By T S Sudhir
His doctor dad would have probably advised him never to ignore a pain in the neck. Y S Jaganmohan Reddy doesn’t have that luxury though. I met him yesterday evening at his office in Hyderabad. Jagan explained how his cervical bones (C6 and C7) troubled him through most part of his Odarpu yatra in Nellore district and when the pain that spread to his left hand became unbearable, even with painkillers and steroids, Jagan headed to Apollo Hospital in Chennai.
“They asked me to take four weeks rest. But two weeks is all I could,” smiled Jagan. “I will take it as it comes.”
I have met Jagan many times in this room but the Jagan I met yesterday was different. The 37-year-old was far more self-assured and confident of the future that lay before him. There was no more that feeling sorry for himself, miffed with leaders in the Congress who were gunning for him at every single opportunity.
“I got this confidence from the love and support of the people in Prakasam and Nellore districts. Even when cyclone Jal was to hit Nellore with wind speeds of 120 km/hour, lakhs of people were on the streets to greet me. That was overwhelming,” said Jagan.
When I entered, there were a whole lot of people waiting to meet Jagan, a couple of MLAs among them. Others had come to express support, some to encourage him, some with hope that he will help solve their problems, some wondering how a father and son can have so similar a political career. YSR too had a tough time protecting his political turf in the 90s, having taken on prime minister P V Narasimha Rao.
It is the same clash with the High command that has reduced YSR’s son to a political orphan. With his uncle, Y S Vivekananda Reddy wooed by the Congress, Jagan knows YSR’s younger brother will be used as the prop by the party to show that the YSR family is being given pride of place.
Sources in the Jagan camp say Vivekananda Reddy, like most men, also had his “weakness” and a couple of months back, wrote that letter swearing allegiance to the leadership.
“He was taken aback when the letter was leaked by Delhi. When that happened, he was mighty embarrassed and rushed to join the Odarpu yatra. But now he may be made a minister in the Kiran Kumar Reddy cabinet. The idea clearly is to split the family, sideline and isolate Jagan. Congress is playing very dirty,” says a close associate of Jagan.
Jagan’s supporters, who had led a vitriolic campaign against K Rosaiah, say there weren’t surprised at Kiran Kumar Reddy’s elevation. “It was always on the cards. But he is just Delhi’s man. He doesn’t have the mandate to rule the state. Will he even have a say in who gets tickets to contest the elections in 2014?”
I ask one of them about Jagan’s relations with Kiran Kumar Reddy and he says “neither good, nor bad.” Has Jagan called the new CM to congratulate him, I follow up. “No, he has not and nor will he.”
Jagan says contrary to what people believe, he is not in the race to become chief minister. “I did not do a Viceroy Hotel, like Chandrababu Naidu in August 1995, even when I had 150 of the 156 MLAs supporting me. Even at the CLP meeting, I told the MLAs who support me, not to raise any issues. I am not interested in toppling this government. Let it run till 2014. All I wanted was that I should be allowed to continue my Odarpu yatra as it was a promise I made at my dad’s chopper crash site,” explains Jagan.
Instead, his supporters say, the party went out of its way to prevent any of the MLAs and MPs from being part of the yatra. A leader from Prakasam district points out that many of the MLAs, who owe their political careers to YSR, wanted to be part of the yatra.
“When people wanted to install YSR statues in their villages and towns, ministers who were made ministers by YSR, created hurdles. That hurt. MLAs were called to Delhi and Ahmed Patel spoke to each one of them. The idea was to hit at Jagan and defame him. They make it seem as if he is only interested in power. If that was the case, Jagan anna would have accepted Sonia Gandhi’s offer and become a cabinet minister. But that would have meant showing no character.”
As I write this, comes news from Delhi that Jaipal Reddy has taken on Jagan over the political content on the Kadapa MPs’s Sakshi TV, accusing him of violating party discipline.
“Everyone knows the channel is owned by him and is run for his politics. It is very undesirable. What the channel is doing to damage the Congress party is unfortunate.’’
I did ask Jagan yesterday if Sakshi TV was acting as his master’s voice.
“Sudhir, I never lie. Trust me, I do not know of what the editorial team plans. There is always a lot of pressure on the channel heads because of TRPs. We were number 3 two weeks back from where we slipped to number 5. And I keep telling them, I want Sakshi TV to be number 1. Only after the uproar after the airing took place, did I find out what the show was all about. Even on Rahul Gandhi’s role in the Bihar elections, we have said what other magazines, newspapers and channels have said. But when we say it, we are targetted.”
You can sense from the looks of anticipation on the faces of his supporters that they think the time to act has come.
“He gains nothing by being in the Congress. He should move out now. Politics is a long-term game. He should work towards building his cadre base and aim to become CM in 2014.”
Is there any possibility of a compromise, I ask an elderly person who has come from Kadapa to meet Jagan He joins his palms and then lets them go in different directions like a `V’ and says “Jagan and Sonia have moved too far apart. After YSR’s death, they decided they should not encourage one powerful regional chieftain. Hence this practise of appointing Delhi’s chief ministers has begun once again. It will hurt the Congress.”
The label of a YSR confidant firmly tagged, Kiran Kumar Reddy has begun his innings as CM, loudly chanting the YSR mantra. The battle for the real inheritor to YSR’s legacy is well and truly on. And it is a battle that will go on till 2014.
Andhra Pradesh will continue to be a pain in the neck. For Sonia Gandhi.
You can also find T S Sudhir’s blogs at http://www.thesouthreports.com