Saturday, 12 March 2005

Local body elections: It's "wooing" time in Andhra Pradesh

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 5: It's "wooing time" for political parties in the State with municipal elections just two months away.
All major political parties including the ruling Congress have geared up to consolidate their electoral bases in urban areas by selecting a particular section of society. The Congress is wooing Muslims since they play a decisive role in at least 40 towns while the main Opposition Telugu Desam is looking at college students and youth for support.
The BJP, which has thus far kept Dalits away from its political agenda in the State, is now trying to win their hearts. The TRS, after its fresh differences with the friendly Congress, has decided to rake up the Telangana sentiment to appeal to die-hard Telanganites.
Joining the bandwagon is film actress and Telangana protagonist Vijay Shanti. She has set her eyes on tribals living in towns in the backward region. Vijay Shanti, who is all set to form a political party, has prepared ground to contest municipal polls on her own. She is also wooing Dalit and women voters.
The Congress government has issues orders increasing quota for Muslims in the urban housing programme from 10 per cent to 20 per cent. The GO issues last week directs district collectors to allot houses to poor Muslims and other minorities living in towns in proportionate to their population. The earlier TD government had fixed a reservation of 10 per cent for minorities and the YSR government wants to win over them by doubling the quota ahead of municipal polls.
Former chief minister and Telugu Desam president N Chandrababu Naidu has readied the student wing of the party to popularise the TD's policies and programmes in colleges and universities. The Telugu Desam's idea is to garner support from the uncharted vote bank of students. Chandrababu Naidu revived the Telugu Vidhyarthi only recently for the purpose.
He has also launched a movement to win back the support of government employees, APSRTC workers and those employed in public sector companies. The TD had lost base among these sections because of its privatisation policies which it pursued vigorously for nine years when in power.
The State unit of the BJP has published a book on Dalits describing it as a "soul-mate" of weaker sections. The 32-booklet attempts to convince Dalits that the BJP had done a lot for them and they would progress only if they sailed with the party. The BJP document even goes to the extent of saying that the Dalits are the foundation stones of Hindutva.
With all political parties playing their "woo cards", it is to be seen with whom the voter will sail at the hustings.

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