It has possibly been the longest political drama in recent times. Almost three years after his death in a helicopter crash, the shadow of YSR Reddy, former Andhra Pradesh chief minister, still looms large over the state’s political firmament. With the arrest of his son by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on charges of financial misconduct, the whole drama threatens to take a new turn. Never one to be cowed down by threats of investigations into his assets, YS Jaganmohan Reddy appears to have taken this as the penultimate lap in his battle with the Congress. Here, both the Congress and Mr Jagan Reddy have to bear the blame for the ugly turn that events have taken.
After the death of his popular and charismatic father, Mr Jagan Reddy automatically seemed to assume that the chief ministership was his for the asking. When the Congress leadership did not concede this demand, he undertook several yatras across the state whipping up support for his breakaway party, the YSR Congress. Could the Congress have handled the issue of someone who was bound to cash in on such a huge legacy better? Yes, it could have. But instead, it dug its heels in and adopted a confrontationist position. There may be much merit in the allegations against Mr Jagan Reddy, but better political management would have ensured that the Congress did not face yet another challenge in the state. While Mr Jagan Reddy and his family have been acting with a sense of entitlement, the Congress is crucially dependent on the numbers from Andhra Pradesh for a future government at the Centre. The battle with Mr Jagan Reddy will queer the pitch as he seems to have successfully cashed in on his father’s popularity. The fact that he owns a television channel almost entirely dedicated to his politics has helped him considerably.
The Congress’s other problem is that the state unit is not very strong. The other almost intractable problem the Congress faces in the state is the issue of how to resolve the Telangana imbroglio. The Centre has not sent out any clear directive on this so far, chopping and changing from time to time. But, the issue refuses to go away, often bringing parts of the state to a standstill. This has not only affected the state economically but also led to months of shutdowns in colleges affecting many students’ future. The case of Mr Jagan Reddy is now in the hands of the law, so there is not much the Congress leadership can do about it. But enlightened self-interest would suggest that the party begin solving the Telangana issue with greater vigour instead of palming it off one committee or another. How the script will play out in the Congress-Jagan Reddy standoff remains to be seen. But, one thing is certain, the state is in for more turbulent times ahead.