As a joint director of the CBI, V V Lakshminarayana did crack several high-profile cases and earned a reputation of being a tough and no-nonsense cop. In his new avatar as a politician contesting the Visakhapatnam Lok Sabha seat on a Jana Sena Party ticket, the former IPS officer finds electoral politics more intriguing and complex than some of the difficult cases he did successfully handle.
“I want to change the rules of the game. Until now, businessmen and industrialists have been dominating politics even while treating it as a part-time activity. I am going to be a 24/7 politician and transform Visakhapatam into a model constituency, in the country, in terms of development,” he told The Federal as he set out on a hectic campaigning schedule in the north coastal Andhra city.
JD, as the ex-cop is popularly known, had become a household name in united Andhra Pradesh following a breathless media coverage of the CBI probe into the high-profile cases against YS Jagan Mohan Reddy during 2011-12. As a joint director of the CBI, the 1990-batch IPS officer led the probe into the illegal assets case of Jagan who was arrested and sent to jail in May 2012. JD also investigated several other high profile cases like the Satyam scam and the Obulapuram mining scandal, involving the ‘Bellary Brothers’, and built an image of a ruthless cop determined to expose powerful politicians.
“After taking voluntary retirement from service, I have entered politics to cleanse the system and serve the people. I have no other ambition but to become an agent of change,” he says.
This predominantly urban constituency is witnessing an interesting battle. Two members of NTR’s family and a producer-industrialist are in the fray.
The BJP has fielded NTR’s daughter and former Union minister D Purandeshwari, replacing its sitting MP K Hari Babu. On behalf of the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP), M Sribharat, the son-in-law of Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s brother-in-law N Balakrishna, is making his electoral debut. The YSR Congress Party has fielded film producer and realtor MVV Satyanarayana.
For JD and his party — headed by actor-turned politician Pawan Kalyan — electoral politics is an entirely different ballgame. The Jana Sena is making its electoral debut in alliance with the BSP and left parties. Though the party was launched in the run-up to the 2014 general elections, Pawan had supported the TDP-BJP combine then, claiming himself to be an ardent fan of Narendra Modi. However, he has now turned a bitter critic of the BJP for failing to grant special category status to Andhra Pradesh and fulfil other promises made in the AP Reorganisation Act.
“We will bring qualitative change in politics. The entire country will look at us for inspiration,” JD says.
The entry of JD, who has a clean and idealist image, has changed the dynamics of the election scene.
Given that he has a considerable fan following among the youth, who admire his idealism and commitment to social service, his election rallies are expected to hurt Jagan’s YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), which is presently seen as being ahead in the poll race.
It is also possible that JD can chip away a chunk of the anti-TDP youth vote that would have otherwise gone to Jagan. His political entry has revived the memories of an embarrassing trial that Jagan and his associates had to face in the disproportionate assets case in which the CBI had filed ten charge sheets.
“I have a clear vision about the city’s development. My priorities include providing safe drinking water, controlling pollution, strengthening and protecting the catchment areas. Through the Polavaram Left Canal and Tatipudi reservoir, we will chalk out a permanent solution to the city’s water scarcity,” JD says.
In a novel initiative, he released the constituency development manifesto on ₹100 judicial stamp paper, promising to develop Visakhapatnam into a model constituency which would also be a safe, clean and smart city.
“We will meet once in three months to review our performance and release the progress report, which will be put in the public domain. In addition, the party will design one ‘Reach Your MP’ app to facilitate a corruption-free and transparent administration. The app will be made available to all residents free of cost,” he said.
Unlike the 2014 elections when the TDP and the BJP were allies and the seat was allotted to the saffron party as part of the poll pact, the two parties are fighting on their own this time and the entry of Jana Sena Party has only made the contest even more interesting.
Purandeshwari, NTR’s elder daughter, had quit the Congress and joined the BJP soon after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014. She unsuccessfully contested from Rajampet LS constituency in 2014 on a BJP ticket. Earlier, in 2009, she was elected from Visakhapatnam on a Congress ticket and inducted into the UPA cabinet.
She is now pitted against her relative Sribharat — the son-in-law of her actor-brother and TDP legislator N Balakrishna. Purandeshwari is the elder sister of N Bhuvaneshwari, wife of Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.
Visakhapatnam was a traditional stronghold of Congress till the advent of TDP which captured the seat in 1984. The regional party won it again in 1991 and 1999.
With the Congress drawing a blank in the 2014 elections due to public anger over bifurcation, the BJP, in alliance with the TDP, won the seat. Out of seven Assembly segments, the TDP had won six and its ally BJP one in 2014.
The political dynamics has since undergone a change with the YSRCP making inroads and the BJP facing the wrath of people over denial of the Special Category Status (SCS) to the state.
The recent announcement by the Centre to create a new Southern Coast Railway Zone with Vizag as the headquarters may not cut much ice with the voters due to protests by various groups over bifurcation of the Waltair division and handing over the revenue-rich part of it to the East Coast Railway, headquartered in Odisha.
Ploy to help TDP
The YSRCP leaders argue that JD’s entry is a ploy by the TDP to split the opposition votes in order to facilitate a second term for Chandrababu Naidu. The ex-cop could also influence the Kapu community voters in the East Godavari and West Godavari districts in the coastal region, which hold the key to the poll outcome. There is a buzz that the Jana Sena Party could take away a chunk of the anti-TDP youth vote that would have otherwise accrued to Jagan.
The YSRCP has been building a narrative that a vote for Jana Sena Party is an indirect vote for the TDP.