The advantage of an ‘Electioneering Professional’ in India is that there is no dearth of jobs for them. Nowadays, long term preparation is in vogue. In south, especially in Andhra Pradesh (& Telangana too), preparing for JEE starts when the child joins in 6th class. Learning from the kids, even political parties started to do long term planning. So, out of job Prashant Kishor landed on a new assignment. Well, he is the special adviser to YSR Congress Party, the Congress’ splinter faction led by Jaganmohan Reddy, son of late CM of united Andhra Pradesh, YS Rajasekhara Reddy.
Despite being jailed for long on charges of monumental corruption, he encashed the goodwill and sympathy over his father’s untimely demise and became leader of opposition in the truncated state of Andhra Pradesh. Of course, his task is not too simple. Riding on the wave of anti-Congress, TDP allied with BJP to win 2014 elections of the newly formed state. As people were angry at Congress, more for the way the state was bifurcated rather than the bifurcation itself, Andhra Pradesh became free of Congress.
Many Congress leaders who opposed high-command on the issue of bifurcation joined Jagan’s splinter group. But, the coterie that was in control during his father’s regime retained the control of the party. But, even for the coterie, the whimsical tantrums of Jaganmohan Reddy are too much to bear for long. Over time, many of his MLAs left the party and joined TDP, even as long term workers of Telugu Desam Party were left wondering why Chandrababu Naidu is inviting the leaders from tainted party.
Both Chandrababu Naidu and Jaganmohan Reddy belong to Rayala Seema. Long ago, Naidu and his father Rajasekhara Reddy too were thick friends and their friendship dates to seventies when both were ministers in Chenna Reddy’s government.
The late Rajasekhara Reddy, unlike the regular sycophants of Congress was too hot for the high-command. This was the reason behind he never made it to Union cabinet, despite winning Lok Sabha elections five times. When Chandrababu Naidu was ruling Andhra, Congress lost hopes of winning against him and made Rajasekhara Reddy PCC chief expecting him to become scapegoat. However, YSR took the challenge and started ‘Pada Yatra’ against Naidu. When YSR collapsed during his Pada Yatra, it was Chandrababu Naidu who sent the state’s helicopter to lift him to Hyderabad for treatment.
However, the equation between Jaganmohan Reddy and Chandrababu Naidu are not the same. In fact, there is a vicious enmity between Chandrababu Naidu and Jaganmohan Reddy. Jagan is notorious for his rough manners and language and tactics. In his scheme of things, there is no place for niceties, except for self-survival. As he supported NDA’s Presidential candidate to keep Modi in good humour, he is also planning for his party’s revival.
Though Chandrababu Naidu is perhaps one of the best administrators the country has seen and his political acumen is of high standards, he is not a crowd puller like his father in law. He could organise his party and galvanize workers, but converting the good will into votes is not his cup of tea. That was the reason why Chandrababu Naidu lost to YSR, despite the rocket growth the state witnessed during his first tenure. YSR, using his political knack kept Naidu out of power, as long as he was alive. And, when Chandrababu became CM again, it was for only a part of the state he once ruled. Still, he again entered into the CEO mode and started guiding the new state.
But, his ministers could not complement him with their enthusiasm and abilities. It is a known fact that many of his ministers could not meet his standards, but he had to rely only on them. Unlike his counterpart in Telangana, Chandrababu Naidu was blessed with a son, who normally causes embarrassment to his father.
On the other hand, Jaganmohan Reddy needs power. From the way he talks using phrases like “when I will become CM”, it is evident he is eagerly waiting to sit on the throne. However, it is his own personality that drove able leaders from his party. Left with only sycophants he inherited from the erstwhile Congress party, he is now mobilising forces to corner Chandrababu Naidu in next elections.
The first step toward this long goal is the just concluded plenary session of his party, where in apart from the routine government biting, he made a surprise announcement to his party men. He introduced Prashant Kishor to them saying he would be guiding the party to end the ‘misrule of TDP’.
Well, one advantage he has over his counterparts in Uttar Pradesh and Assam, where PK could not produce any positive results is – he can make the party to accept PK as the guru. Jaganmohan Reddy explained it was only after Amarinder Singh started working with PK, AAP’s wave in Punjab could be stymied. Being a strategist, PK will be needing an absolute clearance in all decision making processes and other schemes he would plan for the party named after his late father – YSR Congress Party or YSRCP in short. However officially YSR in the party’s name stands for Yuvajana Shramika Rythu literally meaning a party for the youth, workers and ryots.
Though the plenary was a success and to some extent rattled the ruling party, it also rattled leaders of YSRCP too. As the party is not based on any political ideology (just like its parent party) but depends on individual charisma, PK is expected to strengthen the organisation and devise new schemes. Prashant Kishor has exposure to Andhra politics when he was part of Narendra Modi’s victory campaign in 2014 and was well aware of what works there and what not.
The immediate suggestion from PK seems well received by Jaganmohan Reddy. Jagan would be on a ‘Pada Yatra’ just like his father, but covering some extra miles. His yatra scheduled to start on 27th October, 2017 would cover about 3000KM. Both PK and Jagan knew well about the personal bond that can be created with voters during such a long journey. Learning from the family that ruled neighbouring state Tamilnadu for long, Jagan already established a huge media empire comprising a news channel and newspaper. He spares no expense and so got one of the reputed editors of Telugu dailies, ABK Prasad as the editor of his newspaper – Sakshi.
Jaganmohan Reddy too has undertaken a yatra, albeit travelling in an SUV, post his release from jail and before elections. It was appropriately titled ‘Odarpu (consolation) yatra’ to console families of those, who died due to shock – when his father YSR expired in the helicopter accident. Now, don’t question me how hundreds die in shock for the late CM, only in AP. I can’t answer such silly questions.
The plan seems of two sides, with PK consolidating the organisation and changing it based on the current needs while Jaganmohan Reddy would be touring to mobilise public support. No doubt, he is determined to complete his tour of 3000KM in time before elections. However, PK may need really strong logic to convince Jagan on candidate selection. Other advantage Jaganmohan Reddy enjoys is the dual religions he would be exploiting in the electoral battle. Claiming to be Reddy, he appeals to Hindus. As most of his family members were converted to Christianity, they (including his mother) would be appealing to Christians. Naturally, Muslims would be flocking to such a secular party. Isn’t it?
How Chandrababu Naidu would respond to this challenge by the duo of Jagan and PK is to be seen. One can’t expect Naidu to undertake a gruelling tour like Jagan. Neither his son, who is seen a soft boy can undertake such arduous journey. So, both shall concentrate on hard-core war room politicking. With Amit Shah visiting the state often to strengthen BJP, it is TDP that worries for being the ruling party and not YSRCP.
Of course, people still remember Jaganmohan Reddy is an accused in many cases of corruption and currently out on bail. But, with many cases against them, the likes of Lalu, Mulayam, Karunanidhi, Jayalalithaa won elections and completed their terms. By favouring Rajasekhara Reddy and defeating Chandrababu Naidu in 2004, Andhra voters explained their opinion. Can Jaganmohan Reddy repeat the miracle of his father? It is to be seen.