YSR Congress

Son’s challenge

Print edition : May 02, 2014

Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, president of the YSRCP, greets supporters in Guntur. Photo: T. Vijaya Kumar

WHEN the young Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy of the fledgling Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) did a subtle U-turn in early March on the issue of a separate Telangana and threw his weight behind Seemandhra, it was seen as a political masterstroke.

Both the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) were caught in a bind struggling to balance conflicting interests in the two regions and were clearly not in a position to take a decision in favour of either Telangana or Seemandhra for fear of alienating their vote banks.

In the bifurcation battle, Jagan’s move appeared politically correct in Seemandhra as he had virtually given up on Telangana. He is already talking of coming to power in Seemandhra. His confidence stems from the fact that he is hailed as the champion of Seemandhra, who dared to side with people whose concerns remained unaddressed in the hastily done division of the State.

The YSRCP’s decision made sound sense: political space in Telangana was already occupied by several pro-Telangana parties, and in Seemandhra both the Congress and the TDP were speaking in two voices—supporting a separate Telangana while seeking justice for Seemandhra. Former Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy made a last-ditch attempt to do a Jagan by floating a political party, the Jai Samaikyandhra Party, but the response has been lukewarm, with Ministers once close to him switching over to the TDP.

The YSRCP tried to fill the vacuum and make it a straight fight with the TDP for the 175 Assembly and 25 Lok Sabha seats in Seemandhra. The Congress is resigned to being punished here for dividing the State.

But a month after he took the decision, the TDP appeared to be racing ahead of the YSRCP. One reason for this could be that though people appreciate Jagan’s decision to remain rooted in Seemandhra, it is clearly not enough. What seems to be working against him is the slew of corruption charges he is facing. Equally, what is working in the TDP’s favour is N. Chandrababu Naidu’s high-voltage campaign that he will transform Seemandhra into Singapore in the same way that he changed the face of Hyderabad during his tenure. Realising the seriousness of this challenge, Jagan has changed tack and now focusses on the youth. He promises to fulfil “each of your dreams on coming to power”, while targeting Chandrababu Naidu as an old-generation politician who is out of sync with the present.

Chandrababu Naidu never believed in empowerment of the youth and had banned elections to student unions in universities and colleges, Jagan reminds the youth. Jagan alleges that Chandrababu Naidu did nothing for other sections during his nine-year-rule and did not speak a word in favour of “Samaikyandhra” (united Andhra Pradesh, as desired by the people of Seemandhra).

An ambitious politician, Jagan had a meteoric rise, thanks to his father Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who wielded considerable power in the Congress. His problems began soon after his father’s sudden demise in a helicopter crash in September 2009. He showed his political aspirations in his crude action of mobilising support from 156 Congress MLAs within hours of Rajasekhara Reddy’s death and appealing to the Congress leadership to make him the Chief Minister.

When he realised that Congress president Sonia Gandhi would not oblige, he went against her leadership. His “Odarpu Yatra” ( a tour to console the families of those who had committed suicide or died of shock on hearing of Rajasekhara Reddy’s death) across the State proved to be a flashpoint, with Sonia Gandhi expressing her displeasure at the way he was trying to appropriate everything achieved under Congress rule as his father’s legacy.

Jagan and his mother, Vijayalakshmi, quit the Congress and resigned as the MP from Kadapa and the MLA from Pulivendula respectively and launched, in March 2011, the YSRCP, the first three letters also representing Rajasekhara Reddy’s name. Several Congress leaders owing allegiance to his father joined his party, 17 of them quitting as MLAs. In the byelections in 2012, most of them won with thumping majorities, decimating both Congress and TDP rivals. A steady stream of Congress and TDP leaders and MLAs have kept joining the YSRCP in the last two years, giving the party a big boost. Jagan is apparently banking on this trend—a reason for his party’s decision to contest all the Assembly and Lok Sabha seats in Seemandhra. He may have got a head start in Seemandhra, but his party has been reduced to nothing in Telangana, with the last of his loyalists, Bajireddy Goverdan, former MLA, joining the TRS.

Jagan draws his strength from the goodwill his father earned, mainly through the pro-poor schemes he launched, such as Arogyasri, the health insurance programme; enhanced pension for the old and the indigent; and fee reimbursement for Backward Class and minority students. The young leader has promised to double these benefits, besides continuing the supply of free power to farmers, another scheme his father launched, in 2004.

Armed with these schemes and a development plan for a capital for the new Andhra Pradesh, Jagan is trying hard to wipe out the negative impact of the cases filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation against him. The CBI has filed 10 charge sheets against him in cases relating to quid-pro-quo investments in his companies. The investigative agency says Jagan used his influence with his father to dole out favours, including allotment of land and mining leases, to companies in return for their investments in his own firms like Jagathi Publications, which publishes a Telugu daily, Sakshi, and runs a TV channel of the same name. Much as Jagan, who was in jail for 16 months from May 2012 to September 2013, would like people to forget these charges, they are proving to be a headache as no political party is willing to have an alliance with him at the State level, though initially the CPI(M) showed some interest. Jagan and his mother and sister, Sharmila, continue to dismiss the charges as politically motivated, made at the instance of the Congress high command.

For the present, it looks like a neck-and-neck race between the YSRCP and the TDP in Seemandhra, where elections are due on May 7.

K. Venkateshwarlu

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