From walking more than 3,500 kilometres across the state to clinical takedowns of the various decisions of Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy is making every effort possible to dethrone the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) supremo. The stakes are high in Andhra Pradesh where simultaneous assembly and Lok Sabha elections are turning out to be an intense battle of charges and counter-charges and competitive populism. Naidu is also battling anti-incumbency, and Jagan Mohan may well be the chief minister-in-waiting.
For almost a decade now-since the death of former chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy-Jagan has been waiting to step into his father’s shoes. He quit the Congress to launch the YSRC (Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress) in 2011 and lost to Naidu’s TDP in a close fight in 2014. This only steeled his resolve to keep up the pressure on Naidu rather than wait till elections came around again.
The past few years have seen Jagan up the ante on Naidu and the ruling TDP. First, he questioned the furtive deals to build a grandiose greenfield capital, Amaravati, and the large-scale land acquisition from farmers after offering them paltry compensation and turning a blind eye to the speculative trade in surrounding land and property. Then, sensing that the TDP was winning over YSRC legislators and encouraging defections, Jagan protested by staying away from the assembly. Simultaneously, Jagan’s YSRC steadily captured the voter base of the Congress, which is sliding in Andhra Pradesh.
Jagan has also built his rural base by getting the Reddys, minorities and Scheduled Castes to back the YSRC. The Christians among the Dalit Mala community have pledged support to the YSRC as Jagan is a Christian. Add to these the legacy of his father, YSR, who had an iconic stature because of the welfare schemes launched during his tenure. However, Jagan is not just banking on YSR’s image, he has cultivated his own political persona as a gritty fighter. And to make sure this goodwill remains intact, Jagan undertook the Praja Sankalpa Yatra-for more than 14 months until January 9 this year. He trekked 3,648 km, covering 125 assembly constituencies and followed it up with the Ninnu Nammam Babu (We don’t trust you Babu) campaign to highlight the unfulfilled promises of the TDP government. YSRC coordinators visited 20 villages each, in all the 175 assembly constituencies in branded vehicles to conduct village-level meetings. The purpose was to give people a platform to vent their anger and frustrations and declare a ‘no-confidence’ in the Naidu government.
Meanwhile, the Jagan Anna Pilupu campaign has created a network of village-level influencers, who were identified between September and December 2018, to function as a link between Jagan and the people at the grassroots.
His promises are billed as the Nava Ratnas: a grant of Rs 50,000 to small farmers as YSR Rythu Bharosa, interest-free loans to women self-help groups, Rs 2,000 as pension for senior citizens and widows, cash grants of Rs 500-1,000 to school and college students, build 2.5 million houses for the poor in five years, revamp the Arogyasri health scheme, reimburse fees of needy students, accelerate work on irrigation and drinking water projects, and reintroduce the ban on manufacture and sale of liquor in a phased manner. Jagan’s campaign underlines these promises, which are apparently making an impact.