By embarking on a 3,000-km long ‘Praja Sankalpa Yatra’, Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, leader of Opposition in Andhra Pradesh, is emulating his father late Y S Rajasekhara Reddy who also undertook a 1,400-km padayatra in April 2003 to come to power a year later.
YSR’s padayatra 14 years ago became very popular at a time when the popularity of then ruling Telugu Desam Party led by N Chandrababu Naidu in his second term was very low and anti-incumbancy had peaked after 10 years of TDP rule. Large parts of undivided AP were reeling under drought and farmers were committing suicide in large numbers. People saw YSR as someone who may attend to their problems. YSR and Congress swept to power in the 2004 elections.
As YSR’s son Jagan started his ‘padyatra’ on November 6 from his native Idupalapaya in Kadapa district, circumstances are different. Unlike 2003, there are no burning issues to capitalise on during the padayatra. The ruling TDP and Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu are still popular and there is no visible anti-incumbancy wave yet. The TDP has actually consolidated its position since coming to power in 2014 with at least 20 of Jagan’s MLAs joining TDP. Most of the welfare and pro-poor schemes launched by the government have been well received. Chandrababu Naidu also has the advantage of being seen as a good administrator. The assurance of a world class capital at Amaravati, the promise of Polavaram dam and Pattiseema Project linking Godavari with Krishna basin to mitigate scarcity in Rayalaseema region, and making AP as a top investment state in the country, have so far kept Naidu and TDP in the good books of Andhra people.
Assembly and Parliamentary elections are held simultaneously in AP and although polls are one-and-half-year away, the TDP appears to be strong.
However, Jagan’s popularity among the masses especially among socially and economically backward communities has always remained very high. His YSR Congress Party lost in 2014 by a margin of just 2.6 per cent. The TDP gained mainly from the solid backing of the 27 per cent strong Kapu community to whom Naidu promised quotas, a promise yet to be fulfilled. Naidu’s loan waiver scheme also helped the TDP in 2014.
By renewing contact with people for six months during the padayatra just like his father did, if Jagan manages to tilt communities like Kapus, BCs, SCs, STs and OBCs in his favour, then TDP may find the going tough in 2019.
Jagan’s yatra will end at Icchapuram in Srikakulam district in north Coastal AP. While he will address some 125 public meetings in 125 constituencies, YSRCP leaders will do bus yatras in the remaining 50 Assembly constituencies.
Jagan aims to come to power by reaching out to as many people as possible during this yatra and informing them about the alleged misdeeds, corruption and ‘misrule’ of TDP. The strategy is a combination of suggestions from political strategist Prashant Kishore and Jagan’s tried and tested policy of meeting people through padayatras and road shows.
YSRCP is presenting him as the messiah and savior needed for AP hence the slogan ‘Ravali Jagan, kavali Jagan’ (Jagan should come to power, Jagan is needed). The quid pro quo CBI case against Jagan, the trial of which is going on, hangs like a dark cloud over Jagan and his party, though. At his first big public meeting on Tuesday, Jagan promised to fill 1.42 lakh vacancies in government as soon as the YSRCP came to power. He promised free power to all SC and ST colonies.