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Why YSR Congress is so fragile

Why YSR Congress is so fragile
Highlights

The political poaching continues unabated in Andhra Pradesh. The political landscape of the State is witnessing an intense political lobbying. The ruling Telugu Desam is going berserk, while the principal opposition party, the YSR Congress is crying foul. 

Moreover, the fact of the matter is thatTDP has not begun poaching opposition only after Jaganmohan Reddy’s audacious claim. On that count, the blame-game lacks legitimate credibility. The YSR Congress that brutally poached TDP during its heyday now unabashedly talks about the decline in political values due to defections. The TDP, which called Jaganmohan Reddy's team as partners in crime, has no qualms in zeroing in on Jagan's men. The fragility of YSR Congress stems out of this lack of legitimacy

The political poaching continues unabated in Andhra Pradesh. The political landscape of the State is witnessing an intense political lobbying. The ruling Telugu Desam is going berserk, while the principal opposition party, the YSR Congress is crying foul.

The latest round of defections comes close on the heels of the ill-timed and ill-fated utterances by YS Jaganmohan Reddy, who sparked a deep rage in the top TDP leadership, while contenting that a large number of TDP MLAs were in touch with him. This was made worse when he said that he would disclose the names when the time was opportune
to topple the Chandrababu Naidu government.

Thus, Jaganmohan Reddy has lost the moral high ground to fight the subsequent TDP-engineered defections. The ruling party argues that it cannot wait till Jagan topples its government by poaching its MLAs. Moreover, the fact of the matter is that TDP has not begun poaching opposition only after Jaganmohan Reddy’s audacious claim. On that count, the blame-game lacks legitimate credibility.

The YSR Congress that brutally poached TDP during its heydays now unabashedly talks about the decline in political values due to defections. The TDP, which called Jaganmohan Reddy's team as partners in crime, has no qualms in zeroing in on Jagan's men. The fragility of YSR Congress stems out of this lack of legitimacy.

Technically speaking, neither party has any morality to deliver political discourses and sermons, most certainly not on defections. A series of strategic lapses undermined the strength of the fledgling YSRCP. The accumulated impact drove Jaganmohan Reddy to his waterloo in 2014 General Elections where he was edged out by TDP-BJP.

A recap of these lapses would throw light on the party’s political course in post-poll politics of Andhra Pradesh.
This author in an analysis published in Economic and Political Weekly dealt upon the factors that led to the defeat of a leader like Jaganmohan Reddy, who at one point appeared to pose an existential threat to TDP and its leader. (Prof. K Nageshwar, Chandrababu Naidu’s comeback, Economic and Political Weekly, July, 12, 2014).

The loan-waiver promise prominently figured in the electoral campaign during 2014 polls. To counter the image of Rajasekhara Reddy’s legacy of welfare populism, Chandrababu Naidu swore by loan-waiver, which Jaganmohan Reddy called as impossible. Surprisingly, this is in sharp contrast to the situation in 2004 when Rajasekhara Reddy promised free power for agriculture.

Chandrababu Naidu then paid a heavy political price for calling such a promise impossible to implement. While Chandrababu Naidu has realised that economic and political arguments sometimes work at cross purposes, Jaganmohan Reddy, ironically, failed to follow in his father’s footprints and instead went on to tread a politically suicidal path.

Given this backdrop, Jaganmohan Reddy's campaign on the truncated implementation of loan-waiver could cut no ice with people. Besides, the loan waiver, the strong perception of being ditched down on the question of bifurcation fuelled tremendous political discontent against the then ruling Congress-led UPA. While Naidu could effectively capitalise on the hurt sentiments of the people of Andhra Pradesh, Jaganmohan Reddy’s response was more or less lukewarm in the run-up to 2014 polls.

Chandrababu Naidu continues to sell this sense of fear and despair on one side, and a feeling of hope on the other. But, Jaganmohan Reddy remained clueless except making occasional noises on the denial of Special Status and other promises made to Andhra Pradesh during the bifurcation. Such occasional noises have failed to convince the people nor could he succeed in exposing the spineless stand of TDP on many issues related to Centre, especially Special Status.

Surprisingly, Jaganmohan Reddy did not even attempt to initiate a sustained struggle on a railway zone for Visakhapatnam or on the sense of neglect and persistent backwardness of regions like North Coastal Andhra and Rayalseema.

Instead of mobilising forces on pressing people’s issues, the campaign and political activity of YSRCP seems to be functioning with the one-point formula of putting Jaganmohan Reddy in the Chief Minister’s gaddi. Such shortsighted political activity robs the sheen from the major opposition. But, Jaganmohan Reddy, yet to nurture political wisdom, fails to move away from power-centric political activity to people- centric campaigns.

In 2014, the sense of helplessness strongly instilled in the Seemandhra electorate in turn also generated a feeling that the residual state of Andhra Pradesh desperately needed help from the Union Government. Jaganmohan Reddy failed to acknowledge this new sentiment among the people.

In 2016, even when the Centre continues to be indifferent to the key concerns of Andhra Pradesh, the only opposition in the State Legislature is caught in a fix. While it strongly blames TDP for its failure to get more assistance from the Centre, it remains muted in its criticism of the BJP-led Union Government. This is precisely because Jaganmohan Reddy does not wish to rule out a possibility of allying with BJP in case the latter estranges TDP. This deprives the YSR Congress of the much-needed striking power.

In 2014, while Chandrababu Naidu could successfully locate himself on the national political firmament that was considered crucial for Seemandhra in the wake of bifurcation, Jaganmohan Reddy demonstrated an utter lack of strategy. He even sent signals of extending support to the much-maligned United Progressive Alliance, which boomeranged and shattered his political dreams.

Jaganmohan Reddy’s stand of supporting any possible formation at the Centre for the benefit of the State failed to convince the electorate. Two years later, Jaganmohan Reddy is still groping in the dark as far as locating his party in the national political context is concerned. Such a diabolical stand of a regional political party is normally understandable, but ambivalence in the context of the State looking towards Centre for help is proving to be costlier.

The YSR Congress, which failed to demarcate itself with UPA in the run-up to 2014 polls, is now falling short of ruling out a possible alliance with BJP. In 2014, Jaganmohan Reddy displayed political arrogance and immaturity in refusing the offer of an alliance from the Left parties, especially the Communist Party of India (Marxist). While the TDP was desperately trying for a possible grand political alliance, Jaganmohan Reddy chose to go it alone.

The political arithmetic in the elections thus went completely against him. Even today, the YSRCP refuses to forge any larger opposition unity against government policies. Doing so would only benefit it as it is the principal opposition force in the State. A semblance of opposition unity is seen in Telangana, like on one time loan waiver and alleged irregularities in GHMC polls.

But no such effort is seen in Andhra Pradesh due to exclusionary politics of YSR Congress. The party’s obsession with personality-driven politics results in failure to build up a political organisational apparatus to drive the party. On the contrary, its political activity is firmly centered against Chandrababu Naidu personally rather than on public issues. Jaganmohan Reddy is seriously found wanting in political jugglery.

It was only in the recent past that the YSRCP tried to isolate TDP on the issue of Kapu reservations. But, the backlash from OBC’s on one hand and strategic moves by TDP thwarted any further grandiose designs of YSR Congress party.
At a time when Naidu is increasingly perceived to be compromising with KCR, Jaganmohan Reddy has an opportunity to exploit.

But, he has lost the perception battle much before as he is seen to be having a covert understanding with TRS. The recent moves of YSRCP, especially during the recent Legislative Council biennial elections and Warangal by-polls, are seen as an attempt to indirectly benefit TRS. Unless, Jaganmohan Reddy and his party completely re-engineer its political strategy, it would remain fragile.

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