Banking on YSR legacy, Jagan emerges a key force (Andhra Pradesh Newsletter)

June 16th, 2012 - 6:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, June 16 (IANS) Feeling sidelined in the Congress, the late Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy had once toyed with the idea of floating a regional party. But his son Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy made it a reality and, within a year and a half, developed it into a major force in Andhra Pradesh politics.

From behind the bars of Chanchalguda Central Jail, where he is lodged in a case of suspected corruption involving amassing of illegal assets, the 40-year-old founder of YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) took on both the ruling Congress and the opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP), sending alarm bells ringing in the rival camps ahead of 2014 assembly elections.

The fledgling party stunned the old rivals and even surprised political pundits by making a near clean sweep of the by-elections to one Lok Sabha and 18 assembly seats.

The victory of YSRCP by nearly 300,000 votes in Nellore Lok Sabha constituency and with massive majority in 15 assembly segments can’t just be dismissed as sympathy wave in the wake of Jagan’s arrest a few days before.

Its performance was unparalleled considering the fact that unlike Congress and TDP, Jagan’s party is yet to have an organised cadre at the grass-root level.

The Congress, which enjoys only a slender majority of six in the 294-member assembly, is already worried that an aggressive Jagan may go for a kill by triggering an exodus from the party.

On the other hand, the TDP, which drew a blank, appears to be in panic over losing the ground to a party, whose rapid extinction its chief Chandrababu Naidu predicted only a few days ago.

Political observers say Jagan used his cards well to take full political mileage from his arrest by the CBI during the election campaign. His mother Y.S. Vijayamma and sister Sharmila succeeded in convincing people that Congress and TDP colluded to send Jagan to jail.

“Public sympathy may have played some role but it was not the only factor. Unmindful of the ridicule his ‘odarpu yatra’ evoked from his political rivals, Jagan has been working silently for more than two years to build a base,” said a political observer.

One of the richest politicians in India, Jagan developed a chord with people by visiting remote villages, going into huts to meet poor, and eating with them. Greeting people with folded hands, shaking hands with every one — all his gestures touched the people.

When YSR died on Sep 2, 2009, Jagan was only a four-month-old MP. His inexperience was one of the reasons for Congress leadership rejecting his reported claim to succeed his father as chief minister.

Aware of the powerful YSR factor which lifted Congress to power in 2004 and 2009, Jagan embarked on the ‘odarpu yatra’ to console families of those who died of shock or committed suicide after YSR’s death, further angering the Congress leadership.

Encouraged by the massive public response he received, Jagan realised that he could cash on the YSR factor to take on Congress leadership.

Accusing the leadership of humiliating their family, Jagan and Vijayamma quit the party in November 2010 and in March 2011, floated Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress (the party of youth, workers and farmers). Its acronym matched with the initials of Jagan’s popular father.

Two months later, Jagan and his mother scored landslide wins from Kadapa Lok Sabha and Pulivendula assembly seats respectively. The critics dismissed this too as a result of public sympathy for YSR family in their own strongholds.

However, the young leader kept Congress leadership on their toes with threats to the government, after 29 legislators including 26 of the Congress resigned in his support.

When the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) grilled him for three days before his arrest last month, Jagan mocked the Congress by taking one of its MPs and two state legislators to the CBI office.

After Jagan’s arrest, the two legislators resigned from the party and the assembly while two others called on Vijayamma to express solidarity. Some more are believed to be in touch with YSRCP.

Both Congress and TDP are still in a dilemma whether a Jagan in jail is more dangerous for them than a Jagan outside the jail. The dilemma is double for Congress, who has no clues on how to tackle Jagan without targeting YSR as the CBI see the father-son criminal conspiracy behind Jagan amassing illegal wealth.

(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at m.shafeeq@ians.in)

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