Andhra Pradesh elections: The writing is on the wall

Jaganmohan Reddy

As Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and YSRCP (Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party) leader Jaganmohan Reddy officially launched the election campaign for the upcoming Assembly elections by sounding the conch at a massive public meeting in Bheemili, Visakhapatnam on January 27th, the writing on the wall is amply clear that he is going to comfortably come back to power unless a major miracle happens in the next 3 months. His body language both in Bheemili and at the Uravakonda, Ananthapuram meet on January 23rd is exuding confidence of an impending victory. He has created an enduring connection with the masses with successful implementation of meaningful welfare measures. Be it the implementation of English as the medium of instruction in government schools or the revamp of dilapidated and neglected school buildings, he has captured the imagination of working class poor people by investing in the future of their children. This alone is going to reap him rich dividends. Beyond this, Jagan has also provided succor to the suffering millions with timely and dependable direct cash benefit transfers such as pensions to the elderly, YSR Aasara and Cheyutha schemes aimed at working women from downtrodden sections, to name a few. Beneficiaries of government schemes in Andhra Pradesh noticed a perceptible difference due to these measures during the hard-hitting COVID lockdown and its aftermath that suddenly upended their livelihoods by stripping them of their ability to eke out an income. While the entire country’s routine infrastructure and support systems were severely handicapped due to the inhuman lockdown, Jagan government’s village volunteer system made sure that the cash benefit schemes kept the lifelines open. People could notice how their plight was much different compared with their counterparts in neighboring Telangana when it came to cash relief. By no means a lesser achievement than any of these measures, the expansion of state-sponsored Arogyasri health insurance program and establishment of several new state-run Medical colleges will also go a long way in accumulating goodwill votes for the ruling party.

In addition to all this, Jagan’s position is buttressed by the lack of a credible opposition force in the state. The existing main opposition party, Telugu Desam Party (TDP), has shown its inability to mount any significant threat to Jagan’s popularity among the masses. While their line of attack has been that Jagan has neglected “development” and focused only on welfare, they have not shown the gumption to propose an alternative to welfare politics. In fact, they have promised more welfare measures in their preliminary manifesto under the title “Bhavishyathu (future) ki guarantee”. People are in no mood to believe this having witnessed TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu’s priorities in his prior 14-year rule both in undivided Andhra Pradesh and the newly formed state where the thrust was always on hyped up “investment” projects that failed to uplift people from poverty or on promising to build an outlandish new capital that is nothing more than a grandiose real-estate venture in a state that is overwhelmingly an agrarian-dependent economy. In the years past, TDP and it’s friendly media made hay by publicizing alleged quid-pro-quo corruption scandals of Jaganmohan Reddy dating back to his father’s Congress rule now 20 years ago and his months-long jail stint pertaining to those cases. However, in the changed scenario, these allegations are going to be a non-starter as Mr Chandrababu Naidu himself had been arrested in similar allegations in September 2023 and is now out on bail akin to Jagan. Coming to the other opposition party, Janasena, headed by film star Pawan Kalyan, it has deliberately failed to grow out of the shadow of its benefactor Chandrababu Naidu. While the actor certainly has an army of supporters in Telugu states, he himself has never shown the leadership to galvanize them in to an impactful political force in the state. On multiple occasions, he took steps that are inimical to his own party’s growth as an independent entity much to the chagrin of his cadre and paradoxically to the delight of the ruling party. His vote share was in meager single digits in 2019 and is not expected to increase much owing to the leader himself remaining aloof to organizational strengthening of the party and not even propping up a single leader of any stature from his followers that seem to abound in his raucous campaign rallies. National parties Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress are both mere dummies in the state with both parties now headed by close relatives of TDP (Ms Purandeswari, the sister-in-law of Chandrababu Naidu is BJP state President) and YSRCP scions (Ms Sharmila Reddy, the sister of Jagan is Congress state President). Last but not the least, Jagan’s government is the only state in India after Bihar to undertake a caste census, a pent up demand of the oppressed castes. Surprisingly, none of the opposition parties in the state including Congress have anything to say about this emotive issue. It does not even figure anywhere on their priority list. In essence, there is virtually a lack of viable opposition to Jagan in Andhra Pradesh today whether on the policy front or demographic front even though there is so much to offer in terms of fresh ideas and new classes of leaders to emerge from, a sad testament to the decadent political landscape of the state.

Another important point to underscore regarding Jagan’s path to another 5-year stint at the helm is the fact that he is running on his record of work done in the past 56 months but not as a son of erstwhile Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy, a popular leader second to none in the state’s history. It is evident in his advertisement campaign where the center-stage is solely occupied by his own welfare measures and not on any legacy signaling. This is a notable achievement for someone whose claim to fame until merely a few years ago was his dad’s name.

G Naveen has been writing articles pertaining to social Justice for 20 years on various platforms. He is a physician by profession

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