Just like his father before him, Jagan Mohan Reddy is meticulously building up a huge support base. And unlike Rahul Gandhi, he is not treating political success as an inevitable legacy.
It was a show of strength when thousands thronged to see the 46-year-old YSR Congress Party chief Jaganmohan Reddy’s roadshow in Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday (March 17). To the generation that had witnessed his father’s — Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy’s — brand of popular politics, this would have been nothing short of total déjà vu.
As the young leader embarked on his poll campaign on March 16 in Kadapa District, the subtext of the district being his stronghold (as it had been his father’s) was lost to none.
Here is why we think Jagan would be the gamechanger in the oncoming elections — at the state and the national levels.
1. Earning Respect: As the son of the veteran Congressman, arguably the most popular Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh (United), Jaganmohan Reddy should have had his political legacy bequeathed onto him on a silver platter.
And perhaps it was.
Jagan seems to be enjoying the same popularity among the masses as his father did in his heyday. In fact, Jagan shares an uncanny similarity with Rahul Gandhi as the Shakespearean Hamlet — both lost their fathers to unnatural deaths in tragic circumstances at a young age. Both have had to win back political support from the base that was traditionally the family’s fiefdom. However, Jagan believes none of this to be his set entitlement.
After his father’s death under mysterious circumstances in a helicopter crash in 2009, Jagan did not have an easy run with the Congress party at the Centre. Barely six months following his father’s death, Jagan embarked on the “odarpu yatra” — or the condolence tour. This was to go and personally meet the families of those who had allegedly committed suicide or died of shock after hearing the news of his father’s death.
The high command asked him to call off the yatra — an order he defied, stating it was a personal matter. This saw him being expelled from the Congress — and becoming a darling of the masses who saw him as one of their own, vulnerable and bereaved.
Jagan went ahead and founded the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP). In what could be construed as relinquishing his entitlement and earning new popularity, Jagan has since then mandated that any elected leader willing to support him must resign from their existing position won as the member of any other political allegiance and be reelected as a YSRCP candidate.
2. Surviving Suffering: The government headed by N Chandrababu Naidu spared no stone in painting a dark picture of Jagan — be it the Paritala Ravindra assassination or in the 2012-disproportionate assets (DA) case. While Jagan was exonerated in the assassination case, he was arrested in the DA case in May 2012 and was put under judicial custody for 16 months. His arrest was barely days before the bypolls for the 18 Assembly constituencies, following the disqualification of defected members of the Indian National Congress who had joined the YSRCP.
In a landslide victory, YSRCP won 15 of the 18 seats.
3. Vendetta Victim? The allegations against Jagan have not been proven in court yet. Incidentally, the former CBI officer JD Lakshmi Narayana, the investigating officer in Jaganmohan’s case who sent him to prison for 16 months, resigned from the job on a voluntary basis soon after. On March 17 (Sunday), Lakshmi Narayana joined Pawan Kalyan’s Janasena party to contest in the upcoming polls in Andhra Pradesh.
Jagan’s supporters have alleged political vendetta thus in the DA case
4. Special Status Warrior: Jagan has been unchanging on the demand for special category status for Andhra Pradesh — unlike his rival Chandrababu Naidu, who has been oscillating in his demand. He has gone to the extent of saying that the YSR Congress will back any party — BJP or Congress — as long as it grants the special category to AP.
Bringing up the response of the Centre to the issue in the past, he said recently that all political parties have betrayed Andhra Pradesh. His unwavering stand on the issue is earning him brownie points as a leader with a plan, rather than a rebel without a cause, that he was made to be after his father’s death and his own expulsion from the Congress.
5. Pro-Minority Image: Jagan is seen to represents the minorities of the state — in sharp contrast to the TDP’s brand of caste politics. According to analysts in the know, Jagan is seen in a favourable light by the state’s Christians, Muslims and Dalits.
Further, as he concluded the longest walkathon undertaken by any Indian political leader — a ‘padayatra’ of 3,648 km — on January 10, Jagan was seen addressing the key issues that have been roiling young voters in the state, including the TDP’s failure to implement the farm loan waivers which Chandrababu Naidu had promised ahead of the 2014 elections, and the pending Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA) loans and housing schemes.
He has been vocal on issues like converting each Parliamentary constituency into a district. He has also assured transparency in the administration to be accessible to people — a ray of hope for those embroiled in the murky brand of current politics that has failed to provide convincing utilisation certificates for grants issued by the Centre.
Jagan is the face of a new brand of politics for the Telugu region — and clearly, with his huge support base, a potential winner to watch out for as we inch closer to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly elections and the Lok Sabha polls in a few short weeks. #KhabarLive