Hyderabad: Riding on a strong sympathy wave, jailed MP Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy's nascent YSR Congress on Friday decimated ruling Congress bagging 15 of the 18 assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat in by-elections in Andhra Pradesh in a showing that could be a political gamechanger in the state.
Congress won just two assembly seats, while main opposition Telugu Desam faced a complete rout drawing a blank in a keenly awaited outcome in which the 39-year-old Kadapa MP is fighting a bitter public battle with the Congress over his father and late chief minister Y S Rajsekhara Reddy's political legacy.
In the by-polls, touted as the "semi-finals" ahead of the 2014 Assembly elections, the TRS managed to scrape through with a slender margin of 1,562 votes in Parkal, the lone assembly seat in Telangana region, as it faced a close contest from the nominee of the 15-month-old YSRCP.
The poll outcome was a morale booster for YSR Cong as it proved that people did not believe the corruption allegations against him.
With Friday's results, the Congress saw its majority reduced to just seven seats having 155 MLAs in a House of 294. The YSRCP tally increased to 17.
In the final analysis, the Congress lost 14 seats as it held 16 seats, won in 2009. The other two were won by PRP in 2009 but now fell in the YSRC kitty. The TRS gained one more seat Parkal, thanks to the by-election.
YSRC's M Rajamohan Reddy won the Nellore Lok Sabha seat defeating high-profile T Subbirami Reddy of Congress by a margin of 2,91,745 votes.
It was also a loss of face for actor-turned-politician K Chiranjeevi as the YSRC wrested the Tirupati Assembly seat he vacated upon his election to Rajya Sabha in March.
The victory of YSR Congress was so resounding that the Congress lost deposits in four constituencies though it managed to win two seats, largely on the caste factor.
Lodged in the Chanchalguda prison as an undertrial in the disproportionate assets case against him, Jagan sent out a clear warning signal to the Congress that he will be its nemesis in the next elections as people are solidly behind him.
There may not be any immediate threat to the Kiran Kumar Reddy government but the Chief Minister will surely find the going tough from now on. The Congress, which can count on the support of seven-member Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), termed the by-election results as a "warning" to the party.
The poll outcome was a morale booster for YSR Congress as it asserted that people did not believe the allegations of corruption levelled against him.
"This is a god-given victory... a victory yearned by the people," YSRC honorary president and Pulivendula MLA YS Vijaya exclaimed as the fledgling outfit emerged as a potent force in the state politics.
"This is a victory of the people and of democracy," she said after meeting her son in the prison, adding that people of the state did not forget her late husband and former Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy.
Jagan's sister Sharmila, who proved to be the YSRC's trump card in the election campaign in his absence, noted, "Anna (elder brother) is very happy about the results. It's unfortunate that he is unable to enjoy it."
She added that the YSRC would sweep the elections in 2014 and Jagan would become the Chief Minister.
"People believe that Jagan is innocent. These results prove that. They believe in Jagan's leadership. He worked hard for it. The results show that people want Rajasekhara Reddy's rule," she said.
Sharmila, along with her mother Y S Vijaya Lakshmi, took over the mantle of the party's campaign soon after Jagan's arrest in an alleged disproportionate assets case on May 27 in the run-up to the polling on June 12.
The seats won by YSRCP are: Narasannapet, Payakaraopet, Polavaram (ST), Prathipadu (SC), Macherla, Ongole, Udayagiri, Rajampet, Kodur, Rayachoty, Allagadda, Yemmiganur, Rayadurg, Anantapur Urban.
A formal announcement is awaited from the Election Commission for the party's win in Tirupati.
In the 15 seats won by YSRC, the Congress was second in four while TDP stood second in 10 segments.
Congress drew a consolation by winning Narsapur in West Godavari and Ramachandrapuram in neighbouring East Godavari.
"Sympathy was a dominant factor while anti-incumbency was an added factor that helped YSRC sweep the by-polls. It's a warning for us to set things in order...it's time for serious introspection," Rural Development Minister Dokka Manikya Varaprasad observed.
Congress now faces the threat of desertions by some of its MLAs to YSR Congress as two MLAs had already expressed loyalty to Jagan soon after his arrest.
The TDP too attributed YSRC's victory to the sympathy factor. "We had nothing to lose or gain in the by-elections. The 2014 elections are our ultimate goal," TDP Legislature Party deputy leader Motkupalli Narasimhulu remarked.
A significant factor in the by-elections was the margin of victory for the YSRC candidates. As Congress nominees in 2009, they secured low margins but now won the seats with thumping majority.
For example, Golla Babu Rao, who won the Payakaraopet seat in 2009 by just 656 votes, defeated his TDP rival Ch Vengal Rao by 14,362 votes now.
G Srikanth Reddy secured the highest victory margin of 56,891 votes in Rayachoti this time as against the 12,000 majority he got in 2009.
If the Congress managed to win Narsapuram and Ramachandrapuram Assembly seats, it was solely because of the kapu caste factor. Thota Trimurtulu, who as Praja Rajyam Party candidate lost to Congress' Pilli Bose by about 4,000 votes in 2009, defeated the latter by a margin of 11,919 votes this time. Thota was now a Congress nominee while Bose was YSRC candidate.
Similarly, Kothapalli Subbarayudu of Congress won by 4,472 votes now against Prasada Raju of YSRC. As PRP nominee in 2009, Kothapalli lost to Raju of Congress in 2009 by 17,000 votes.
By-polls were necessitated in 16 of the 18 assembly seats due to disqualification of sitting Congress MLAs who switched loyalty to Jagan and voted against Congress government during a no-trust vote in December last.
A sitting MLA quit in support of Jagan, while actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi resigned as MLA following his election to Rajya Sabha which caused the bypoll in another seat.
The sitting Congress member quit in support of Jagan which necessitated bypoll for Nellore Lok Sabha constituency.