By T S Sudhir
To me the drink looked far from yummy. “This is my breakfast. Would you like to have one too?” Jagan offered, indicating to the viscous, jaggery colour drink placed before him. I was meeting him at the house of a Congress leader in Palvancha town of Khammam district where he was having a stopover during his `Odarpu’ yatra.
“What is it?” I asked. “Don’t know,” he shrugged. The previous day had been really long and he had managed to hit the pillow only at 5:30 am to catch an hour or so of sleep. Circumstances sometimes force you to swallow an unpalatable, a bitter pill and Jagan knows he has a long way to go before he sleeps. So though visibly tired, he is ready for a new day.
Y S Jaganmohan Reddy is in the process of rebuilding his political career after the castles he built following dad YSR’s tragic death came crumbling down. The high-decibel campaign his supporters mounted for him in Hyderabad and Delhi, demanding that Jagan be crowned king, was seen as noise pollution by those whose ears it was meant for. Jagan’s image took a severe beating. He was seen more as the enfant terrible of Andhra politics.
So on April 9, seven months after YSR’s death, Jagan started on this six-day tour, to provide financial help to 642 families, that lost a near and dear one, reportedly unable to bear the trauma of YSR’s death. In the first leg, Jagan covered two districts of West Godavari and Khammam in six days, and each of these visits to some 80-odd homes were planned to the last detail. Jagan, unshaven with an unkempt mop of hair, would hug the family members, eat whatever was offered to him, even as freshly laminated and garlanded portraits of the deceased and YSR completed the picture. The picture of the son, very Kamalahasan’s `Thevar Magan’ like, promising to take care of those who `cared’ for his father.
”Our leader is still in our hearts. I am with you. I cherish your love and affection. You are all my family members,” was Jagan’s refrain at each one of these homes.
That morning, Jagan’s immediate concern was his hands. They were full of scratch marks, left by people wanting to reach out and touch him. I remembered Chiranjeevi’s first road tour in Srikakulam as a politician, when a small scratch on his hand became `breaking news’ on a couple of Telugu news channels. Jagan spent the next five minutes using antiseptic spray and put half a dozen band-aid strips to cover the fresh wounds.
Wounds have been many in the last few months. The biggest and most harsh of them, his dad’s tragic death on September 2, the trauma YSR’s loved ones were forced to live through for 24 hours, till his body was found deep inside Nallamalla forest. And then the campaign to make him CM went horribly wrong. Jagan’s immaturity as a politician came to the fore, when he could not read the Congress culture, where you have to proclaim not to be a contender to be a serious contender for the throne.
In that one month of September, Jagan realised what loss of power could do to people. Suddenly the industrialist son-turned-politician who everyone knew as the second most powerful man in YSR’s Andhra Pradesh, was reduced to a Congress dissident, who was thought responsible for all kinds of headaches for the 77-year-old Bhishmapitamah-like Konijeti Rosaiah.
So whether it was the Telangana turmoil, the attacks on Reliance retail outlets or the communal violence in Hyderabad, the needle of suspicion pointed to one man. “Y(e)S, it has to be Jagan in league with the Bellary brothers” went the whisper campaign. For a man who admitted to me in September that he is yet to make friends in the Congress in Delhi, it seemed he was left with only foes.
Jagan had been seeking permission for this yatra since October. Everytime it was refused, the leadership convinced it will create trouble for Rosaiah. Finally when the response was neither yes nor no, Jagan decided he will hit the road. His calculation, he had nothing to lose. After all, the number of his foes wouldn’t increase.
Having travelled a bit with YSR in the summer of 2003, when he walked 1400 km from Ranga Reddy to Srikakulam district, I could not but help notice the similarity. As the Khammam sun records 45 degrees plus, Jagan is aiming for his own place under the sun. He is no longer the rising sun that he was from 2004-09. Today his concern is to avoid being eclipsed.
So far, the yatra has not created too many ripples in Hyderabad. But the way each town Jagan visits, is being plastered with YSR and Jagan posters and cutouts, it looks like a matter of time. Once the Congress leadership realises that the reaching out has the not-so-hidden agenda of reopening his political account.
Supporters say Jagan is determined to fight it out. “He is in the same situation that YSR was in between 1989-1993 when he was a headache for the likes of PV and Kotla,” says one of them. “Does he feel victimised?” I ask. “How else is he supposed to feel,” comes the counter-question.
Jagan is keeping away from a formal interview. Can’t blame him. His every word, every pause, every comma could put a fullstop to his political career, especially with several Jagan-hating Congressmen and women who would love to read between his lines. That he is a binding factor within the Andhra Pradesh Congress is obvious. Because despite his pro-United Andhra Pradesh stance, Telangana leaders from the party, including ministers, are sharing screen space with him during the yatra.
I noticed Jagan was wearing the same white-and-blue stripes shirt that he was wearing when I spent a day with him in Pulivendula in Kadapa district exactly an year ago, when he was campaiging for both himself and his dad. I couldn’t help wondering how life had so dramatically changed in the last 365 days for this young cub. He, like all tigers, is not changing his `stripes’ but it surely will be quite a task for him to learn hunting in the Indian political landscape, without the Tiger of Kadapa to show the way.
You can also find T S Sudhir’s blogs at http://www.thesouthreports.com
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