On Sunday, former IPS officer VV Laxminarayana ended weeks of suspense on which political party he will join. Pawan Kalyan welcomed the 1990 batch officer of the Maharashtra cadre to the Jana Sena and it is likely that Laxminarayana will contest the elections from Visakhapatnam district. Laxminarayana had taken voluntary retirement from the service in 2018.
What does it mean for the politics of Andhra Pradesh, that is likely to witness a no-holds-barred contest between the Telugu Desam and the YSR Congress? Will he turn out to be an asset for the Jana Sena or will he go the way of another celebrated former IAS officer, Jayaprakash Narayan whose Loksatta party failed to make a splash in electoral politics of the state.
Having led the investigation into the Jaganmohan Reddy case when he was Joint Director with the CBI, Laxminarayana’s presence and speeches on the campaign trail could hurt the YSRC. The educated lot in the urban centres will have an inclination to believe his version when he takes on the YSRC and its leader, in particular. Given that he has a considerable fan following among the youth, who admire his idealism, the Jana Sena could take away a chunk of the anti-TDP youth vote that would have otherwise accrued to Jagan.
Till the other day, the media buzz had it that Laxminarayana was TDP-bound and was slated to contest from Bheemli. With his decision to embrace Pawan instead, the YSRC has gone on an overdrive crediting Naidu with scripting Laxminarayana’s moves. The conspiracy theory being suggested is that Jana Sena is a plot to divide the anti-TDP vote, in order to facilitate a second term for Naidu. From a TDP point of view, it then makes sense for Laxminarayana to garner anti-Jagan votes into the Jana Sena kitty. The beneficiary will prove to be the TDP. Which is why the YSRC narrative is to say a vote for the Jana Sena is an indirect vote for the TDP.
A look at the Andhra Pradesh electoral map would broadly suggest that the election will be decided between Srikakulam and East Godavari. While the Rayalaseema districts will by and large go the YSRC way, many constituencies in coastal Andhra especially those in and around the capital region zone may tilt towards the TDP. Given Pawan’s campaign focus on north coastal Andhra and the Kapu-dominated East Godavari district, this region may then prove to be the decider. If Pawan contests from Gajuwaka in Visakhapatnam district along with Laxminarayana, the Jana Sena may end up picking up a decent vote share along the coast.