By Reshmi AR

Ichchapuram holds a special significance in Andhra Pradesh politics. Analysts say that it is this place where one takes the political plunge to achieving success. And a person who starts his political journey from this place has always been successful. Take the case of late AP chief minister Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy. Congress was almost on the brink of extinction in the state when Dr YSR decided to embark on a foot march to reach out to the masses. Titled Praja Prasthanam, his mass outreach program was aimed at getting a first hand account of people's problems. He made a mental note of all the issues while assuring the masses of solutions to their day to day issues. Sure enough, he achieved that after his historic padayatra covering the length and breadth of the country. The Congress stormed back to power, thanks to Dr YSR's resolve to put an end to people's woes. That's not all, YSR also fulfilled all his promises and showered the masses with schemes particularly aimed at easing the burden of the poorest sections of the society. His schemes are so popular till date that even neighbouring states have emulated the same. Sadly, the implementation of the schemes has been diluted in its place of birth (AP).

Unfortunately, after YSR's sudden demise, several people who loved him dearly died of shock or committed suicide unable to digest the news. It was then that his son YS Jagan Mohan Reddy realised the need to console families of those who lost their lives. He felt he owed it to them. It was a gesture of reciprocation of love they had exhibited towards their beloved leader. Grief stricken as he was upon the loss of his father, he embarked on Odarpu Yatra to offer his deepfelt condolences to the families of those who had lost their lives. The respect and love he received from people at the time was immeasurable. It was their first real interaction with the son of their beloved leader, but in him they saw the late leader's mirror image and felt the same warmth and affection.

Next, it was the turn of the YSRCP chief's sister Sharmila to carry forward the walkathon legacy. She started her Maro Praja Prasthanam padayatra after paying homage to her dear father, the departed soul, at his memorial in Idupulapaya Dr. YSR district. She too received the same love from people.

The resolve and determination to be amongst people and reach out to them strengthened further with AP leader of Opposition, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy embarking on his mass contact programme Praja Sankalpa Yatra. He began his journey on November 6, 2017. Since then, never did he once look back. Be it festival, birthdays or any significant day the people's leader chose to celebrate with the masses. He is a class apart from other politicians who prefer holding press conferences to talk about issues. YS Jagan instead chose to learn from people their problems personally so he could offer possible solutions in his party manifesto, YSRCP Navarathnalu. He has been walking non-stop for over 14 months now, listening to the woes of the people. For over a year now, the AP Leader of Opposition has become the voice of the people. He not only highlights the inefficiencies of the current goverment in his public meetings held in every constituency since the start of his padayatra, but has also penned his thoughts in a diary, chronicling his experience during the course of his padayatra. On day 341, he ends his popular padayatra which has garnered phenomenal response from the people in every village, town, Mandal and district he has been to.

Pylon to mark the completion of YS Jagan’s Praja Sankalpa Yatra near Ichchapuram
Pylon to mark the completion of YS Jagan’s Praja Sankalpa Yatra near Ichchapuram

I am in Ichchapuram of Srikakulam district, where the last leg of the padayatra is underway. Like YS Jagan, I got an account of the common man's struggle under the ruling government. Be it denial of old age and widow pensions, non disbursal of fee reimbursement for eligible students, dilution of Dr YSR's flagship healthcare scheme Arogyasri which was a panacea for the ailing poor. The people of Andhra Pradesh are clearly vexed up with the TDP government's indifference towards their problems. The people's mandate is clear--they want better governance and a leader who can empathise with their situation and resolve their issues. As the YSRCP president rightly pointed out in one of his interviews, 99% of the problems in the state is because of the failure of the goverment to respond to the issues. The common sentiment echoed by the masses is that AP Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has failed, miserably at that. He has not honoured any of the promises he made at the time of election in the year 2014. As a daily wage labourer from Orissa pointed out to me, "We can't wait for the tenure of the present government in Andhra Pradesh to end as it is because of him that there are lack of jobs and we were forced to migrate from Srikakulam to Orissa in search of jobs for livelihood." The case of educated youth is no better. They have neither found jobs nor have they been paid unemployment allowance promised by the TDP chief. The worst hit are the farmers and students. While farmers fail to get the minimum support support price for their produce, students are stuck as colleges have held back their educational certificates over failure to pay up the fees. Students have reached a point of no return over the government's delay in releasing the promised fee reimbursement.

As I reach Ichchapuram, the end point of the state where the padayatra culminates, I see an imposing structure--a pylon, a symbol of the successful completion of Praja Sankalpa Yatra. The massive structure was built in a record time of just over a month. Some 250 workers have contributed to achieving this milestone. Not just that the labourers who are working here relentlessly are doing it to express their respect and love for their beloved leader. Not expecting much from a daily wage labourer I ask one of the women if she knows what is being built there and without batting an eyelid, she is quick to tell me that the stupa (pylon) is a symbol of the victory of YS Jagan who accomplished his goal without a hitch. Yes, there was an attempt by his detractors to place an obstacle in his path by launching an attack on his life, but that did little to deter the YSRCP chief's resolve to be amongst people and reach out to them. Most importantly, he only grew in strength and stature as he was back on his feet to continue his mission within a few weeks after an attempt on his life. Besides, his mother and the party's honorary president YS Vijayamma unfazed by the attack, said, she was putting her son in the hands of the people as that's where he belonged. She also remarked that YS Jagan survived the attack only because of the blessings of millions of people and their prayers for which the family was indebted for life.

The Praja Sankalpa Yatra is the longest padayatra by any politician in India which saw the participation of 175 YSRCP coordinators, PC coordinators, district presidents, senior leaders, MLAs, MPs, ex-MPs, cine celebrities and over two crore common citizens drawn from every strata of society. The padayatra which started at Idupulapaya on November 6, 2017, will end at Ichchapuram in Srikakulam district on January 9, 2019 spanning 429 days in all, covering a distance of 3,648 kilometres. The YSRCP supremo reached out to 2 crore people in 130 plus constituencies during his foot march. During the course of his padayatra, YS Jagan conducted over 1000 community interactions while 2500+ influencers interacted with him, not to mention 250+ political inductions.

YSRCP Chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy
YSRCP Chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy

It is being said that politicians who begin their political campaign from ichchapuram always taste success. Ichchapuram means a place which fulfills one's wishes and on this day, the YSRCP cadre has vowed to fulfill the aspirations (desires) of crores of Telugus in AP--to make YS Jagan Mohan Reddy the chief minister of the state to usher in Rajanna Rajyam and restore the flagship people friendly schemes of Dr YSR for the benefit of the masses who are suffering after they have been diluted by the present political regime for selfish goals.

Also Read: Padayatra, Best Way To Reach People: YS Jagan