K Ramachandra Murthy
It is time for the people of Andhra Pradesh to rejoice and celebrate. They have trounced the TDP and voted for Opposition leader YS Jagan Mohan Reddy who fought like a champion. He led the party from the front in a bold and innovative fashion. He was rewarded for the arduous padayatra (walkathon) he undertook. In the 14 months that he walked, he met and heard more than ten million people. No other leader in the country can boast of this kind of experience. No other politician in the country was subjected to the kind of persecution that JMR had undergone. He went to jail smiling and came out smiling after spending 16 long months in the confines of the prison. It needs courage and will power in extraordinary measure to withstand such vicious attack by the state agencies and political rivals. Financial sources were cut off, all the bank accounts were seized and criminal cases were fabricated by the CBI at the behest of the UPA government and Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP. JMR not only endured the onslaught but also fought with his back to the wall against Chandrababu, the most unscrupulous and oppressive politician who does not have compassion. Even when JMR was attacked by a young man at Vizag airport, the victim (JMR) was ridiculed and heckled by Chandrababu and his goons in the name of his party leaders.
YSRCP lost the elections in 2014 by a narrow margin, less than two percent of votes. This time around, the party has set a few records. Winning more than 20 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats that are available in AP is a record in recent memory. The Congress won 41 out of 42 LS seats in 1977 in united Andhra Pradesh, the lone exception being Neelam Sanjiva Reddy who went on to become president of India. BJP under Narendra Modi won all the LS seats in Gujarat and other Hindi States in 2014 and repeated the feat in some of the States this time too. Congress also won that kind of sweeping mandate in the elections held in 1984 in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. But for AP, JMR’s was the record. Polling more than 50 per cent of the total polled votes is also a record. JMR will be the youngest chief minister of Andhra Pradesh. The Opposition being reduced to mere 20 odd seats in Assembly is also a record of sorts. JMR will take the chief minister’s mantle without ever being a minister either in State or at the Centre.
JMR has stuck to a set of principle despite a plethora of problems he was made to face. He did not buckle under pressure. Even when cases were fabricated, he did not blame the CBI or criticise the judiciary for not granting bail for 16 months. He went through the motions by attending the court every Friday during the historic walkathon. He never promised something that cannot be delivered. He never went back on his word. He never encouraged defections. For instance, Shilpa Chakrapani Reddy, who was elected to the AP Legislative Council on a TDP ticket six months ago was asked to resign from the Council when he wanted to join the YSRCP during the by-election to Nandyal seat in 2018. On the contrary, Nara Chandrababu Naidu had lured 23 YSRCP MLAs to defect to the TDP and shamelessly anointed four of them as ministers. For that matter, JMR has been the only leader in the whole country who followed anti-defection law in its letter and spirit. Even the BJP had ferried two lawmakers who won on Congress ticket to Delhi and lured them into joining the BJP in the presence of Amit Shah, president of the ruling party.
The drubbing received by TDP was not entirely unexpected. Chandrababu himself knew at 10 AM on April 11, the day of polling in AP, that people were voting against his party. That was when he raised the EVM (Electronic Voting Machines) bogey. He claimed that one-third of the EVMs were not functioning and demanded re-poll. He took the issue to the national level and made the leaders of 21 Opposition parties to demonstrate before Nirvachan Bhavan, the office of the Election Commission. The way he was hopping from State to State in his private plane in the name of working for Opposition unity went to ridiculous lengths. Most of the Opposition leaders were not very keen on meeting him till the results were out. Now, he cannot visit Delhi after scoring a near nought in the elections. Chandrababu had wasted five years in power roaming about the world, conducting video conferences with the officials and partymen and talking about building capital city, Amaravati, as one of the best five cities in the world. The entire term was spent without laying a brick for Amaravati on a permanent footing. Crores of rupees were spent in the name preparing the designs. Polavaram project was another monumental failure. The project that should have been completed by the Centre was unnecessarily taken over the State government. Chandrababu Naidu was accused of refusing to account for the funds received from Centre. Many other problems cropped up resulting in slow progress in works. The project has become a source of corruption prompting Modi, in his election campaign, to call it ATM (Any Time Money) for the TDP. So much so, at the end of five years, Chandrababu had no asset or achievement to show to the people and ask for their votes. He did not even implement the promises made in 2014 TDP manifesto. Breaking away from the NDA also did not help. Had the TDP continued with the NDA, the pro-Modi sentiment prevalent all over the country could have fetched the party some more seats. Attempts to build an anti-Modi wave in Andhra proved to be a futile exercise. Chandrababu’s strategy to club Modi, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) and JMR blaming the trio for the woes of Andhras did not work either. His tricks on the Congress party boomeranged harming both the parties. In sum, the people of Andhra Pradesh have unambiguously rejected Chandrababu brand of politics which is full of deceit, manipulation, corruption and skulduggery. The unprincipled way in which Chandrababu ran his administration awarding contracts to his coterie of contractors and the ruthless manner in which he suppressed the dissent have done him in. Corruption was at its peak from CMO (Chief Minister’s Office) to Janma Bhoomi Committees. Sand mafia, land mafia and education mafia had their field day. Top officers who worked as chief secretaries to the government were ill-treated. A lady tahasildar was dragged by hair by a ruling party MLA when she tried to prevent illegal sand mining. Chief priest of the TTD was humiliated and shunted out. The highhandedness of the administration had hurt a number of people across the State. The anti-people attitude adopted by the ruling party had resulted in a hostile atmosphere pitting the people against the government. The police acted as agents of the ruling party. They behaved like servants of the TDP leaders. Law and order was at its worst. All communities and all regions have voted against the TDP. This is the worst ever defeat faced either by the TDP or the Congress in Andhra Pradesh since 1983.
It was a battle between straightforward, value-based politics and opportunistic and manipulative politics. People of AP have demonstrated that they would massively vote for people-centric politics that has been practised by JMR. He has been amidst people for most part of the nine years since YSRCP’s inception. Since the demise of YS Rajasekhara Reddy, his son Jagan Mohan Reddy has been fighting against all kinds of odds. He had to defy one of the ten most powerful politicians in the world at that point in time, Sonia Gandhi, in order to keep the word he had given to YSR’s supporters who lost their breadwinners that he would personally visit their homes to pay homage to the departed. Sonia could not digest the fact that a young man had the temerity to disobey her and go ahead with ‘Odarpu yatra.’ Her henchmen and Chandrababu Naidu hatched a conspiracy to get AP High Court order a CBI inquiry into the ‘disproportionate’ assets. He was eventually jailed even before a charge-sheet was filed and denied bail for 16 months of incarceration. JMR’s sister Sharmila embarked on a walkthon from one end of AP to the other. There was not much time left for Jagan after coming out of the jail to prepare for 2014 elections which he lost narrowly. This time he went about the electioneering in a methodical way starting with the historic walkathon. The candidate selection was most appropriate and his election speeches were positive and inspiring giving hope to the hapless people of AP. Thus the listless governance by Chandrababu Naidu has come to an end. The ‘Rajanna Rajyam’ that was promised by JMR would unfold soon after he takes oath on May 30. Telugu people witnessed a landslide victory at the polls when N.T. Rama Rao swept the elections in early 1983, within nine months of launching TDP in 1982. The TDP victory in 1994 under the leadership of NTR was equally impressive. But the one scored by JMR, nine years after launching his party, is unprecedented and path-breaking in its sweep and range.