Will Jagan's walk lead him to the CM's chair in Andhra Pradesh?
Jaganmohan Reddy completes his 3000-kilometre 'padayatra', spanning 14 months across Andhra Pradesh. Will Chandrababu Naidu soon have to walk away from the CM's chair?
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In what could be the longest walkathon undertaken by any political leader — at least in India — YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) President YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s ‘padayatra’ of 3,648 km came to an end on Thursday (January 10).
Signalling the end of his 14-month-long Prajalakosam Prajasankalpa Yatra, Jagan unveiled a pylon to mark the event.
The padayatra was through the 13 districts in Andhra Pradesh — starting from his late father Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy’s native village Idupalapaya in YSR Kadapa district, and ending in Ichchapuram in Srikakulam district near the Odisha border — and was embarked on November 6, 2017. The walk was suspended for a few days when Jagan sustained injuries after a person attacked him with a knife on October 25, 2018, at the waiting lounge of the Vizag airport. However, he recuperated and restarted the yatra on November 8, 2018.
Is Jagan greeting a new political future? (Source: Twitter/LegendYSJagan)
In the run-up to the Andhra Pradesh assembly elections scheduled for April-May 2019, Jagan seems to be gaining favour with the masses — especially through this padayatra encompassing touring of the assembly constituencies, interacting with people from over a thousand villages, addressing more than a hundred public meetings and also holding nearly 50 community meetings.
Analysts say that Jagan’s outreach to the farming and weaving communities at ground level — and his outrage over the issue of unemployment — is gaining him brownie points from the electorate.
This, as he continues to provide assurances of welfare schemes or ‘Navaratnalu, says senior political observer Dr Pentapati Pulla Rao. “The padayatra definitely created positive ripples in favour of YSRCP. It appears to create a connection between the leader and the people. The padayatra was a good way to remain in the public and be part of the media discourse. It also helps a leader understand the problems across the regions,” he said in an interview with The News Minute.
The timing of the yatra and the message it conveys is bagging brownie points for Jagan Reddy (Photo: Twitter/YSRJaganTrends)
In the yatra, Jagan picked up key issues that have been roiling public ire against the TDP regime — like its failure to implement the farm loan waivers which Chandrababu Naidu promised ahead of the 2014 elections, the failure to fight for Special Category Status to Andhra Pradesh and the pending Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA) loans and housing schemes.
However, the yatra goes much beyond that for Jagan.
In the 2014 assembly and Lok Sabha elections, the YSRCP was a pre-poll favourite among most analysts and psephologists. However, the party leaders and analysts were thrown off-guard when the results were declared. The party got just 67 out of 175 assembly seats and nine of the 38 Lok Sabha seats it contested from. The humiliation did not end there. Dr YSR’s wife and Jagan’s mother Y S Vijayalakshmi — YSRCP’s honorary president — lost the Visakhapatnam parliamentary seat by 90,698 votes.
The yatra is a channel for Jagan to assert himself politically as his father’s true political heir — and as Naidu's nemesis.
“The padayatra was basically done to help him consolidate his earlier base. After his 2014 loss, he faced several setbacks, including losing 22 MLAs to TDP, and therefore, he had to round up his supporters and stem the rot in his own party. To that extent, the padayatra has been successful,” says Telakapalli Ravi, a senior journalist and political analyst.
Walking shoes have been in hot demand amongst politicians in the state who embark on political yatras at the very mention of an oncoming election.
N Chandrababu Naidu had embarked on a padayatra in 2012 and covered 2,817 km of undivided Andhra Pradesh. Earlier, Dr YSR had walked 15,000 kilometres in 2004 — in two months which swept him to power in the 2004 elections.
Jagan has clearly outrun (or should we say, outwalked?) his father in the latest marathon feat.
However, it remains to be seen if the 2004 history will be repeated when Jagan’s father Dr YSR defeated Chandrababu Naidu after the padayatra.
It also remains to be seen if Jagan’s current walk of fame will lead him to the Chief Minister’s chair in Andhra Pradesh, a significant state due for Assembly Polls later this year.