Padayatra may not be enough to come to power

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Amaravati: When Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy concluded his record padayatra in Srikakulam district last week, it infused new enthusiasm and energy in the ranks of YSR Congress Party.

This was evident as party leaders from across the state made a beeline at the makeshift camp of Jagan near Ichchapuram. Dozens of leaders including MPs and MLAs stood for hours outside Jagan’s special bus to get an audience with him.

Everyone felt charged up and exuded confidence of defeating ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in the ensuing elections to come to power  this time. They claimed that people are fed up with the rule of Chandrababu Naidu and were looking for a change.

The conclusion of 14-month long padyatra and the proposed bus yatra by Jagan in the run-up to the elections and going by the public mood, it appears that it will be neck-and-neck fight between the two parties in the simultaneous polls to Assembly and Lok Sabha, likely to be held in April-May.

From Srikakulam to Visakhapatnam and to Vijayawada, people point out how YSR Congress Party improved its prospects with Jagan’s padyatra. Those appear to be supporting YSRCP claim that there is groundswell of anger against Chandrababu Naidu due to widespread corruption, land scam in Amaravati and other places, his failure to get special category status and his alliance with Congress party.

‘Ninnu nammam Babu’ was the slogan coined by YSRCP during Jagan’s padyatra. YSRCP leaders and workers have this slogan on their vehicles. In 2014, people preferred Naidu over Jagan as the state was starting from scratch with no capital of its own and the TDP chief had experience of developing Hyderabad into a key IT hub.

A section of people are of the view that Naidu has failed to deliver on the promises during last five years as the plans of new state capital more or less remained confined to paper. They feel that not much work has taken place on ground. They are also unhappy with Naidu over his failure to speed up Polavaram project though he had forced the BJP-led NDA to entrust the task of execution to the state government despite the Centre announcing that it will provide 100 percent funds to the project.

Naidu’s decision to enter into an alliance with Congress and the reason he is citing for the same failed to convince the people. Many wonder how Naidu could join hands with the party which he considered as his number one enemy for last 36 years. Some believe that Naidu severed ties with BJP a year before elections for political mileage.

A leader of YSRCP even claimed that TDP will be washed away in the public anger over its failures, the main being the special category status.

Political observers, however, say the coming elections may be a repeat of 2014 elections, at least in terms of a close fight. This time TDP will not have the support of BJP, Modi factor and Pawan Kalyan. Naidu, on the other hand, is trying to project BJP as the main villain to win another term. He also hopes Jana Sena will cut into anti-establishment votes, thus helping TDP to retain power.

In the previous elections YSRCP bagged 67 out of the 175 Assembly seats, finishing with just two percent less vote share than TDP-BJP alliance. Jagan believes that this time the balance has shifted in favour of his party with BJP and Jana Sena no longer on Naidu’s side.

Jagan is confident that his 3,648 km padyatra, claimed to be the longest by a politician in India, will catapult YSRCP to power.

He hopes to achieve what his father and former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy had achieved in 2004. YSR had covered 1,450 km across the state to end Naidu’s rule.

Political observers say it would be wrong to assume that padyatra alone would be enough to bring YSRCP to power. “Jagan is no YSR. When YSR undertook the padyatra the situation in then undivided Andhra Pradesh was different,” pointed out an observer.

Some believe that people may feel that five years for Naidu was not enough to translate his plans into reality and may prefer to give him another term as he remained the most experienced and tallest among all political leaders in the state.

Though nearly two dozen YSRCP MLAs switched loyalties to TDP during last four-and-half years, the poll results in Telangana show that the turncoats may still hold on to their seats.

 One also can’t rule out YSRCP MLAs facing a rough ride in their constituencies.

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