Andhra Pradesh Ysr Congress Sweeps Mini-General Election
The landslide win of YSR Congress in the recently held by-polls has parallels to the outcome of the ‘fratricidal fight’ between two Congress parties in Andhra Pradesh way back in 1978 assembly elections. Riding on a strong sympathy wave, jailed MP YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s nascent YSR Congress decimated the ruling Congress by bagging 15 of the 18 Assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat in the by-elections in Andhra Pradesh in a showing that could be a political game-changer in the state. It is evident from the results that by arresting Jagan, a fortnight ahead of polling, the Central Bureau of Investigation rendered disservice to the Congress and the TDP. The enormous crowds, especially women, that thronged roadshows addressed by his mother YS Vijayamma and sister Sharmila, had all the trappings of a sympathy wave waiting to happen. And it did, considering the 80 per cent voter turnout and, then the landslide victory.
Congress won just two assembly seats, while main opposition Telugu Desam faced a complete rout drawing a blank in a keenly awaited outcome in which the 39-year-old Kadapa MP is fighting a bitter public battle with the Congress over his father and the late Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s political legacy. In the by-polls, touted as the ‘semi-finals’ ahead of the 2014 assembly elections, the TRS managed to scrape through with a slender margin of 1,562 votes in Parkal, the lone assembly seat in Telangana region, as it faced a close contest from the nominee of the 15-month-old YSRC. With by-poll results, the Congress saw its majority reduced to just seven seats having 155 MLAs in a House of 294. The YSRC tally increased to 17. The TRS gained one seat of Parkal, thanks to the by-election. It was also a loss of face for actor-turned-politician K Chiranjeevi as the YSRC wrested the Tirupati Assembly seat he vacated upon his election to Rajya Sabha in March. The victory of YSRC was so resounding that the Congress lost deposits in four constituencies though it managed to win two seats, largely on the caste factor.
Lodged in the Chanchalguda prison as an undertrial in the disproportionate assets case against him, Jagan Reddy has sent out a clear warning signal to the Congress that he will be its nemesis in the next elections as people are solidly behind him. In fact, despite YSR Congress chief Jagan Mohan Reddy being being behind the bars, the campaign led by the party honorary president and his mother YS Vijayamma paid rich dividends. By-election results are not always pointers to the outcome of a general election. However, what Andhra Pradesh went through was not a by-election to one seat or two, but a mini-general election to 18 Assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat. And the verdict was decisive: a sweep for the YSR Congress led by Jagan Mohan Reddy, son of former Congress Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy. No matter how the results are read, the YSRC, which won in 15 Assembly constituencies and in the lone Parliamentary constituency, Nellore, will have to be seen as a frontline challenger to the Congress in the state in the 2014 general elections. Indeed, the results could encourage other Congress MLAs to shift allegiance to the Jagan Congress and thereby pose a threat to the very survival of the Kiran Kumar Reddy government. Unlike the earlier sets of by-elections in the Telangana region, these were not in a geographically contiguous area. The constituencies were spread across 12 districts, some of them Congress strongholds. That the YSRC could perform well beyond YSR’s home base in Kadapa district and the Rayalaseema region is surely noteworthy. Of course, a good chunk of the seats to be specific, eight are from this region, but the gains in Nellore, Prakasam, Guntur, West Godavari, Visakhapatnam, and Srikakulam districts demonstrate the YSRC’s ability to expand its base. Moreover, in Parkal the YSRC finished a creditable second to TRS, an ominous sign for the TDP and the Congress.
“CBI ARRESTED JAGAN ON BEHALF OF GOVERNMENT”—DA Somayajulu
Do you think that putting YSR Congress chief behind bars by the CBI ahead of the by-polls was a larger political conspiracy to keep him out of the campaign?
It has been a general feeling among the people all across the state since the day CBI arrested Jagan. As you know, much before the recently-held mini-general election, various surveys conducted by prominent political analysts predicted that YSR Congress party was going to sweep 17 constituencies all across Andhra and the Rayalsema area. The only seat they were doubtful was Telangana where our party surprisingly did much better than anybody else. The Congress thought keeping the Jagan out of the poll process for at least 20 days would certainly be helpful for them. And thus followed the arrest of the YSR Congress chief by the CBI on May 27 in connection with an ongoing case in which the Andhra Pradesh High Court ordered in response to a case filed together by Congress and TDP against Jagan. The Court pronounced its judgment on August 10, 2011.
Basing on the court verdict, the CBI officials lodged an FIR in a local court on August 17, 2011 and the next day they raided about one hundred premises of not only Jagan but also of big corporate houses who had invested in his company. Then the CBI officials kept quiet and there had been no action from their side for 280 days. What was the urgency on the part of the investigating agency to arrest the young leader once the poll process started? Why didn’t the CBI officials, who had the every right to take him into custody, do so during that time? How can one believe that a man who has figured as an accused in the FIR lodged by the CBI could not be called for investigation while he had been walking free for 280 days, i.e. till May 26, 2012? In such a context it is obvious to blame the CBI for acting on behalf of the government just to keep the young leader out of the campaign trail.
Morever, the court directed a CBI inquiry against Jagan, which later became a Prime Ministers Office (PMO)-monitored one and they did what they like while reporting to the Prime Minister who belongs to the Congress Party. This is why every body has certainly a reason to doubt about the intention of the CBI behind the arrest of the YSR Congress chief the moment electioneering started.
How did you sweep the by-polls held recently?
Soon after the sad demise of the then Chief Minister YSR Rajashekhara Reddy in a air crash in September 2009, a new man became the Chief Minister who in fact acted as a puppet at the hands of Congress government at the centre. The Congress government tried to remove the memories of Reddy from the minds of people and dilute a plethora unique pro-people schemes. In fact, this ill-design was not accepted by the people and later the junior YSR came forward challenging the Congressmen to fulfill the dreams of his father and he was later accepted as a true leader of the people all across the state. Had it not been a case, how could we in a triangular fight, secured 49 per cent votes against 45 per cent secured by Congress and Telgu Desam Party together. In fact, Congress even after the merger of cine star Chiranjeev’s Praja Rajya Party had to satisfy with only 23 per cent votes followed by 22 per cent by TDP.
In the wake of your party’s landside victory in the recently held by-polls, do you think that more MLAs would quit Congress?
It is too early to speculate as the general election is still far away. In fact we don’t want to create a constitutional vacuum by destabilising the Kiran Kumar Reddy-led government. If more number of MLAs switch over to YSR Congress party, then they will have to lose their seats under anti-defection law and seek fresh mandate thereby paving the way for Congress-led UPA government at the centre to impose President’s rule in the state taking the plea of a constitutional crisis. Further, it would not be helpful for us. Still some MLAs may come, but there would be no threat to the present government.
Are you sure that the YSR Congress can keep the present trend up in the next assembly election, likely to be held in April 2014?
We would certainly do well all across the state because people have accepted Jagan as a true representative of the legacy of YSR Reddy who can work like his father. To add this, we are always with the people trying to redress their grievances and that is why we enjoy the support of the masses.
Would your party prefer to merge with Congress if the AICC President Sonia Gandhi gives an offer to do so?
Not at all. You see, Congress is a sinking boat, especially in Southern India. How would it be useful for us if we go with it? They may give ‘Jagan’ a ministerial birth in the union cabinet. But, what is the use of it? The YSR Congress led by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy is determined to serve the people of the state on its own—to fulfill the visions of YSR Reddy.
What would be your party’s role in the forthcoming presidential election?
As of now the party has not yet chalked out its strategy for the country’s top post. The party would soon decide on the matter. After all UPA’s presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee is certainly a good statesman having a spotless political carrear. If only Mukherjee is left in the fray, we would be left with no other option but to support his candidature. Otherwise, the party would decide on the issue.
YSR Congress Party Advisor
Irrespective of the merits of the CBI’s case against Jagan, the arrest of the YSRC leader on charges of corruption during the campaign period was, in public perception, a politically-inspired misadventure. To make matters worse, the Congress and the TDP, instead of attacking each other, chose Jagan as the prime target, unwittingly making the YSRC the frontrunner. Further, the Congress suffered the incumbency disadvantage twice over. The non-governance in the state was made worse by the hike in fuel prices and the failure of the Congress-led Centre to rein in inflation. While the YSRC still has some distance to cover before it can entertain visions of coming to power in Andhra Pradesh, the odds are stacked against the Congress. Without some corrective measures, the party will face an uphill task in 2014. Surely, the loss of Andhra Pradesh, a state which today accounts for the largest block of Congress MPs in the Lok Sabha, will have serious implications on the party’s vote-bank equation.
The 18 assembly constituencies that went to poll in Andhra Pradesh include Tirupati, Allagadda, Rajampet, Rayachoti, Parkal, Ongole, Narsamapeta, Payakaraopet, Anantapur Urban, Yemmiganur, Rayadurg, Kodur, Udayagiri, Narasapuram, Prathipadu, Ramachandrapuram, Macherla and Polavaram. The bye-elections were necessitated following the resignation of a Congress MP and disqualification of 17 state legislators. In terms of votes, YSR Congress polled 48.98 per cent, whereas the Congress came a distant second with 22.68 per cent, with TDP trailing at third position with 22.03 per cent of the total votes. It is apparent that YSR Congress drew an overwhelming support of all sections of society, including dalits, tribals, Muslims, Backward Classes and dominant upper caste group—Reddys. This explains the huge majorities that its candidates notched up not only in the Nellore Lok Sabha constituency but also in a majority of the assembly segments. The attempts of the ruling Congress and TDP to woo these sections came to a naught. The by-poll results have some lessons for the Congress and TDP so far as Muslim voters are concerned. In five assembly constituencies as well as in Nellore LS constituency, where Muslim voters account for a sizeable chunk of the electorate, YSR Congress emerged victorious with huge margins. In other constituencies in south coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, too, Muslims, accounting for six to eight per cent of total electorate, backed YSR Congress.
In Rayachoti, which has 24.86 per cent Muslim voters, YSR Congress got the highest majority. In Anantapur Urban, where Muslims account for 21.81 per cent of the electorate, the lone Muslim candidate from the Congress Mursheeda Begum polled only 9,406 votes and lost her security deposit as YSR Congress rival romped home. In Allagadda (with 18.93 per cent Muslim voters), Yemmiganur (12.32 per cent) and Rajampet (12.31 per cent), YSR Congress candidates piled up big majorities over their Congress/TDP rivals. In Nellore LS too, where Muslims account for 11.16 per cent of the electorate, YSR Congress candidate registered a landslide victory. The bypoll results, thus, indicate a significant shift of Muslim voters away from the Congress towards the YSR Congress. In the 2004 general elections, Muslims had wholeheartedly supported the Congress as they were angry with TDP for aligning with BJP and for keeping the NDA in power at the Centre for six years. In 2009, too, Muslims had backed the Congress against the Maha Kutami (TDP-led four-party front) because of the four per cent reservations and scholarship and fees reimbursement schemes announced by the YSR regime. This time the Muslims have shown their preference for YSR Congress and this could be due to two reasons. First, they owe their gratitude to YSR for introducing these schemes/initiatives. Second, the Congress failed to propagate to Muslims that these schemes were, in fact, launched by the party as part of its 2004 poll manifesto, though YSR might have been instrumental in actually implementing these.
With a nine per cent share of the state’s total electorate, Muslims are going to play a crucial role in the next elections. Out of the 294 Assembly seats in the state, 95 constituencies have Muslim voters in excess of 10 per cent. Significantly, 65 of these segments have more than 15 per cent Muslim voters. Similarly, out of the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state, 17 constituencies have Muslim voters in excess of 10 per cent. Seven of these constituencies have more than 15 per cent Muslim voters.
These constituencies are spread across all the three regions of the state like Telangana, Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra and no party can afford to ignore Muslims.
By Kishore Dash from Hyderabad