Jagan Mohan Reddy’s ten-year journey to Andhra’s top job
Jagan Mohan Reddy, the 46-year-old chief of the YSRCP, is set to take oath as the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh today after scooping up 151 seats of the state’s 175-member assembly in the recently-concluded elections.
The YSRCP chief, who made his political debut in 2009, has come a long way since he was dubbed ‘the man in a hurry’ for wanting to be the chief minister after his father, then Andhra CM YSR Reddy, died in an air crash in Sept 2, 2009. Jagan Mohan was then just four-months into electoral politics.
From then on, Jagan Mohan has worked with a single-minded dedication to have the top job. Ten years later he is doing exactly that as he takes oath at 12.23 pm today.
Not many people had known about Jagan till his father became the Congress chief minister in 2004. After completing his Master in Business Administration (MBA), Jagan dabbled in real estate in Bengaluru and occasionally did backroom work for his father .
When YSR became the chief minister, Jagan started coming out into limelight. His name was heard for the first time in political circles when then TDP minister Paritala Ravindra was murdered in Anantapur, as he hailed from faction-ridden area of Rayalaseema where aggression and power politics was at its peak. However, he was exonerated by the investigation agencies which could not find any evidence against him.
Later, he started expanding his business empire, as he forayed into various industries like power sector, infrastructure, cement and finally into media – Sakshi newspaper and television channel. Needless to say, his phenomenal growth was attributed to patronage from his father.
The opposition TDP alleged that Jagan had made millions through quid pro quo deals with industrial groups, who invested in his business ventures in lieu of the benefits doled out by YSR in the form of land allotments and industrial permits.
He remained a silent player in politics until his father met with a fatal accident.
He made his intentions clear on the day of his father’s funeral by making a public appearance with folded hands. On the second day, his close confidants started a signature campaign to represent to the Congress high command demanding that he be declared the successor of his father as the chief minister. More than 125 out of over 150 MLAs signed the petition.
However, Congress president Sonia Gandhi felt that Jagan, who was then just 36-years-old, was a ‘man in a hurry’ and he could not claim the right to become the chief minister within months of entering politics. So, she refused to entertain the petition and asked veteran leader K Rosaiah to continue as interim chief minister for some more time.
But, Jagan was restless and thought political power was his legitimate right and he was the natural successor of his father. He told media that there was nothing wrong in aspiring for the chief minister post to complete the unfinished agenda of his father to develop Andhra Pradesh into a welfare state.
When his dream was shattered by the high command, Jagan turned a rebel. Despite being a Congress MP, he used to question Rosaiah on several issues openly and criticize the government. In an attempt to build his personal image among the people, he embarked on an “Odarpu Yatra” (a tour to console the kin of those who had either committed suicide or died of grief following the death of his father YSR), defying the high command’s directives.
His gamble paid off, as he received tremendous response from the people during the Odarpu Yatra. Soon, Jagan emerged as a powerful political leader to reckon with and people started believing him to be a political heir of his father.
This has naturally not gone down well with the high command which firmly told him to stop the yatra. But Jagan remained unrelenting and rebellious. Finally, he quit the Congress along with his mother Vijaya Lakshmi and floated the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) in March 2011. He quit his MP seat and contested the by-elections again only to win the seat with a record majority of over five lakh votes.
However, his dream of coming to power in May 2014 elections could not be realized for various reasons – he was out of jail only a few months ago and there was hardly any time to focus on the party activities; secondly, people thought an experienced leader like Chandrababu Naidu was a better bet than Jagan to develop a truncated state and thirdly, Naidu’s strategy of forging alliance with the BJP and getting support from actor Pawan Kalyan fetched victory to the TDP.
Yet, Jagan’s party could get more than 45 per cent of votes, compared to 46.69 per cent of TDP-BJP combine, indicating the growing clout of Jagan. Despite the upset in 2014 elections, the YSRC chief went more and more aggressive in the last five years, building up an extensive network of the party and always remaining among the people, taking up various issues and highlighting the government’s failures.
Ahead of 2019 elections, Jagan Mohan became an icon of youth with his sharp looks, smart appearance and rabble rousing speeches. Learning from his past experiences, Jagan took every precaution in selection of candidates and poaching leaders from other parties. He engaged political strategist Prashant Kishor and his team to do all the strategic work, including poll management at the booth level, besides launching a publicity blitzkrieg in social media.
At the same time, Jagan quickly established relationship with the BJP bosses in Delhi, soon after the TDP came out of the NDA, which helped him counter every political move of Naidu. And finally, Jagan announced a set of nine promises, which he called Navaratnas (nine jewels), that were very convincing to the people. More than expressing their anger at Chandrababu Naidu, the feeling of people that “Jagan should be given a chance to prove his worth” made all the difference in the elections.