties — Congress and TDP — are struggling to survive the onslaught of Jagan Mohan's YSR Congress Party, including it poaching away their leaders. In fact, the talk is all about who will claim the second place in the 2014 elections. The YSR Congress Party's victory is already a foregone conclusion.

Jagan Mohan himself set the ball rolling when earlier this year, he embarked on the 'Odarpu Yatra', till he was arrested by the CBI in an illegal assets case on May 27. The question is, even with him in jail since, despite all the marches they are on, can the rest of the leaders catch up?

Sreenivas is an assistant editor based in Hyderabad

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