Hyderabad: Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy of the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRC) completed 100 days in office on September 7 as the second chief minister of Andhra Pradesh since its bifurcation.
The young Reddy rode to power on a wave of public sympathy over the death of his father Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy in a helicopter crash on September 2, 2009. This was when Reddy was at the beginning of his second term as chief minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh.
Jagan’s incarceration in money laundering cases initiated by his former Congress bosses in power also helped him plead vendetta. Besides, a widespread atmosphere of anti-incumbency fostered by the Telugu Desam Party government also helped him unseat Naidu.
The Andhra Pradesh chief minister, it is known, had mounted a campaign based on the legacy of his father, the alleged politics of vendetta by his bête noir Naidu, and a welfare package.
A basket of nine populist schemes was projected in the run up to the elections, named Nava Ratnas. In his swearing-in function, Jagan stated that the Nava Ratnas or ‘nine gems’ were to be the underlying objectives of Rajanna Rajyam, a welfare state which he intended to establish as an inheritor of his father’s legacy. For the realisation of all the Nava Ratnas, his government requires at least Rs 65,000 crore.
Extremely pleased to have started Rajanna Badibata. A program very close to my heart. No mother should struggle to send her child to school! Send them to school and I will take care of their education! & from Jan 26th, though our Amma Vodi promise we’ll give you 15000/- yearly. https://t.co/1yCcgY8Snh
— YS Jagan Mohan Reddy (@ysjagan) June 14, 2019
However, it appears that Jagan is out to build the so-called Rajanna Rajyam particularly on the ruins of his rival Naidu’s rule in Andhra. He has already demonstrated his urge by wiping out the symbols of power associated with his predecessor. The demolition of the Praja Vedika built by the TDP government, close to Naidu’s riverside official residence, within a few days of Jagan’s take-over could be viewed in this context.
The YSRC government’s attempts to let Naidu’s pet projects, like building the capital of Amaravati and the Polavaram irrigation plan, die a natural death speak to Jagan’s merciless politics of vendetta. Former TDP minister Dokka Manikyavaraprasad points out that Jagan has failed to stick to his raja dharma by letting revenge politics prevail over his wisdom and balance of mind.
Jagan, who had stoked the fires of anti-incumbency before the elections by depicting Naidu as the ’emperor of corruption’, had promised to put his rival behind the bars once he came to power. The YSRC also published a booklet, accusing Naidu of having swindled Rs 1.34 lakh crore in the Polavaram irrigation and capital projects.
It appears that Jagan is now out to realise what he had promised regarding the allegedly corrupt deals made by the Naidu government. Accordingly, the Polavaram irrigation project looked destined for re-tendering with a pre-closure termination notice for works worth Rs 3,200 crore. These construction projects had been given to one Navayuga Engineering Company. Similarly, the capital project in progress at Amaravati has been put on a back burner and the downward revision of green energy power purchase agreements entered into by the previous TDP government with private developers, is being contemplated.
Strikingly, when it came to Naidu’s alleged corruption, the tone and the tenor of Jagan and that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been similar in the run up to the elections. Modi, during his election rallies, alleged that Polavaram had become an ATM for Naidu to draw instant cash through illicit means. Hoping for the Centre’s backing in a cause which had seen the full strength of the opposition’s election-eve agenda, Jagan had aimed to deliver the nail on his rival’s coffin.
Amaravati & Polavaram: ‘Victims’ of politics
But the Centre under Modi 2.0 regime sprang a surprise for Jagan by scuttling all his moves. Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat stated in the parliament that the re-tendering process for Polavaram would delay the project and escalate cost.
Then, Anand Kumar, Union secretary for New and Renewable Energy wrote to Andhra Pradesh chief secretary L.V. Subramanyam expressing apprehensions that the state government’s decision to revisit the tariffs for green energies pacts may adversely impact investments and affect investors’ confidence.
Meanwhile, the Municipal Administration Minister Botsa Satyanarayana of the Jagan Reddy’s government triggered further anticipation by setting off speculation over the shifting of the capital out of Amaravati.
The minister cited several reasons, chief among which were that the the floodplains of the Krishna river was an unsafe site for a capital city, the cost of the capital project would double if executed at the present site in view of the soil condition and the scams in land transactions involving TDP leaders.
The minister’s outburst met with vociferous protests from the most unexpected quarters — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). A delegation of party leaders led by BJP state president Kanna Lakshminarayana and Rajya Sabha member Y.S. Chowdary, during a visit to Amaravati’s villages, stated in unequivocal terms that their party will oppose the move for capital shifting vehemently.
Thus, the claim by YSRC’s senior MP V. Vijayasai Reddy that Jagan’s decisions on Polavaram, PPAs and capital have the prime minister’s approval seems misleading.
Three months since Jagan has assumed charge, it is clear that the capital project has been dumped for two reasons. First, the chief minister is aiming to settle feuds with Naidu by exposing his allegedly corrupt deals. Secondly, Jagan seems to think that it is pointless to realise the project which has been running into Rs 1 lakh crore for a state with a fragile economy, at the expense of his own Nava Ratnas.
Jagan’s Christian background raises BJP’s hopes
Jagan may well have thought that he would emerge as an unquestioned leader if he could finish Naidu off on his home turf. But he soon began to receive disturbing signals from the BJP, a non-entity in the state with a 0.84 vote share in the 2019 general elections.
This perhaps sets the stage for a triangular political slugfest in the near future, observes political analyst and professor K. Nageswar. The downfall of the Naidu’s TDP has enthused the BJP, which now has free rein to eye a prominent position in Telangana politics.
When Naidu had been in power, BJP had all but given up hope of growing on the back of its former ally. But since returning to power at the Centre, the saffron party has been looking to consolidate ground on its own. And it has relied on its traditional agenda of Hindutva for that and has attacked Jagan’s alleged Christian identity.
Jagan’s Christian background is all at once drawn to the fore. His great grandfather Venkata Reddy, an employee of the Church of South Indian (CSI) in his native Kadapa district had been baptised. His brother-in-law Anil Kumar (his sister Sharmila Reddy’s husband) is an Evangelist.
BJP has called for protests over Jagan allegedly using his government as a propaganda tool for promoting missionary activities in the state. The saffron brigades have tried to target Jagan over tickets of APSRTC buses plying to Tirumala carrying advertisements publicising a pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the reverse. Jerusalem is considered holy for all Old Testament religions like Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
BJP has also raised a hue and cry over Jagan’s alleged reluctance to light a lamp at a function during his visit to the US, saying he had refused to do so as it is a “Hindu tradition”.
A clarification from the YSRC leadership soon followed. It was an electric lamp which did not require Jagan to comply with the ritual manually. Further, the advertisements on the APSRTC tickets had been printed during the TDP government.
With hundred days of Jagan’s government having been in power, it remains to be seen as to who can make the most of the political situation and if the chief minister can indeed deliver on his promises.