Jagan Mohan Reddy’s long march halts Naidu’s victory run in Andhra
In 2003, ahead of the assembly polls, Congress leader YS Rajashekara Reddy (popularly called YSR) went on a statewide padayatra (march) across undivided Andhra Pradesh to eventually unseat Chandrababu Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) from power. The late leader’s successful playbook has been borrowed by his son YS Jaganmohan Reddy against the same Naidu to emerge as the likely next chief minister of a smaller Andhra Pradesh in 2019.
In spite of being the son of a powerful Congress satrap, the road to success for Reddy was not an easy one, especially after he fell out with the Congress high command in the aftermath of his father’s untimely death. When YSR died in a helicopter crash on September 2, 2009, Reddy had been in electoral politics for just four months. Not many people knew about Jagan Reddy till his father became chief minister in 2004. He was working in real-estate in Bengaluru then. He later expanded his business, foraying into power, infrastructure, cement and finally media through the Sakshi newspaper and television channel.
His phenomenal growth was attributed by many to patronage from his father, particularly the opposition TDP.
Reddy entered active politics by contesting as an MP from Kadapa in May 2009 elections, though there were reports that he made an abortive attempt to replace his uncle Y S Viveknanda Reddy as Kadapa MP, by forcing the latter to quit in 2005 itself. But, still, he was only a silent player in politics until his father met with the fatal accident. Soon after YSR’s death, his close confidants started a signature campaign to convince the Congress high command that he be declared YSR’s as chief minister. More than 125 out of over 150 MLAs signed the petition.However, the Congress leadership felt that Reddy, who was then just 36, was a man in hurry and he could not claim the right to become the chief minister yet. So United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi asked veteran leader K Rosaiah to continue as interim chief minister. Reddy, however, told the media that there was nothing wrong in aspiring for the chief minister’s post to complete the unfinished agenda of his father to develop Andhra Pradesh into a welfare state.
Soon after he was refused the CM’s post, Reddy went on a padyatra (rally on foot) to connect with people.This did not go down well with the leadership, who told him to stop the yatra. But Reddy did not relent. Jagan Reddy finally quit the Congress along with his mother YS Vijaya Lakshmi and floated the YSR Congress Party in March 2011. He also quit his parliamentary seat and contested the by-elections, winning by a margin of over five lakh votes.
Following a high court order on a petition filed by Congress and TDP leaders, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) launched a probe 2011 into Jagan Reddy’s alleged quid-pro-quo deals with various industrial groups during his father’s tenure as CM, besides cases of money laundering and Foreign Exchange Regulation Act violations. In May 2012, he was put behind bars, and remained in jail for nearly 16 months.
But Reddy remained unmoved by this setback. His mother and sister Sharmila sustained the momentum of his party, building it at the grassroots. Soon after he came out of jail on bail, Andhra Pradesh was facing an impending bifurcation — a move he strongly opposed.
His dream of coming to power in May 2014 elections could not be realized for various reasons. For one, he had been out of jail for only a few months, giving him barely any time to focus on the party activities. The electorate clearly thought that an experienced leader like Chandrababu Naidu was a better bet to develop a newly truncated state.
Though he lost in 2014 to Naidu, who had forged an alliance with the BJP and got support from actor Pawan Kalyan, Jagan Reddy started a 3,640km padyatra across the state in In November 2017 to take his fight against Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party to the people . The connect he developed resulted in the 2019 landslide. While it remains to be seen whether Jagan Reddy, a a devout Christian, will align with the BJP-led NDA, he can savour a hard-fought victory.