Andhra Pradesh

Will Mangalagiri weavers spin favourabe poll narrative for Chandrababu’s son Lokesh this time?

Nestled between Vijayawada and Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, Mangalagiri, a temple town, suddenly emerged as the cynosure of the country between 2014 and 2019 after former chief minister and TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu during his tenure declared that Amaravati would be the capital city.

Mangalagiri (Andhra Pradesh): Nestled between Vijayawada and Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, Mangalagiri, a temple town, suddenly emerged as the cynosure of the country between 2014 and 2019 after former chief minister and TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu during his tenure declared that Amaravati would be the capital city.

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Mangalagiri segment hosts some of the villages which would have been part of the capital (Amaravati) had Naidu’s pet project been taken off, but his successor and YSRCP chief Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy poured cold water on the former’s capital’s dreams.

In the 2019 polls, Naidu’s son and TDP’s general secretary Nara Lokesh contested the Assembly election from Mangalagiri segment but lost out to YSRCP rival A Ramakrishna Reddy.

Despite winning the elections in 2014 and 2019, the incumbent MLA failed to find favour with the ruling party chief in bagging the ticket to contest the 2024 election, and was compelled to cede it to M Lavanya from the Padmasali (weavers) BC community, a numerically superior community in Mangalagiri constituency.

Disgruntled, Ramakrishna Reddy exited the party, joined Congress, to do a volte-face and returned to the YSRCP fold in a short span of time recently.

With an electorate of over 2.9 lakh voters — 1.4 lakh male, 1.5 lakh female and 13 third gender — Mangalagiri, famous for the two temples of Panakala Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy and Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy, has also carved a niche for itself in the realm of handlooms.

D Tirupati Rao (38), who runs a handloom store on Tenali Road in the town, selling sarees and various other dress materials, appreciated Ramakrishna Reddy and said that he had done a good job, especially laying roads.

“In the past five years, Ramakrishna Reddy took special interest and did a better job like laying the roads, resolving Ratnala Cheruvu issue and returning it to us in which we (Padmasalis) built a Devasthanam (religious establishment) and also clearing other encroachments,” Rao told PTI.

However, he highlighted that the loss of the Amaravati capital city under the ruling YSRCP has dealt a major blow to not just the prospects of the weavers and handlooms business but also all other small businessmen, traders, vendors, hawkers and others.

According to Rao, the capital city works during the TDP regime brought with it an influx of multitudes of people, who had come to construct Amaravati and also buy local wares, bolstering their businesses.

He said Mangalagiri fabrics made of silk and cotton are renowned for their light weight and command a devoted following from people across the country.

He noted that Mangalagiri people have already made up their minds on whom to vote, but wished that this constituency should be left for leaders from the majority Padmasali community in the future elections after 2024 polls.

Claiming that weavers did not receive help from the government such as material or marketing, Rao noted that eligible people from his community did receive the Jagan Thodu direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme.

From around 10,000 handlooms at one time, Rao said they have come down to about 1,000 now, while youngsters from the community are turning towards lucrative gold work, adding that Lokesh is helping the community by involving the Tata Group to further Mangalagiri handloom fabrics.

A few lanes away near the famous Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy temple, 28-year-old S Kanthi Kumar from Kothapeta area in Mangalagiri thanked Ramakrishna Reddy for giving him a pushcart to sell fruits.

Over the past five years, Lokesh and Ramakrishna Reddy have literally competed with each other in endearing themselves to the local populace.

A short ride through Undavalli and Tadepalli villages will show up several pushcarts, thanking and bearing the insignia of TDP and YSRCP, and also thanking Lokesh and the ruling party MLA.

Kumar alternates between selling fruits and also pulling a rickshaw with his father to eke out a living. He is all praise for the YSRCP government and its welfare regime.

“We are getting all the welfare schemes but did not get the housing plot as Chandrababu filed cases against it in court. However, Jagan promised that he would give us a plot once the court case gets resolved…Jagan’s reign is good, we are receiving all schemes on time,” said Kumar.

Eulogising the government’s special interest in education, he observed that they didn’t benefit much under the TDP regime.

Kumar said his sister’s children are beneficiaries of education-focused DBT schemes such as Amma Vodi and others, adding that they are in the process of learning English.

G Venkata Ramana (55), another rickshaw puller and a father of three daughters is not very excited about the YSRCP government, contrasting that he used to get welfare schemes in a quicker fashion under the TDP government, and also received a housing plot at Lakshmi Narasimha Colony.

Further, Ramana observed that law and order was under better control during the TDP regime than under the current government.

Srinivas Rao (50), who had donated 10 cents of land, along with other donors, for laying a road in Undavalli village said that the YSRCP MLA came forward to help the villagers with this local project.

“It would have been good had the capital city been here (Amaravati). Even Chandrababu said the capital was temporary. It would have been good had it been permanent,” said Srinivas Rao, who runs a mess.

He said the loss of capital also significantly eroded his mess business.

Local economy distress due to the capital issue is a ubiquitous theme running across the constituency, from a fruit vendor to small traders, businessmen and even a chicken pakodi seller.

“Let anybody rule us, be it TDP or YSRCP. But we only desire livelihood and business opportunities,” said Sandu Srinivas Rao, who sells chicken delicacies on Undavalli road.

With just nine more days to go for the May 13 election, Mangalagiri electorate is weighing its options between Lokesh and Lavanya while at the same time yearning for the capital and its associated business opportunities.

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