Sonrise or Sunset?
- The Kadapa byelection is a make-or-break election for YSR’s son Jaganmohan Reddy
- He is contesting the Kadapa Lok Sabha seat; his mother Vijayalakshmi is contesting the Pulivendula assembly seat
- The two have been playing the sympathy card and trying to cash in on the YSR legacy
- 11 candidates with the name Jaganmohan Reddy and seven Vijayalakshmi have filed papers
- Feeling the heat, Congress has put 12 ministers on the campaign
Addressing a crowd while campaigning in Kadapa, Jaganmohan Reddy says, “This is not just an election, it’s war. It’s a fight between dharma and adharma, justice and injustice.” The wave of the hand that accompanies those words is an imitation of a famous gesture of his late father, former chief minister and Congress strongman Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. The May 8 byelections for the Kadapa Lok Sabha seat, which Jagan is contesting, and the Pulivendula assembly constituency, where his mother Y.S. Vijayalakshmi is in the fray, are unusual in that both are contesting for the first time after Jagan’s bitter estrangement from his father’s party, the Congress, to set up the Y.S. Congress.
Vijayalakshmi, commonly known as Vijayamma, was elected unanimously from Pulivendula after YSR’s death in a chopper crash in 2009. But the rarely seen, barely heard, widow of YSR has now donned the garb of a true politician. Battling the summer heat of 40-plus degrees Celsius, Vijayalakshmi has taken to door-to-door campaigning. Starting at 7 am, she covers five villages every day and has refrained from making any speeches. Her appeal to voters is simple: “Vote for me, vote for my son.”
Despite the fact that this would be a re-election for her, the sympathy wave for Vijayalakshmi continues. Voters, especially women, are in tears as they see the late CM’s wife knocking at their door. Jagan’s close aide and former Congress leader Ambatti Rambabu says that the people of Pulivendula will teach a fitting lesson to the Congress for “ill-treating” YSR’s son and widow.
Vijayalakshmi upped the sentiment quotient a lot higher on the day she filed her nomination papers. With daughter Sharmila by her side, Vijalakshmi wept silently as she submitted her papers. Contesting against her, on a Congress ticket, is YSR’s younger brother and state agriculture minister Y.S. Vivekananda Reddy, a leader who has been both an MLA and an MP from the district. Vivekananda, who vacated his Kadapa Lok Sabha seat for his prodigal nephew Jagan, is also viewed by voters as a YSR family man. His connection with locals is earthy and undisputed, but then Vivekananda was always seen as a backroom boy for his late brother.
Jagan finds himself pitted against state health minister D.L. Ravindra Reddy and Mysoora Reddy of the Telugu Desam. The fact that 12 cabinet ministers are campaigning for Ravindra Reddy is a pointer to how seriously the Congress views this bypoll. Ravindra Reddy says he is confident that he will win with a majority of one lakh votes. “All the traditional Congress voters will stand by me. Jagan’s corruption will cost him his seat,” he says.
Both Jagan’s wife Bharati and his sister Sharmila have also been campaigning. Jagan’s campaign has consisted chiefly of road shows and brief speeches, in which he takes care to emphasise that the bypolls are a fight between YSR’s legacy and Sonia Gandhi.
While the contenders for YSR’s political legacy are many, an interesting fact emerges. There are 11 persons with the name Jaganmohan Reddy who have filed their nominations in Kadapa and six with the name Vijayalakshmi who are contesting in Pulivendula. Clearly, someone is worried. Ravindra Reddy and Mysoora also have two namesakes in the fray. So in this Kadapa bypoll, apparently it’s all in the name. But that apart, this is a make-or-break election for Jagan. If he fails, then his nascent party could well be history.