Twelve winters ago, on September 2, a plane crash changed the political development trajectory of the unified Andhra Pradesh. Pulivendula strong man and charismatic leader of the people, Yeduguri Sandinti Rajasekhara Reddy, was killed when the Bell 430 helicopter crashed and exploded at Pavurlagutta in the Nallamalla forests. In death, as in life, he had defied rules.
YSR, as he was endearingly called, travelled more than 1,500 kilometres on foot across 11 districts in 60 days, from Chevella in Telangana to Ichchapuram in coastal Andhra, to drive the Congress party to power in 2004. He was mobbed by men and women, young and old, teachers, nurses, housewives and farmers, in the village after village, all of whom poured out their hearts to Rajanna, who lent a patient ear to them.
He seized power from Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP with a landslide win— 156 Assembly seats—and sent 33 MPs from Andhra Pradesh to the UPA kitty after his momentous state-wide padayatra.
The Congress party, which owed the formation of its UPA government to YSR, committed political hara-kiri in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. The party led by Sonia Gandhi forgot the very man who resurrected the outfit and re-energized it in its darkest hour.
In a single stroke, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy managed to assert control of his father’s legacy and set the stage for his Odarpu Yatra. The political chapter of YS Jagan’s life began in September 2009 after the all-mighty UPA-chairperson Sonia Gandhi had openly humiliated Y S Vijayalakshmi, wife of YSR and mother of YS Jagan Mohan Reddy. YSR’s family was denied permission to continue the “Odarpu Yatra” conducted by the young Jagan to comfort families of people who died of shock or suicide after losing their dear leader. YS Jagan embarked on the Padayatra to honour his father's memory and the grief of the bereaved families.
After his father Dr. YS Rajasekhara Reddy died in 2009, YS Jagan did not immediately become Chief Minister. In fact, his thorny political journey was an uphill one, marked by treachery by those he and his father had trusted, tears and sweat. He worked tirelessly, overcame many an obstacle, and took ten long years to win people's hearts.
Like YSR, the 36-year-old Jagan undertook a record 3,640 km long padayatra through the length and breadth of the state and like his iconic father, Jagan Mohan Reddy has a unique public outreach and the ability to immediately resonate with the masses.
In many ways, YS Jagan resembles his more illustrious father, such as his outspokenness and his ability to strike an emotional chord with the masses. However, Jagan Mohan Reddy emerged from his father’s shadow.
Praja Sankalpa Yatra
YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, like his father, devised welfare schemes that benefit every segment of society, from women to farmers, children to grandparents. Yeduguri Sandinti Jaganmohan Reddy, also known as YS Jagan or Jagananna, set out on foot on the ‘Praja Sankalpa Yatra,' a 14-month journey through the 13 districts of Andhra Pradesh.
The YSRCP supremo had travelled across Andhra Pradesh, speaking at rallies, taking part in road shows, and meeting with party workers and supporters. YS Jagan's padayatra provided him insights into people's plight. This was reflected in the manifesto, which was then translated into a slew of welfare schemes, including YSR Pension Kanuka, YSR Nethanna Nestham, YSR Cheyutha, Amma Vodi, among others.
In the first year of Jagan's administration, 90 percent of promises were kept. Through Direct Benefit Transfer, Jagan's government has credited Rs 90,000 crore into the accounts of beneficiaries (DBT). Initiatives such as the Nadu-Nedu scheme have resulted in radical changes in the health and education sectors.
English Medium Education
For parents from India's marginalized communities, English-medium education for their children is a pipe dream. Many of them work hard and devote a significant portion of their earnings to provide a decent education for their children. However, many of them, particularly those from disadvantaged sections are unable to realize this dream due to abject poverty. English medium education was part of YS Jagan government’s navaratnalu (nine jewels) programme and a promise in his election manifesto.
The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister has decided to use English as the language of instruction in all public schools in the state in order to provide a globally competitive education for rural and poor people who cannot afford private English medium schools.
TDP leaders, led by Chandrababu Naidu, who educate their own children in expensive private English-medium schools, staunchly opposed the move and turned it into a "mother tongue" issue to score political brownie points.
Jagan Mohan Reddy is investing heavily in changing the school infrastructure throughout the state, combining anganwadis with primary schools, and increasing staff and school facilities to improve the lives of marginalised communities. If he pursues his education agenda, he will have a significant impact on public educational policy.
If there is one thing that almost everyone agrees is one of the most important qualities of a politician's leadership, it is honesty. It is said that a person is only as good as his word, and therefore when leaders adhere to their promises, constituents often reciprocate in kind at the polls. YS Jagan led by example and followed through on his promises. He is determined to work for the betterment of his state, is willing to manage and resolve issues, and, most importantly, is willing to stand up for what is right.
‘Pappu of politics’
YSR Reddy, at 54, was a young chief minister in his day, and Jagan, at 47, is even younger. In contrast, TDP supreme leader Chandrababu Naidu's attempt to make his son Nara Lokesh the TDP's crown prince failed due to the TDP's disastrous performance in the state and Lok Sabha elections last year. Lokesh was defeated from the Mangalagiri constituency and continued to be what he had been seen as for some years now—the ‘Pappu’ of AP politics.
It is natural for parents to expect their children to succeed in their chosen field. However, some wishes assume unrealistic proportions. Chandrababu Naidu hopes to make his son Nara Lokesh the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. Naidu never taught Lokesh how to deliver a speech, let alone become a leader or cultivate political acumen.
Unlike Jagan Mohan Reddy, Lokesh had failed to inspire voters in Andhra Pradesh, despite leading the party's campaigns alongside his father. Nara Lokesh has approached political work in the manner of a management consultant since his entry into politics.
His detractors and there were many, referred to him as the "reluctant prince," who had been the de facto number two in the party for a long time, wielding power but avoiding responsibility.
Nara Lokesh must realize that not everyone in a position of power is a leader and that a leader is more than someone who simply coordinates the actions of others or who has management skills.
The biggest challenge for Chandrababu Naidu, however, is not how to rebrand his party, build a cadre base, and begin winning elections, but how to transform his bumbling, clueless son into an astute politician.
Unlike YSR, Naidu is not a leader. He is, at best, a cunning politician who seized power in a bloodless coup under the nose of TDP founder and former chief minister N T Rama Rao. He even forged friendships with the Congress Party, which went against the TDP's founding principles of defeating the Congress Party. People, however, are wise and were not duped by Naidu's political ploys. Naidu must have realized by now that you cannot fool everyone all the time.
Life comes full circle, as Chandrababu Naidu must have realized by now. He must have realized by now that political horse-trading as buying 23 MLAs and 3 MPs from the YSCRP does not make one a leader. YS Jagan, on the other hand, has walked the talk and built his career on the politics of principle. Fast turning into a political relic, Chandrababu stands on the edge of a precipice, soon to be consigned to the limbo of oblivion.