RETURN OFTHE PEOPLE’S SON
Out on bail, Jagan Mohan Reddy is all set to use the anti- Telangana plank against his jittery opponents
YSR Congress President Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s release from Hyderabad’s Chanchalguda Central Jail on September 24 is set to change the course of politics in Andhra Pradesh, which is grappling with the emotive issue of the state’s proposed bifurcation. On getting bail, 485 days after he was arrested on charges of corruption, the charismatic Jagan walked free to a hero’s welcome, greeting rapturous crowds of party activists and exuberant fans with hands clasped high in the air even as cries of “Jai Jagan” and “Jagan CM” rent the air.
People jostled to shake hands as he got off the bulletproof Scorpio to greet them, the 18- km journey to his home taking more than five hours. On the way, Jagan passed by the state headquarters of political rivals— Gandhi Bhavan of Congress, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Bhavan of BJP, NTR Bhavan of Telugu Desam Party ( TDP) and his bitter media rival Eenadu. He will take on all of them in the run- up to the 2014 General Elections, especially on the issue of a separate Telangana. YSR Congress plans to capitalise on the anti- bifurcation sentiment and be at the forefront of a ‘ Samaikyandhra’ ( United Andhra Pradesh) campaign.
Executing the plan is easier said than done. Jagan can travel out of Hyderabad only with prior permission of the CBI court. The nearest point in the 13 non- Telangana districts, collectively called Seemandhra, is at least 200 km away and the farthest about 800 km from Hyderabad. Going on yatras and staging dharnas will not be easy, given the restrictions. In the sixth petition seeking bail on September 11 in the Special Court for CBI cases of Principal Sessions Judge U. Durga Prasad Rao, Jagan had said: “I am the president of a major political party in the state. According to several surveys conducted by the national media, my party has emerged as a dominant force in the state. In these difficult times when the people of Seemandhra have hit the streets demanding justice, it is my responsibility to be by their side, and support them in all possible ways.”
Jagan will begin by meeting pro-Samaikyandhra groups in Hyderabad. In his first meeting after his release, he met a delegation of the state Secretariat Seemandhra Employees Association at his Lotus Pond home on September 25. The YSR Congress chief will also leverage his Sakshi Telugu daily and TV channel to obtain a clear edge over other parties in Seemandhra, which has 25 Lok Sabha and 175 Assembly constituencies. YSR Congress plans to hold a series of mass protests across the region from October 1.
Recent opinion polls by different agencies point to Jagan’s party faring better than TDP, with Congress finishing a poor third. Jagan’s strategy is to emerge as the champion of the Seemandhra regional cause. His party will go it alone, though the granting of bail fuelled speculation that YSR Congress has reached an agreement with Congress. “Jagan has established himself clearly as the people’s man and there is no need for us to align with a miserable loser like the Congress,” says YSR Congress Political Affairs Committee member D. A. Somayajulu. The ruling Congress is worried, as an exodus from the party to YSR Congress is imminent. “The Congress is finished in Seemandhra. Carving out Telangana and Jagan’s release would both work towards destroying the Congress,” says ex- minister J. C. Diwakar Reddy, a six- time MLA.
While Jagan will choose selectively from defecting Congressmen, he is fiercely targeting TDP, which is seen as a bigger threat, especially in the southern coastal districts and pockets of Rayalaseema. “Congress and YSR Congress have struck a deal that will surface later, maybe after the elections,” says TDP politburo member Yanamala Ramakrishnudu. His party is worried that the middle class, urban, good governance constituency may drift to YSR Congress under a
youthful and forceful leader articulating against bifurcation.
Jagan’s twin challenge is to debunk the deal- with- Congress theory and play on emotive support for a united state, even if the Centre goes ahead with the proposed bifurcation. It is only then that he can sustain the image of being the torch- bearer of the legacy of his father, the late Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy. “The initial advantage, when he was perceived as a strongman who challenged Sonia Gandhi, is lost in the din over the issue of dividing Andhra Pradesh,” says political analyst C. Narasimha Rao.
There is another worry. Shaking off the accusations of being corrupt is not easy. “Cases against Jagan, as also others accused of corruption, should be tried like the Delhi gang- rape case,” says Lok Satta Party President Jayaprakash Narayan. With elections less than seven months away, even a fast- track court can’t stop Jagan’s march as Seemandhra’s ‘ new saviour’.
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JAGAN MOHAN REDDYGREETS SUPPORTERS AFTER EMERGING FROM CHANCHALGUDAJAIL