It is evident that YSRCP president, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s historic, mass outreach program, Praja Sankalpa Yatra, is sending shivers through the collective spine of the Chandrababu Naidu government. The TDP establishment appears to have been rattled by the overwhelming response that YS Jagan has been receiving day after day from the common people everywhere. After walking through the four districts which constitute Rayalaseema, the Leader of Opposition covered Nellore extensively. YS Jagan’s Padayatra is now progressing through Prakasam district.
Fear is the dominant emotion prevailing in large tracts of rural Andhra Pradesh. People are afraid to speak against the ruling TDP, and even if they do, they prefer anonymity. In many parts of Prakasam district and Guntur, villagers were vocal in their criticism of Chandrababu Naidu and his government. They complained about the harassment by Janmabhoomi committees. They felt cheated by the betrayal of promises made to them and clearly wanted a change. However, many of them did not wish to be photographed named, or even quoted. In one village near Chimakurthi, a labourer at a way- side tea stall got up and left abruptly, even as others were speaking against the establishment. Earlier, he said that he did not wish to speak up and later find himself behind bars, after being implicated in a false case.
Angry villagers everywhere had the same set of questions for Chandrababu Naidu. What happened to DWCRA loan waivers? Why were agricultural loans not waived? Why were they being denied pensions? What became of Chandrababu Naidu’s promise of unemployment allowance? Why has the fee reimbursement scheme been watered down completely?
Yesulu of Marrichettupalem in Guntur district, said he was a labourer in search of work. “where’s water?”, he questioned. He was quickly chastised by other scared villagers who said there was enough water. One of them glared at him and asked, “isn’t there enough water”?
Prasad of Rajupalem village near Podili in Prakasam district said that it was very obvious from the way that the TDP government had lately been reacting toYS Jagan‘s mass initiative, that it was shaken by a sense of insecurity. According to Prasad, the local TDP party workers began to contact the villagers in recent days trying to assure them that their work would get done, that DWCRA loans would be waived and that arrears would soon be released. “We know why they are coming to us now,” he said. Another villager recalled that water had been released into a canal near Kavali, only after the Padayatra began to approach the place. “We know that the Chandrababu government indulges in such gimmicks for a few days, wrings the farmers and leaves them to dry in the sun. At the same time, not having done anything for four years, they are in a bind,” he said, referring to the TDP.
Raju, of Ambedkar Nagar near Koppulu, outside Ongole said he did not want to be photographed. However, he and other villagers from this colony were not afraid of TDP or its discriminatory tactics. “This TDP Government is unresponsive to our needs. So, it doesn’t matter what the TDP leaders think of us. But now I think its time is up. We are confident that YSRCP will triumph in the next round of elections. Of the 900 voters in our Colony, 880 will vote for YSRCP,” he said.
Srinivasa Rao of Kanigiri said that YS Jagan’s Padayatra stirred the people of the region to life and filled their hearts with hope. Fuming, he said—“Chandrababu neither understands our problems, nor does he want to solve them. What has he done for the farmers? Now, he and his partymen will come and make more promises.” Standing alongside him, Laxmamma of Chinthalapalem, nodded. “There’s no water for miles in many parts. We cannot depend on the government for good drinking water. On top of it all, if TDP leaders suspect that a certain village or group of voters are likely to vote for YSRCP, God save that village.”
Chinnakka of Uppalapadu fervently hopes that the YSRCP comes to power in the next round of elections. She said that money and liquor swung the voters the TDP way in many places in 2014. “These men get sold for a Sara (country liquor) bottle”, she rued. Mariamma of Madireddipalem endorsed her opinion and added that liquor was ruining the lives of villagers. It turned simple, hard-working men into violent, lazy addicts and caused tensions at home which often spilled on to the streets. “Why does this government patronise the sale of liquor on this scale?” she asked. “Why do they harass us when we question the TDP party leaders or government officials?”
It is clear that YS Jagan’s Praja Sankalpa Yatra has sent the TDP top brass into a tizzy. Finding itself on the back foot after making a slew of tall promises which have remained unfulfilled, the ruling party doesn’t seem to know where to begin its fire-fighting exercise. The TDP leadership is wringing its hands helplessly trying every trick in its book to check the growing popularity of YS Jagan. Villagers everywhere say they are being threatened for their support to YSRCP.
This brings us back to the question—what is the Chandrababu Naidu government scared of? Why does it discriminate against people on the basis of party affiliations? Aren’t people free to vote for a party of their choice? Why is a common villager scared that the police will implicate him in a false case if he speaks against the ruling TDP? This is the case in village after village in many parts of Andhra Pradesh. Sadly, this is Chandrababu Naidu‘s version of democracy. Needless to say, it is a very unhealthy trend in current AP politics being set by TDP, where the slightest hint of dissent is stifled ruthlessly.