Ritesh K Srivastava
The successful launch of Jagan Reddy’s Odarpu Yatra must not only be seen as the Kadapa MP’s big victory over his fierce rivals within Congress party since it has wider implications.
The young MP, who has been nurturing ambition to become state’s chief minister, appears to be stepping into his late father YSR’s shoes by taking out controversial yatras, defying the Congress central leadership.
Although it would be too early to say whether Jagan’s controversial Odarpu Yatra will elevate his political stature in the state, it is sure that he is trying to fill the void created by YSR’s death. The young Congress MP, who is as bold as his late father YSR, has emerged as powerful face among the present lot of Congress leaders in Andhra Pradesh.
Jagan’s rising popularity and people’s growing support is virtually giving sleepless nights to Chief Minister K Rosaiah, who has faced flak for trying to belittle YSR’s achievement.
A large gamut of YSR’s sympathisers, which emerged as the young leader began his `Odarpu` yatra in Andhra Pradesh`s Srikakulam district, points to the fact that Jagan and his family command the same respect and support, which the late charismatic enjoyed.
Jagan’s open defiance of Congress high command’s directives asking him to quit his campaign has spilt the party in two - one side pressuring Chief Minister Rosaiah to stop his tour and the other camp supporting the Kadapa MP.
In view of Jagan’s standing in the state politics, Congress high command is tight-lipped at the moments over the issue. The Congress leadership has been maintaining that it is not worried about the political fallout of Jagan’s campaign, but is indeed keeping a close watch on how things unfold post-Odarpu yatra.
With his campaign, Jagan has thrown a challenge at the Congress, which has failed in the past to bridge the widening gap between him and the Chief Minister. Jagan’s controversial campaign has also raised political heat in the state, where the by-elections to 12 assembly seats in Telangana region are due to be held on July 27.
The timing of Jagan’s yatra coincided with YSR’s birth anniversary, which is likely to strike an emotional chord with his father’s sympathisers and could even benefit Congress in the upcoming by-polls.
After YSR’s death, a section of his loyalists wanted Jagan to become the Chief Minister, but the central leadership preferred an experienced Rosiah over Jagan – then a novice in the Andhra politics. This triggered resentment in the Congress leadership in the state and led to the emergence of different power centres. The power game within the party has led to a face-off between Rosiah and Jagan Reddy quite often and has caused embarrassment to the Congress leadership.
Jagan’s tour has shattered Congress’ hopes of uniting the party under one leader, as it has once again brought to fore its internal feud. This is also evident from the fact that Chief Minister K Rosaiah gave clear instructions to the party legislators to boycott Jagan’s consolation tour.
Rosaiah has in the past cited lack of cooperation from a section of ministers close to Jagan in the day-to-day administration of the state, which has made him a laughing stock before the opposition.
What has further troubled the Congress leadership is the enormous support, which Jagan got from party legislators despite warnings of extreme action from central leadership. The second rung leaders of Congress seems to have taken a calculated risk of favouring Jagan in anticipation of being rewarded if things turn in favour of YSR’s son.
Late YSR’s opposition to separate statehood for Telangana has further bothered the central leadership in view of the opposition from those party MPs and MLAs, who hail from the Telangana and protested Jagan’s tour.
Telugu Desam, which has reverted to its traditional stand on the Telangana statehood, is hoping to reap political benefits in case of any split in the Congress fold.
TDP has further predicted that Jagan’s tour could lead to vertical division in the Congress. TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu is hopeful that given the dissent among the Congress leaders over Telangana issue, the party would split and some of them could join his party in the days to come.
The extensive media coverage of Jagan`s yatra has put the Congress in a fix. The party is carefully weighing all options since any negative fallout of this tour would damage or destabilize the Rosaiah government. With only few days left for the by-elections in Telangana, the Congress seems to be in no mood to invite further trouble.
The young MP also seems to have taken some amount of risk by readying himself for a direct face-off with the Congress if things don’t go well. However, if Jagan faces Congress’ music for his defiance, the party might also risk losing some of its trusted leaders, walking out of the party in solidarity with the Kadapa MP.
Among the opposition parties, TDP is most likely to benefit from Congress’ loss. TDP, which enjoys a strong base in the Telanaga region, is eager to re-emerge as a formidable force in the State. The upcoming polls could set a stage for TDP to exhibit its might
TDP conceded majority of ten assembly constituencies to TRS led by K Chandrashekhar Rao as part of an electoral pact in 2009.
A lot is at stake for Congress, which has decided to field some of its regional heavyweights in half-a-dozen segments.
Top Congressmen, who are in electoral fray, are Andhra Pradesh Congress committee chief D Srinivas, who is harbouring ambition to become the Deputy Chief Minister if he wins from Nizamabad Urban constituency, former ministers like Md Ali Shabbir, J Ratnakar Rao, G Vinod and former MP Indrakaran Reddy.
Meanwhile, TRS led by KCR is confident of a clean sweep in all the 11 assembly segments it is contesting in. In a tactical move, TRS is supporting BJP’s Y Lakshminarayana in Nizamabad Urban. Lakshminarayana defeated Congress’ Srinivas in previous polls and latter resigned from the MLA’s post along with the TRS legislators over the separate statehood issue in February this year.
Congress fears that Jagan’s Odarpu yatra will ignite the ‘Telangana sentiment’, which would help TRS get maximum support over Centre’s betrayal on the issue of statehood.
As the situation stands, stakes are high for all major players, but it would certainly be a do-or-die situation for TRS which would not like a repeat of 2008 when it was reduced from 26 to just seven after having forced by-elections on the statehood issue.
For Jagan, who is trying to establish himself as a natural successor to YSR, the peaceful conclusion of his campaign will also strengthen his claim for chief ministership.