Andhra Pradesh

Nandyal’s party-hopper now joins Pawan Kalyan

When three-time Nandyal MP SPY Reddy joined the Jana Sena on Wednesday, few eyebrows went up. After all, his three decade-long political career has been marked by party hopping. Starting his innings in the BJP in 1991, he managed to taste success only in 2004 when he won from Nandyal Lok Sabha constituency on a Congress ticket. He stuck with the party in the 2009 election as well, retaining the seat. 

When the Congress divided Andhra Pradesh, Reddy realised the party had shot itself politically in the foot in the residuary state. He joined the YSR Congress and completed a hat-trick in Nandyal in the 2014 election. But within days of being elected and even before taking oath as an MP, he dramatically shifted loyalties to the Telugu Desam which had come to power in Andhra Pradesh. At that time, Reddy reasoned that he had joined the TDP to serve his constituency better. Five years later, with Chandrababu Naidu denying him a ticket, Reddy has moved into the Pawan Kalyan camp.

“I was expecting the ticket but at the last minute, the seat was allotted to someone else,” Reddy said.

I met Reddy for the first some 18 years ago. The reason was not so much to report on his politics but on his philanthropy. Reddy ran a successful PVC business called Nandi Pipes but what caught everyone’s attention was his decision to open dal-roti counters in towns across Kurnool district. Much before Jayalalithaa introduced food socialism in Tamil Nadu with Amma canteens, Reddy at that time was selling dal-roti at Rs 2 (a jowar roti, a popular delicacy in many parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and a cup of dal). The response to the venture was extremely positive as with just about ten rupees or so, anyone could afford to have three meals a day.  

“This is pretty much my staple diet as well,” I remember Reddy telling me then. “I love jowar roti, it is fat free and healthy.” 

Always dressed in white shirt and white trousers, the lean-built, soft-spoken industrialist-politician was particular about his Nandi group’s corporate social responsibility. He started a badminton academy to unearth talent in this part of Andhra Pradesh, invested in infrastructure and quality coaches to ensure the basics were taught right to the youngsters. One of them was Venkat, a contemporary of Pullela Gopichand. 

Given the goodwill that Reddy enjoys in Nandyal, the 68-year-old will probably be Pawan Kalyan’s best bet in the constituency. He will however, need to explain his frequent party-hopping to the electorate and whether he can be trusted with their vote this time round.

Nandyal, otherwise a sleepy town 80 km from Kurnool, shot into national limelight when PV Narasimha Rao contested and won from here after becoming Prime Minister in 1991. The victory margin was over 5 lakh votes, a feat that then entered the record books. 

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