Jagan pushes for welfare work with an eye on Andhra elections
With a comfortable majority of 151 seats in the 175-member assembly, the YSRCP has so far had a smooth sail over the last four years, seeing no major threat from rival political parties
With the next assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh just 11 months away, chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy – who completes four years in office today – has a tough challenge ahead to lead his party Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) to victory while battling anti-incumbency.
With a comfortable majority of 151 seats in the 175-member assembly, the YSRCP has so far had a smooth sail over the last four years, seeing no major threat from rival political parties – particularly its archrival Telugu Desam Party (TDP) headed by former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu.
The YSRCP has won all elections since 2019 – be it by–elections to Tirupati Lok Sabha seat in May 2021, Badvel assembly seat in November 2021 and Atmakur seat in June 2022, or the other 90% of the rural and urban local body elections held in 2021 and 2022. Riding on these victories, Jagan has come out with the slogan -- “Why not 175?” -- to motivate his party leaders and cadres to aim at winning all the 175 assembly seats in the upcoming elections.
Gearing for this, Jagan has been launched several public outreach programmes like ‘Gadapa Gadapaku Prabhutvam’ (Government at every doorstep) and ‘Jagananne Maa Bhavishyathu’ (Brother Jagan is our future), encouraging his party leaders to visit every household in every nook and corner of the state.
The chief minister has also converted a strong force of over 250,000 village and ward volunteers into a virtual “Jagan Army” to extensively campaign about the government’s welfare programmes across the state.
He has also been addressing public meetings as frequently as possible in the name of implementing his welfare programmes like EBC Nestham, Jagananna Vasathi Deevena, house sites distribution etc., where he has been targeting the TDP and requesting people to vote for his party to power again.
“If you feel you have benefitted from the welfare schemes, stand by YSRCP and bring us victory in the next elections to continue the good work in future too” he said, while addressing a rally after distribution of house site pattas among the poor at Venkatapalem village of Guntur district on May 26.
While Jagan has been harping on winning all the 175 assembly seats in the next elections, the YSRCP leaders admit in private that it is easier said than done. “Let alone winning 175 seats, we have to put in extra efforts to retain power for a second successive term,” a senior YSRCP leader said on condition of anonymity.
Strong anti-incumbency strengthening TDP
As per the YSRCP leader quoted above, various internal surveys commissioned by Jagan himself have indicated that there is a strong anti-incumbency against many of the sitting MLAs of the party for reasons like corruption, inaccessibility to people, lack of developmental works, growing unemployment, among others.
“The chief minister is banking on his welfare schemes which no doubt will fetch him some mileage, but it is not enough to bring him back to power... Lack of infrastructure work, industrialisation that will generate employment and frustration among the urban electorate will affect the party’s prospects in the elections,” said the leader.
The change in the people’s mood – especially among the educated urban youth – was reflected in the elections to the state legislative council held in March this year, wherein the TDP won all the three seats, elections for which were held in graduates’ constituencies – one in north-coastal Andhra covering erstwhile combined Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts and two in Rayalaseema.
The TDP also registered a shocking victory in the elections to the MLC seats held under MLAs’ quota when its candidate Panchumarthi Anuradha won allegedly due to crossvoting by four of the YSRCP MLAs in her favour.
The MLC election results were certainly a setback for the YSRCP, particularly in the three graduates’ constituencies, which cover as many as 108 assembly segments. However, the YSRC leadership has brushed it aside as a minor aberration.
“It doesn’t reflect the mood of the entire state. These voters constitute only about 2% of the total electorate (around 720,000 graduate voters out of the total number of 36.6 million voters in the state). The real voters in the rural areas are solidly behind our party. So, nothing to worry,” said YSRCP general secretary and advisor to the government Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy, immediately after the elections.
On the other hand, the TDP led by Naidu has stepped up an aggressive campaign against the Jagan government, by launching various programmes like “Idemi Kharma” (What is this fate for the state?) for the last few months.
Naidu has been touring from place to place, addressing public meetings, explaining how Jagan had ruined the state on all fronts. At the same time, his son and TDP general secretary Nara Lokesh has been on his marathon padayatra across the state, drawing good response from the people. He has so far covered the entire Rayalaseema and is set to step into coastal Andhra.
Simultaneously, Naidu has also been in talks with Jana Sena Party president and popular actor Pawan Kalyan and there is a broad consensus for an alliance between the two parties. They are hoping to rope in Bharatiya Janata Party into the alliance, so as to prevent the split of anti-establishment vote.
Claims of witch-hunting, legal hurdles
As soon as he took over as the chief minister, Jagan launched an aggressive crackdown to expose the alleged corrupt deeds of the previous TDP regime – which has continued in the final leg of his 5-year term as well.
The Crime Investigation Department (CID) of the state police filed criminal cases against the accused in the ₹371 crore skill development scam that allegedly took place during the TDP regime and arrested three persons in the case.
Besides, the CID also booked criminal cases against media baron Ch Ramoji Rao and others in the Margadarsi chit funds case, accusing them of indulging in irregularities in the form of alleged siphoning of deposits.
On the legal front, Jagan got partial relief from the Supreme Court, in which he had challenged the high court order of March 3, 2022, upholding Amaravati as the only capital region of the state. The apex court lifted the six months’ time limit for the completion of developmental works in Amaravati.
Following this, Jagan began efforts to shift his camp office to Visakhapatnam, which he had declared as executive capital of the state. He announced that he would be moving to the port city in September.
The chief minister also got a favourable judgement from the Supreme Court, which refused to stay his decision to distribute housing plots to weaker sections in Amaravati, which was once visualised as a world class capital city of Andhra Pradesh. He began the house sites’ distribution process last week.
However, what is causing embarrassment to Jagan is the ongoing CBI case in the murder of his uncle YS Vivekananda Reddy on March 15, 2019, as the agency is targeting his cousin and Kadapa MP YV Avinash Reddy. If Avinash Reddy is proved guilty, it will be a huge setback for the YSRCP and Jagan before the next elections.
Political analyst and author Sriram Karri, however, said it could be advantageous for Jagan in the next elections as well, as he had left the bulk of the people of his state in total adulation. “He has focused on common people and mitigating their sufferings, predominantly through direct cash transfers. He has created a new model of governance which focuses highly on making people self-sufficient first, which might help him come back for a second term,” he said.
Karri pointed out that such is the strong impact of Jagan’s schemes that even Naidu is now promising that he would continue them if he won.
Of course, Jagan is struggling to give his government an investor-friendly image by conducting Global Investors’ Summit at Visakhapatnam in March this year and inauguration of a couple of ports and Adani Data Centre.
“Given the politics entering the final year before elections, everything is hotly contested, but the ruling YSRCP is confident of a big win, which does not appear unlikely,” Karri added.