On January 9, Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy completed the longest padayatra by any politician in the country, walking 3,648 km across 13 districts of Andhra Pradesh in 241 days. His support team estimated that Jagan interacted with more than 2 crore people, directly or indirectly, and predicted a pro-Jagan wave decimating the TDP three months later.
Now, the YSRCP looks set to win more than 151 of the 175 Assembly seats and 22 of 25 Lok Sabha seats in the state, sweeping away the ruling TDP and all other parties. This is the first time the son of a chief minister who died in harness (Y S Rajasekhara Reddy) went on to start a new political party and came to power on his own.
Actor-turned-politician Pawan Kalyan, who supported the TDP in 2014, became its nemesis in 2019 as his fledgling Jana Sena Party cut up to 9 per cent of TDP votes, ensuring a total rout of the ruling party. The BJP and Congress scored nil.
TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu was leading in his constituency of Kuppam in Chittoor district, but his son Lokesh was trailing from Mangalagiri in the heart of Amaravati Capital Region. All 15 TDP ministers and many of their kin who contested were trailing.
“This is the victory of Andhra people over TDP’s corruption and misrule. I dedicate this victory to the people of Andhra,’’ said Jagan. The YSRCP’s Legislative Party will hold a meeting on Saturday when Jagan will be elected as the leader, and he will take oath on May 30 in Vijayawada.
As the first trends came in, Naidu said, “There was anti-incumbency, but we did not anticipate that it was this strong. Whether in power or out of it, we will continue to work for the welfare of the people.”
While in 2014, the difference in vote share between TDP and YSRCP was less than 2 per cent, this time it was more than 10 per cent. While YSRCP got approximately 51 per cent votes, TDP got 38.12 per cent and Jana Sena 8 per. BCs, SCs/STs and the Kapu community appeared to have voted in favour of Jagan.
The stage was set for the sweeping victory when Jagan and IPAC (his support team) founder Prashant Kishor raised the issue of Special Category status. Even as Jagan ramped up his attack on Naidu for failing to secure this tag for Andhra, YSRCP MPs resigned from Parliament. This forced Naidu to take cudgels with the BJP and Modi, which resulted in the TDP exiting from NDA. This was the first victory for Jagan.
The TDP was contesting alone for the first time. Anti-incumbency, allegations of corruption among MLAs and ministers, and a mood in favour of change after Jagan’s record-breaking padayatra all contributed to the TDP’s rout. And Jagan’s statement that he would support any party at the Centre that grants Special Category status to Andhra made him emerge politically stronger. This posturing catapulted Jagan ahead of Naidu, who was touring the country trying to cobble together a coalition of “anti-BJP” parties. It appears that the pro-BJP mood across the country converted into votes for YSRCP in Andhra rather than the BJP.
Battling graft charges, Modi wave
TILL Wednesday, TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu was at the forefront of efforts to form an anti-BJP national front in the hope that an Opposition coalition would get a chance to form the government at the Centre. But the almost total wipeout of the TDP puts a question mark on his role in national, as well as state, politics. After winning a clear majority in 2014 with the BJP’s help, Naidu squandered away his chance of winning another term. While there were many factors at play, the main reason seems to be the corruption charges against the government. For Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, it is a reward for his eight years of hard work, including a 3,648-km-long padyatra.
There was resentment against Naidu for joining hands with the Congress, which many still blame for the 2014 bifurcation that they see as having left Andhra at a disadvantage. Instead of first concentrating on assistance to the distressed farm sector, tackling drought and creating employment opportunities, Naidu embarked on constructing a world-class capital at Amaravati, which is yet to take off.
“While concentrating on constructing the new capital, introducing new technologies, wooing foreign and domestic investment and promoting Andhra as a ‘Sunrise State’, Naidu neglected the masses. It is a mistake he made in his previous term as CM of united Andhra Pradesh,” a former TDP minister said.
Naidu’s image took another beating when the TDP was decimated in the Telangana Assembly elections in December. Naidu had joined hands with the Congress and Left parties and campaigned against TRS.
However, the biggest advantage Jagan had was possibly his public outreach. “He was among the people through the last five years of TDP rule. People who were experiencing hardship due to the TDP’s bad governance, corruption and neglect by the ruling party MLAs saw Jagan as the alternative for Naidu. They taught Naidu a lesson that no politician can take people for granted,” said YSRCP spokesperson Ambati Rambabu.