In a unique campaign trail, the children and relatives of Shobha Nagi Reddy, the YSRC candidate who died in a car crash, are campaigning for her after the Election Commission (EC) announced on April 29 that her name will stand in the ballot and EVM.
Bhuma Akhila Priya, 27, Bhuma Mounika, 22, and Bhuma Jagat Vikhyat Reddy, 14 — the children of the four-time MLA from Allagadda and daughter of veteran SV Subba Reddy — have a common mission: to see that their mothers name in the winners list, making her the country's first neta to be elected posthumously in the assembly elections, slated for May 7. Akhila Priya, a MBA graduate, was also a dummy candidate who had filed her nomination for her mother's seat and withdrew after Shobha Nagi Reddy was confirmed by YSRC.
The children are braving the heat and dust of the arid Rayalaseema belt in the Kurnool district to campaign atop open vehicles for their dead mother. Gloom has settled on their home on TB Road in Allagadda, 326km from Hyderabad, but the heat of the election is keeping the family on its toes.
A large, garlanded portrait of the dead candidate adorns the campaign vehicle carrying Reddy's children. Often, they break down and speak very little.Their tearful faces do much of the talking, but the silent campaign is spreading a wave of sympathy for Reddy.While mentioning her name and appealing for votes, there are no claps or slogans but the villagers give them a tearful assurance.
A sympathy wave has stuck the constituency held by Reddy for three full and one half term. And since the EC decided not to remove her name, both the party and her family are urging the people to vote in tribute to her. "What could be a better tribute to Shobha, than electing her?" said Jagan at the condolence ceremony last week at Allagadda.
For the first time in electoral history, a dead candidate will be declared elected, if he or she gets the majority of the votes. The EC clarification that Reddy's name will not be deleted from the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and all the votes that she polls will be held valid under rule 64 of the Conduct of Elections Rules Act of 1961 had shocked the opponents, particularly the TDP and Congress. 'There will be no countermanding polling in the Allagadda assembly as the dead YSRC candidate does not belong to a recognised party. She will be declared the winner if she gets the majority votes and she will be declared elected and a by-election would be later held to fill up the seat after the assembly has been formed .
Allagadda is a faction ridden region of Rayalaseema where villages fight over land and old hostilities for generations. It is common in these parts till 2009 that the powerful candidates, if they were on loosing trail, chose to murder independents or weak candidates to get the polling countermanded.
The rule has been a savior for many candidates in 2009 itself as the Rayalaseema belt of 54 assembly and 8 Parliament seat was known for the killing of independents by powerful lobbies to get the polls postponed.
Following EC direction, there was jubilation in the YSRC party and the Bhuma Nagi Reddy family. Akhila Priya says, "the people of Allagadda miss her and I am confident of her victory by a huge margin of one lakh votes". Incidentally, 48 per cent of the 2 lakh voters are women and even the TDP candidate Gangula Prabhakar Reddy has already thrown in his hat and conceded defeat, contending that emotions are definitely in her favour. In 2009, Reddy won with a margin of 80,000 votes.
All Reddy's daughters are spending a minimum of five to six hours daily in campaigning in villages. Some times their father Bhuma Nagi Reddy also accompanies them. "My father is committed to fulfil all the commitments made by my mother," says Mounika Reddy, an engineering student.