PUTTING the seal on Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy’s complete control over his party, the YSR Congress Party is set to anoint him as its lifetime president at a two-day plenary that began near Guntur on Friday.
Since Jagan’s landslide win in May 2019 with 150 seats out of 175 in Andhra, powered almost entirely by him, and not in small measure by his gruelling yatra across the state, the 49-year-old has strengthened his hold on not just the YSRCP but also the state. The YSRCP now controls all the urban and rural local bodies in Andhra, with the Opposition Telugu Desam Party virtually decimated.
So complete is the grip that it might now be causing friction within the family. On Friday, Jagan’s mother Y S Vijaya Lakshmi, the co-founder of the YSRCP, announced her resignation as honorary president of the party, saying she wanted to devote herself to helping daughter Y S Sharmila Reddy. The latter, who floated the YSRCP Telangana Party last year, is believed to have made the shift to the neighbouring state seeing no space for herself in Andhra under Jagan.
It’s 11 years since Jagan parted ways with the Congress with his supporters, after a long wait for the party to acknowledge his right to the legacy of father Y S Rajasekhara Reddy or YSR – the tallest Andhra leader of the Congress and the sitting CM at the time of his death. In this decade and more, the YSRCP has seen no second-rung leadership come up, with all party decisions taken by Jagan himself. When he carried out a mid-term reshuffle of his ministry, there was not even a whimper of protest.
As CM, meanwhile, Jagan has been adding to his popularity with welfare schemes, aimed at all sections of society. The plenary is expected to pass resolutions approving these schemes, and hail Jagan for his “reforms in the education and health sector”.
The show of strength incidentally coincides with YSR’s birth anniversary.
YSRCP general secretary Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy said Jagan is popular because of his welfare schemes. “He has the overwhelming backing of people and it is evident in the clean sweep in all the elections since the party came to power in May 2019. Everyone is loyal to him. He is compassionate and likes to keep things transparent,’’ Sajjala said.
Two leaders considered close to Jagan are party national general secretary and Rajya Sabha MP V Vijay Sai Reddy, and general secretary Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy.
In her speech, in which she also announced her resignation as honorary president, Vijaya Lakshmi, 66, said Jagan saw YSR as his hero and she was glad he was following in his father’s footsteps. “He is a mass leader like YSR. Jagan has revolutionised governance and given a new meaning to the welfare of people, just like his father… I want to tell everyone, if you put your and your children’s future in Jagan’s hands, it will be very bright.”
At the same time, in a hint at the family tension, Vijaya Lakshmi said they were all united, and that as a mother, she supports Jagan and Sharmila’s political aspirations “equally”. She also said she was upset at talk in social media about discord in the YSR family. “Who questions a mother’s love towards her children? There are malicious reports that mother and children do not talk to each other. I know how to support my children,” she said.
Vijaya Lakshmi added: “Now that Jagan has become a popular CM, and I hope he will be re-elected with an even bigger majority, I have my duty towards Sharmila. She is experimenting with politics and I want to help her. She is fighting alone to carry forward YSR’s ideas. For sometime now I have been in a dilemma whether I can be a member of two parties. To avoid any criticism and speculation as Sharmila has a separate party in a separate state, I am resigning from the YSRCP.”
Also an MP at the time of YSR’s death, Vijaya Lakshmi became the YSRCP chairperson on March 12, 2012, and had played an important role in drafting the party’s policies and strategy. After Jagan’s arrest by the CBI in May 2012, she had taken over the party’s reins and along with Sharmila toured undivided Andhra Pradesh, mobilising support for him.
She was also behind Jagan’s Praja Sankalpa Yatra padayatra of 3,648 km which helped him storm to power.
Sharmila, who launched the YSR Telangana Party on July 8 last year, has also been on a tour of the state to build her party in the state once part of unified Andhra. Sources said a majority of her supporters are former members of the Congress or the YSRCP, from before when the state was bifurcated. The YSRCP Telangana is eyeing former TDP supporters as well as Muslims disillusioned with the AIMIM.