In a major setback to the ruling Congress party and main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh, the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) Friday bagged the Nellore Lok Sabha and 15 of the 18 assembly seats in by-polls, billed as the semi-finals before the 2014 elections.
Riding on a sympathy wave, YSRCP, formed by Jaganmohan Reddy, the son of late chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy -- popularly known as YSR, swept the polls by winning almost all the seats with a massive majority. The Congress party finished a poor second with two seats while TDP drew a blank.
The ruling party lost deposit in five assembly constituencies and the TDP in three. Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) won the lone assembly seat that went to polls in Telangana.
The counting of votes began at 8 a.m. amid tight security in the constituencies spread over 12 districts. About 70 percent polling was recorded in Nellore and an average 80 percent in the 18 assembly constituencies in the by-elections held Tuesday.
The by-elections were held after the resignation of a member of parliament and disqualification of 17 legislators of the Congress party who had switched loyalties to the YSRCP.
The Tirupati assembly seat fell vacant after the election of actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi to the Rajya Sabha.
Mekapati Rajamohan Reddy of the YSRCP retained Nellore Lok Sabha seat with a massive majority of more than 291,745 votes over his nearest rival and former central minister T. Subbarami Reddy of the Congress party.
The results mean YSRCP wrested 13 seats won by Congress in 2009 and two seats from Praja Rajyam Party (PRP), which has now merged with Congress. TRS snatched one seat from the Congress.
The Congress drew solace from the fact that it escaped a total humiliation by retaining two seats. This will improve the ruling party's slender majority in the 294-member house. With two seats, its tally has now gone up to 154.
The strength of YSRCP and TRS in the assembly has increased to 17 each.
TRS managed to scrape through in Parkala, the only assembly seat which went to the polls in the Telangana region.
In a close battle, TRS candidate Bhikshapati defeated YSRCP's Konda Surekha by over 1,562 seats. The fact that YSRCP came a close second in the TRS bastion shows the inroads the party has made in all the regions.
YSRCP's victory was marred by the defeat of its top leaders P. Subhash Chandra Bose and Konda Surekha. Both were ministers in the YSR cabinet and had switched loyalties to YSRCP.
Bose lost from Ramachandrapuram constituency in East Godavari district.
Congress won a seat each in East Godavari and West Godavari districts in coastal Andhra but lost seven other seats in the region.
YSRCP won all the three assembly seats in Jagan's native YSR Kadapa district and made a clean sweep in Rayalseema region by winning all eight seats.
The huge majority with which YSRCP candidates were elected left both the Congress and TDP stunned. In almost all constituencies, the margin of its victory was between 15,000 and 55,000.
Chiranjeevi received a big setback in Tirupati, a seat he won in the 2009 election as Karunakar Reddy, a close aide of late YSR, defeated the Congress candidate by 17,723 votes.
The vacancy arose after Chiranjeevi was recently elected to the Rajya Sabha.
Chiranjeevi, who had floated PRP in the temple town in 2008, merged his party with the Congress last year.
PRP also lost Allagadda seat in Kurnool district where Shoba Nagi Reddy of YSRCP was elected.
The defeat of the Congress in Tirupati was also a jolt for Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy as he could not ensure a win in his home district of Chittoor.
It was also a blow for TDP chief N. Chandrababu Naidu as he too comes from the same district.
Jagan, as the YSRCP leader is popularly known, was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and sent to jail May 27 in an illegal assets case when he was busy campaigning for the party.
His mother Y.S. Vijayamma and sister Sharmila managed to evoke sympathy by accusing the Congress and TDP of targeting Jagan.