By T S Sudhir
Outside Hyderabad Central in Punjagutta area of Hyderabad, stands a life-size golden hue statue of former chief minister the late Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, waving his hand. Bang opposite at this busy traffic intersection, the Telugu Desam has now put up a banner with a life-size photograph of YSR’s bete noire, Chandrababu Naidu, also waving his hand. The text on the side reads : `Leader is back. Development Restarts’. (see pic below)
That’s not all. Outside Naidu’s home on Friday, as the results poured in, posters showing that Naidu will return to the state secretariat while Jaganmohan Reddy will return to Chanchalguda jail appeared outside his residence (see pic below). In the virtual space, the Facebook page of the TDP predicts that Jagan will be back in prison in the next 45 days.
“Definitely, we will speed up the cases. It is government money. We want to bring back the money. We will ask ED to seize his properties,” says C M Ramesh, TDP MP in the Rajya Sabha and one of the close confidants and neighbour of Naidu. On the campaign trail, Naidu had gone to the extent of saying that all those who vote for Jagan also deserve a place behind bars. Now, as he is set to take oath as the first CM of the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh, he does not want charges of political vendetta thrown his way and says, “I am not interested in this. We want to fight corruption. I made it clear to all the people that I want to work towards a corrupt-free India.”
The YSR Congress is worried though Jagan is putting up a brave face. “Sonia Gandhi did what she wanted, now let TDP do what it wants. I believe in God and destiny,” said Jagan. But those against who chargesheets have been filed in different cases of omission and commission during the YSR regime, are waiting for the knock on their door soon. They are certain that Naidu-Modi combine will tighten the screws under the guise of `law will take its own course’ and while Jagan is inside, weaken the party outside.
But politically, it would make more sense for Naidu not to kill the YSR Congress. It would be prudent to keep alive both the Congress (down to zero in Seemandhra assembly now) and YSR Congress and allow them to split the opposition vote. Knowing Naidu, he would already be preparing for 2019 when he could make a move to New Delhi, if the `sonrise’ takes place in Andhra Pradesh. With both father and father-in-law (actor Balakrishna) in positions of power, Nara Lokesh has the airstrip ready for take off. The 2019 battle for AP could well be a Lokesh vs Jagan affair.
Jagan was hoping to get the numbers and persuade Modi to dump Naidu and ally with the YSR Congress. He even praised Modi as a good administrator and after the results, said Modi alone made all the difference. That did not happen and perhaps would not have happened even if he had come to power in Andhra Pradesh. And the reasons for that are many.
1. Image issues : The YSR Congress leaders will not accept this and will blame it on a gullible electorate believing Naidu’s “false promises” but if they had their ears to the ground, they would have heard loud noises about not handing over the reins of Andhra Pradesh to a tainted politician. Ten chargesheets that list him as Accused number one have virtually killed Jagan’s brand equity, especially in the urban and semi-urban pockets of coastal Andhra. Modi himself attacked Jagan by asking voters to choose between a Swarnandhra and a Scamandhra.
Jagan by giving tickets to chargesheeted persons like Koneru Prasad, Ayodhya Rami Reddy, Dharmana Prasada Rao only showed he didn’t care for public perception. Like in Tamilnadu where heavyweight tainted candidates of the DMK like A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran were rejected, in Seemandhra too, save Jagan, all other accused in different cases did not get sufficient traction on the EVM.
On the day of polling, I and my friends in the media met several voters in different age groups, who plumped for Naidu’s experience over Jagan’s youth not because of his track record in Hyderabad alone but because they did not trust Jagan with the money that will be pumped into Seemandhra soon. Jagan with his several public relations managers has not been able to repair this image and if he fails to do so, he will find it difficult to bounce back, just hoping for Naidu to make mistakes.
2. Ambani won’t approve : Remember the run-in that Jagan’s media empire had with Mukesh Ambani in 2010 when his hidden hand was alleged by an obscure Russian website in the YSR helicopter crash and was carried on TV channels close to Jagan. Within minutes, mobs appeared out of nowhere to attack retail outlets of Reliance Fresh in different towns of Andhra Pradesh. Given the friction that Ambani had with YSR too over the KG basin, it is unlikely that Modi, with who Ambani is close, will be open to doing any political business with Jagan.
3. The Christian angle : Jagan’s Christian background makes the RSS see red. Given the antipathy the Hindu outfits have to Christian missionaries trying to convert Hindus in coastal Andhra, the RSS will never agree to Modi taking Jagan into NDA as a partner.
Jagan has little option now except to bide his time. If the five years since September 2009 have been tough, the going will only get more tough in the next five years. What he needs is a set of good advisors who would have the courage to tell him the truth instead of what he likes to hear.