Out on bail, Ja­gan Mo­han Reddy is all set to use the anti- Te­lan­gana plank against his jit­tery op­po­nents

India Today - - NATION - By Amar­nath K. Menon

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’.

Fol­low the writer on Twit­ter@ Amar­nathK­Menon



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