- YSR Congress currently has 18 MLAs, 2 Lok Sabha MPs
- At least 40 MLAs said to be ready to join party, but Jagan unsure about giving them tickets
- In 1983, when NTR founded the TDP, 90% went to freshers. Jagan toying with same formula.
- The SC denies Jagan bail on May 9. The apex court directs the CBI to complete probe in four months.
It was on May 27, 2012, that Yuvajana Sramika Raithu Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy was arrested by the CBI in an illegal assets case. Since then, the 40-year-old MP from Kadapa has been an inmate of the Chanchalguda prison as a special category undertrial prisoner. But a year after his arrest, Jagan continues to be the biggest nightmare for both the Congress and the Telugu Desam (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh.
The prodigal heir of the state Congress, accused of using his late father Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s position as CM to acquire quid pro quo benefits (to the tune of hundreds of crores) from various investors in his companies, has turned Andhra politics on its head. Two chief ministers and much internal fighting later, the Congress government today gasps for life. The same is the case with the TDP whose voter base continues to diminish despite president Chandrababu Naidu’s padayatra.
In the recent no-confidence motion in the assembly, moved by the TRS and YSR Congress, nine MLAs from the Congress and TDP switched loyalties to the YSR Congress. If murmurs from both camps are to be believed, many more will jump ship in 2014.
The candlelight protests held by the YSR Congress on Jagan’s completion of one year in prison found an echo across the state. Senior party leader M.V. Mysoora Reddy says the people’s affection for Jagan hasn’t waned one bit. “Surveys show that Jagan is still as popular...the people know the CBI is simply acting against him at the behest of the Congress high command,” he says.
“Everyone predicted the downfall of the party after Jagan’s arrest but we swept the byelections, winning 15 assembly and one Lok Sabha seat. The party is intact and it continues to take up people’s issues,” asserts Mysoora.
When senior TDP leader Dadi Veerabhadra Rao joined the YSR Congress, Chandrababu Naidu lashed out saying Jagan’s was a horse-trading party and even likened him to gangster Dawood Ibrahim. But many within the TDP admit even they would cross over provided a ticket is guaranteed. With the CBI also chargesheeting Congress ministers in the Jagan case, dissent within the ruling party’s camp has grown too. “Most of the Reddy leaders are just waiting for the right time to join Jagan,” a minister from coastal Andhra told Outlook.
YSR Congress MP Mekapati Rajmohan Reddy admits that Jagan’s absence has affected party morale, but it doesn’t matter. “Nobody can save the Congress and the TDP has lost credibility. We will sweep the polls in coastal Andhra, Rayalaseema and south Telangana,” says the MP from Nellore.
While mother and honorary president Vijayalakshmi and sister Sharmila take care of political activities, wife Bharathi looks after Jagan’s businesses. “The three women are our pillars of strength,” says Mysura. YSR Jr will have to wait till September when he can seek bail next.
Mekapati says party coordinators have already been appointed in 200 assembly constituencies and they would be most likely the candidates too. “In some places, we have 2-3 coordinators...the best among them will be picked.”
Political analyst Telkapalli Ravi, however, feels the YSR Congress has milked the sympathy factor dry. “Now, unless the party proves it can deliver the goods when it comes to agriculture, jobs, power sector and incentives for the BPL sector, it won’t garner enough seats to form a government,” says Ravi.
At a protest held at Indira Park in Hyderabad on May 28, Jagan’s mother Vijayalakshmi again harped on the chance of sweeping the polls in 2014 and Jagan becoming CM. “We are looking at 200 seats,” she too stressed. On a likely post-poll tie-up with the Congress, Mysoora Reddy says the party will take an appropriate decision based on the situation then. “We are all for political stability in the country. One thing’s for sure, we’ll play a key role in Delhi politics,” he says.