K. Ramachandra Murthy

• Mammoth crowds follow YSRCP chief into Rajahmundry

• YSRCP chief addresses a massive meeting at Shyamala Theatre centre

• Ruling TDP in jitters

YSRCP chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy created history on Tuesday when he entered East Godavari after walking on the longest rail-cum-road bridge in India along with thousands of admirers and party workers. The unprecedented spectacle of the people flooding over the bridge while River Godavari was flowing underneath was a treat to watch. It naturally reminds one of the walkathon undertaken by Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy exactly fifteen years ago. It is historic for one more reason. Three members of the same family walked with the people for months together to listen to their grievances and suggestions. There is no other family in the country (nay, world) where three of its members undertook the onerous task of walking for thousands of miles. YSR went to the people in 2003 to console them when they were reeling under continuous drought.

Also Read:A Tidal Wave Of Humanity Crosses Godavari Bridge With YS Jagan

Ten years later, it was the turn of his daughter, Sharmila, who stood by her brother YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, jailed by UPA government, and took up the challenge of trekking thousands of miles to expose the political conspiracies hatched by the UPA government and the Opposition leader Nara Chandrababu Naidu. It was a public secret that Naidu and the Congress high command joined hands to make false allegations against Jagan and misused the investigative agencies at the Centre’s command to send the young politician to jail. YS Jagan Mohan Reddy had to pay the price for defying the strongest politician of the land at that point in time, Sonia Gandhi, and floating a party of his own.

Also Read:Chandrababu, A Factory Of Lies: YS Jagan

Five years after Sharmila’s adventure, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has been walking for more than 187 days, holding one huge public meeting on every alternate day attracting thousands of enthusiastic people.

His mission has been to attack and expose Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu for his misrule, corruption and non-performance. Mincing no words and backed by statistics, Jagan has been campaigning against Naidu relentlessly listing the commissions and omissions of Naidu’s government. His failure to lay a brick at Amaravati and bungling the Polavaram project were two main planks to mount attack on Naidu. Non-implementation of poll promises and inability to convince the Centre on Special Category Status are two other issues that Jagan has been exploiting with a lot of aplomb. Four years of rule and not a single achievement to show to the people is a sad commentary on Naidu’s flop show. The lacklustre performance by a politician who claimed to be a 40-year industry looking at which the gullible people voted for him expecting that his experience would be of use to develop the residual State of Andhra Pradesh.

Comparisons are unavoidable between the walkathons undertaken by YSR and his son. The mammoth crowds now are far more enthusiastic than the large number of people that walked across the bridge with YSR. There are other parallels too. When YSR walked, he was the main Opposition leader and Chandrababu Naidu was the chief minister. Now, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy is the Opposition leader while the same Naidu is the CM. In West Godavari district, in which YSRCP did not win a single seat in 2014, the response that Jagan evoked was tremendous.

The four districts that made the difference in the last Assembly elections were Krishna, West Godavari, East Godavari and Visakhapatnam. The paadayaatra was a stupendous success in the first two districts giving jitters to the ruling party. East Godavari appears to be no different. Naidu also undertook paada yaatra in 2013, when he was in opposition, from Hindupur in Anantapur district to Visakhapatnam, the port city.

Though Naidu walked for seven months and covered more distance than YSR did, there is no comparison between the crowds then and now. TDP’s victory in the subsequent elections cannot be attributed to the walkathon since many developments like the division of Andhra Pradesh and Narendra Modi’s nomination as the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP besides the support of film actor Pawan Kalyan helped the TDP win by a small margin.

The mood of the people in AP appears to be upbeat. They are openly speaking against the government without anyone prompting them. The people appear to have made up their mind to throw Naidu’s’ dispensation out and bring in YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s rule. Looking at the love and affection showered by the people on Jagan throughout his paada yaatra, Naidu played his cards with remarkable elan. He timed his exit from the NDA perfectly before the Centre acted against him on a number of corruption charges, the note-for-vote being the prominent one.

The BJP leadership was very busy with by-elections and Karnataka Assembly elections to keep a watch on Naidu’s moves. After walking out of the NDA at an appropriate time, Naidu and his cohorts have been attacking Modi and manipulating public opinion by alleging that the BJP and the YSRCP are in a secret pact and would align after the polls. Such allegations were made by the TDP chief even when he was in the NDA fold genuflecting before Modi and finance minister Jaitley.

The roadmap prepared by Naidu for 2019 elections is to create a strong anti-BJP sentiment in the State and provoke people into hating the saffron party so that the TDP can occupy the anti-BJP space and rouse emotions of the people of AP on the eve of the poll. Whether Naidu would succeed in his gamble depends on the response Jagan Mohan Reddy continues to evoke. As things stand, Jagan will be a clear winner if the polls were to be held today thanks to the abundant goodwill he created during his walkathon.

The surveys conducted by private organisations also affirm this view. Four years of TDP’s hobnobbing with the BJP and the anger the ruling party now feigns at the saffron party, will not convince the people of Naidu’s sincerity. They can see through his game. The TDP supremo cannot stop the tidal wave that was created by Jagan Mohan Reddy just as he could not stop YSR’s wave in 2004. It was manifest in the tremendous response that Jagan received from the sea of humanity at Shyamala theatre centre in the evening. The admirers are unstoppable.