AMARAVATI: May 23rd marks the watershed moment in the history of Andhra Pradesh politics. As Andhra Pradesh yearned for a refreshing change, exactly, an year ago on this very day, a new political order has emerged with an iconic leader at its helm.
On May 23rd, 2019, riding high on a massive mandate given by the electorate of Andhra Pradesh, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, as the president of YSRCP, emerged as the most endearing leader of the state. The people’s mandate was clear, unequivocal and one-sided. Vexed with the oppressive regime of the previous Telugu Desam Party, they voted in favour of YS Jagan in 151 Assembly seats out of a total of 175 and 22 Lok Sabha seats out of 25, making the entire nation sit up and take note of this stunning achievement.
Unlike on most counting days, the suspense of a counting thriller on May 23rd last year subsided within an hour of the opening of the EVMs. There was only excitement in the air that lay centered around two points of academic curiosity: How much of a clean sweep would it be for the YSRCP? And, how many TDP contestants will actually survive the YS ‘Jagannaut’? The mood was no different even among the TDP leaders, who appeared resigned to the fate long before the EVM boxes were opened.
As the winds of change blew strongly across the length and breadth of the state right since he set out on a historic ‘Praja Sankalpa Yatra ’ (foot march), YS Jagan Mohan Reddy became the undisputed leader of the masses by garnering 86 per cent of seats in Assembly polls and 92 per cent of seats in the Lok Sabha elections. One year has passed since the YSRCP government was formed in Andhra Pradesh but the memories of one of the greatest electoral victories in the country’s history are still as fresh today as they were then.
Truly, YSRCP’s victory turned out to be one of the most unique feats in the country’s electoral politics. The massive mandate of the people, reflecting in the percentage of votes in both the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, remains unparalleled. It was an achievement that no political party could ever dream of achieving on its own weight in the history of undivided Andhra Pradesh. Even in 1994, when TDP patriarch NT Rama Rao bounced back to power with a grand victory in alliance with the Left parties, his party’s share of votes was only 44 per cent while the Left combine managed another 6.35 per cent.
But the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSRCP’s landslide victory in 2019 will be etched in history as the most enviable for political opponents as it grossed a whopping 50 per cent votes. Incidentally, the YSRCP fought it alone against all adversities including the devious tactics of the TDP and Chandrababu Naidu and the continued campaign of bluster by his pocket media or ‘yellow media’.
CURTAINS DOWN ON POLITICS OF DECEPTION AND HATRED
The 2019 elections are unique in many other ways too. On a wider canvass, it thoroughly exposed the dubious distinction of TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu for being the ‘most experienced chief minister who never won a single election on his own weight’. Since the time he backstabbed his father-in-law and TDP patriarch NT Rama Rao in the infamous August coup and usurped power, Chandrababu always relied on political alliances for a safe piggyback ride on other political parties to clear the electoral hurdles.
As largely suspected, in the run-up to the 2019 elections, the TDP chief unleashed a wily plot to push actor-turned-politician Pawan Kalyan and his Jana Sena party into the electoral fray as an independent contestant. It was a desperate bid to minimise the anti-incumbency vote. Soon, Naidu’s footprints were also seen in every poll strategy of the Jana Sena, be it in its tie-ups with the Left parties and BSP or in himself finalizing their seat-share. In yet another sign of their nexus, the Jana Sena conveniently stayed out of the Mangalagiri Assembly race to help improve the prospects of Naidu’s son Nara Lokesh there.
Reciprocating this tacit gesture, Chandrababu Naidu also kept himself away from campaigning in Bhimavaram and Gajuwaka Assembly constituencies from where Pawan Kalyan contested and tasted a double whammy of humiliating defeats. The Jana Sena leader too returned the favour to the TDP by abstaining from campaigning for the candidates of his Left allies in Mangalagiri and Kuppam. Naidu’s measures of desperation did not stop at that.
In a brazen show of sheer opportunism, Naidu cozied up to TDP’s arch-rival Congress and even hobnobbed with Rahul Gandhi at the national level. All this political manoeuvring of Chandrababu was in the hope of slashing the anti-establishment vote in the state to the extent possible. While Naidu thrived on all backroom machinations to somehow retain power in the state, his ‘pocket media’ went on a blitz of venomous campaign to defame YS Jagan and his YSRCP. Unnerved by the coming together of his political adversaries led by Chandrababu Naidu, the YSRCP chief went to the hustings with the positive image of faith and trust he created for himself among the masses, something that has only multiplied manifold during his record-breaking ‘padayatra’. Despite all the plotting and deception by Naidu and his cronies, YS Jagan pulling off a landslide victory that is hard to emulate has naturally grabbed all the eyeballs at the national level.
TDP LEFT TO LICK ITS WOUNDS
The heart-breaking result of the 2019 elections was a reality check for the TDP in many ways. The party had never lost an election so badly in its 36 years of political existence. And the party’s worst-ever drubbing happening under his leadership is obviously an ignominious distinction that Chandrababu Naidu will have to live with all his life. Worse still, his son Nara Lokesh, whom he wanted to anoint on the highest pedestal of the TDP after the 2019 elections, was defeated in Mangalagiri. Out of 175 Assembly seats, TDP’s candidates barely managed to win 23. Three is all that it got out of 25 in the Lok Sabha polls.
As YS ‘Jagannaut’ rolled on, about 19 ministers in Chandrababu Naidu’s cabinet besides the speaker and deputy speaker were trounced in the elections. The Jana Sena’s roars and war-cries that were the order of the day during the election campaign with the single-minded motive of maligning YS Jagan ironically ended up as a whimper. With people giving a clear mandate for trust and credibility over glitz and glamour, Pawan Kalyan ended up losing both his seats. As a minor consolation, his party managed to win one seat in the 2019 elections. The BJP and the Congress, the two national parties that locked their horns at the Centre, sank without a trace.
The 2019 elections will certainly stand out in the 70-odd year history of Andhra Pradesh for bestowing YS Jagan and his YSRCP with one of the most fascinating electoral victories in the country.