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A boot too big for Jaganmohan?

YSR’s son and the Congress are both laying claim to his political legacy and there are no clear favourites.

delhi Updated: Nov 30, 2010 14:25 IST
Prasad Nichenametla
Prasad Nichenametla
Hindustan Times

He’s a rebel who believes in his cause.

Jaganmohan Reddy, who quit the Congress on Monday, is relying on the emotional connect his late father, YS Rajasekhara Reddy, still has with large sections of voters in Andhra Pradesh to lay claim to his political legacy and give shape to his own ambitions.

It’s a strategy that has worked for Jaganmohan since his father’s death in a helicopter crash on September 2, 2009. The only new angle: he is now trying distance the Congress from YSR’s legacy.

Jaganmohan has repeatedly pushed the envelope, questioned the Congress and — unthinkably — even party president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul.

On every occasion, the party has stopped short of taking drastic action — probably because Jaganmohan, who won the Kadappa Lok Sabha seat in 2009, remains very popular and is seen by large sections of the people as the heir to his father’s political legacy.

Though the Kadappa MP’s plan to exit the party was a foregone conclusion, the Congress strategy of luring his uncle (and YSR’s brother) YS Vivekananda Reddy with a ministerial berth in the new Kiran Reddy cabinet served as “the last straw in the conspiracy” against him, he wrote in a five-page resignation letter addressed to the Congress chief.

On Monday, he sought to distance the Congress from YSR’s political legacy by sensationalising his death.

In his resignation letter, he wrote: “People of the state, including me, have doubts over the helicopter crash. The CBI and the high-level expert committee probes could not answer the doubts satisfactorily. My letter to the central government seeking answers to these doubts also proved futile.”

Jaganmohan termed the investigation an eyewash “that failed to fix responsibility on anyone”.

His television channel, Sakshi, earlier aired a programme based on an unsubstantiated Russian website report accusing a top industrialist of being behind the crash.

The strategy seems clear: raise doubts about YSR’s death, blame powerful commercial interests for the accident and claim that the state and his erstwhile party are working actively to dilute YSR’s legacy.

“A malicious campaign has been unleashed even against my late father… efforts are made to dim his image and prestige,” Jaganmohan said in his letter, which he released to the public.

He was alluding to YSR’s pictures being removed from party offices, his cutouts becoming increasingly rare at party rallies and how several popular schemes launched by YSR were neglected by the Rosaiah government that followed. Again the sub-text was clear: he was saying that he, and not the Congress, was the true heir to his father’s political legacy.

Though Jagan assured the Congress chief that pulling down the government, which enjoys a tiny majority (156 MLAs in a house of 294, just eight more than the majority mark)“is not in my character and I will never stoop so low”, he did remind her of his strength — the support of a large number of MLAs (he did not specify how many) and the powerful media group he heads.

He did not talk of his other trump card — the huge sums of money that he and the business interests backing him reportedly have at their disposal.

“The wish was to isolate and send me out. I am leaving alone.”

Even here, his strategy seems to give the Congress enough evidence of his clout without actually sinking the boat.

MPs and MLAs backing him are reportedly on “stand-by mode”, but within hours of his resignation, scores of party leaders from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions quit the party. These were mostly the second-rung leaders like district Congress chiefs and their supporters, former MPs and MLAs and several dissidents denied tickets in the elections.

His immediate goal seems to be to neutralise any advantage the Congress was hoping to gain by appointing another Reddy — Kiran Kumar — as CM.

And his long-term objective — hit the Congress hard at the grassroots level, derail its plans of repeating the 2009 mandate (when it won 33 out of 42 LS seats from the state).

First Published: Nov 29, 2010 23:15 IST