In Seemandhra today, the YSR Congress faces its first full-fledged electoral test after Jaganmohan Reddy took over it in 2011 and re-launched it as a new party under his leadership. The party won 16 of the 19 Vidhan Sabha seats that went to polls in the 2012 by-elections in Andhra Pradesh. This election, the party is fielding candidates in all Lok Sabha and assembly seats in soon-to-be-divided Andhra Pradesh, including the 25 Lok Sabha constituencies and 175 Legislative Assembly seats in Seemandhra.
In this extract from ‘The Takeover’ in The Caravan’s May 2011 issue, Praveen Donthi tracks the sequence of dramatic events after the death of YS Rajasekhara Reddy, which led to his son Jagan’s split from the Congress. The conflict began with Jagan’s request for approval for the Odarpu Yatra, which he described as a condolence tour for the people who had committed suicide on hearing of his father’s passing.
WHILE THE PARTY WAITED for Sonia’s final decision on the state’s new chief minister, the behind-the-scenes lobbying continued in full force. Congress MLAs who were supporters of Jagan threatened to resign if he was not made CM, while YSR’s close associates continued to negotiate with the high command. On 22 October, Jagan met Sonia Gandhi with Veerappa Moily and KVP Ramachandra Rao, who had already made three trips to Delhi to lobby for Jagan. After the meeting, Jagan declared that “I have full faith and trust in her. I will abide by whatever decision Madam takes.” But the party high command was unpersuaded—and indeed, actively dismayed—by the overt pressure campaign, and Sonia opted to continue with Rosaiah, who was formally confirmed as the chief minister on 29 November. Sonia had ostensibly closed the door, but the agitation for Jagan did not fade away. Rosaiah, who had been YSR’s finance minister, had no political base of his own, and he was not a Reddy—the powerful landed community that dominates the Andhra Congress. (Though they are only five percent of the Andhra population, one-third of Congress MLAs and MPs in the state are Reddys.)
It was at this point that Jagan turned his attention to the Odarpu Yatra, which he characterised as the fulfilment of his vow at Nalla Kaluva. “I had given a word,” Jagan told me, “that I would go visit every family who had given up their lives for my dad.”
“It was an emotional spur-of-the-moment promise,” he recalled. “I don’t know why—if you ask me why I had given that word, I have no answer. I myself was experiencing the same pain. There were no politics then, it was just an emotional decision that I took. That was the turning point for this whole thing to start.”