On November 6, 2017, Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) president and the then Leader of Opposition in Andhra Pradesh, Jagan Mohan Reddy, embarked on his 3,000-km “Praja Sankalpa Yatra” from his native Idupulapaya in Kadapa district. The village was also where his father and former Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy was laid to rest in September 2009 following his death in a helicopter accident.
During the yatra, he attended over 120 public meetings, addressed the common people, and raised issues about the functioning of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government. The TDP was already under pressure as Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu had failed to get Special Category Status for Andhra Pradesh from the Centre. The new capital city Amaravathi, too, did not look like it would become a reality. The yatra helped the YSRCP chief gain a deeper understanding of public concerns and shape his electoral campaign and manifesto.
The fact that the CBI arrested Jagan over a disproportionate assets case and imprisoned him for 16 months (from May 2012) did not deter the Telugu people from gravitating towards him, as their discontentment with the Naidu government had reached tipping point.
Jagan promised the women that he would bring a phased ban on alcohol. He assured increased pensions and newer schemes for farmers, weavers, and people engaged in caste-based occupations. He announced welfare plans for most caste groups, including the State’s dominant castes.
Jagan, on an average, walked 14 to 20 km a day. During the tour, in October 2018, when he was at Visakhapatnam airport, he was stabbed in the shoulder by a person claiming to be his fan. The yatra, spanning 341 days, ended two months after this incident, on January 9, 2019, at Ichchapuram in Srikakulam district. Jagan had covered 3,648 km and visited over 130 of the 175 constituencies in the State. The rest were to be covered by bus.
By then, the TDP’s chances of returning to power were severely dented. An anti-incumbency wave was evident across the State. Even as some analysts believed it was premature to kickstart a campaign two years in advance, in hindsight most agreed that the yatra did help Jagan sweep the Assembly election. The YSRCP won 151 out of 175 seats, more than double the number of seats it secured in 2014 (67).
Jagan was not new to walkathons, as he had embarked on an “Odarpu Yatra” (condolence tour) in 2010 to meet the families of those who allegedly ended their lives hearing the news of his father’s death. He defied the order of the Congress leadership in New Delhi to do the Odarpu Yatra. Jagan founded the YSRCP on March 12, 2011.
Jagan’s “Praja Sankalp Yatra” reminded the people of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s padayatra in April 2003 when he covered over 1,470 km across undivided Andhra Pradesh. It had contributed significantly to Reddy’s ousting Chandrababu Naidu from power.