YSR son’s anointment from family stronghold
It has been the family fiefdom for two decades. And so the Chief Minister’s son Jagan thought it would be a walk over. But a Stanford-returned software entrepreneur is out to give him a good fight – only if it is fair.
By Ramesh Kandula
YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, son of the powerful Congress Chief Minister YS Raja-sekhara Reddy, was a non-entity even in Andhra Pradesh until 2004. His rise in the Andhra political and industrial firmament coincided with his father’s anointment as Chief Minister the same year. Though the 36-year-old continued to live in Bangalore, running a small power project in the capital of neighbouring Karnataka, YSR’s only son started playing a critical role in state affairs, though behind the screen.
In the short span of five years Jagan transformed into a leading industrialist and a media baron. Shares in his Raghuram Cements and Sakshi Telugu newspaper were lapped up by leading industrial houses in the country at inflated prices, turning him into a billionaire overnight.
Undeterred by the Opposition attack against his alleged ill-gotten wealth, Jagan is now all set to make a grand political entry. He is contesting from the family fiefdom in Rayalaseema – Kadapa Lok Sabha constituency – on a Congress ticket.
Kadapa, notorious for its faction politics and bomb culture, has been the pocket borough of the Reddys for more than three decades now. Pulivendula, the Assembly segment in the Kadapa constituency, from where Chief Minister is contesting in the upcoming Assembly polls, is a virtual bastion of the family, where even a semblance of opposition presence is not tolerated.
The family has been literally ruling Pulivendula, one of the seven Assembly segments in Kadapa Lok Sabha constituency, since 1978, when YSR contested for the first time on a Reddy Congress ticket. Since then, a total of seven elections were held for the seat, and all of them were won by YSR or his brother YS Vivekananda Reddy.
The Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which ruled the state for 15 years since 1983, could not even conduct poll campaigns here nor find agents during polling – because of the terror tactics adopted by the YSR family, allege TDP local leaders.
The same holds for the Kadapa Parliamentary seat. Once a stronghold of the CPI, which captured the seat in four out of five elections held since 1952, Kadapa has been turned into a family estate since 1989. YSR won four times from here and his brother and present MP YS Vivekananda Reddy twice.
Jagan wanted to make his political debut as early as 2005, a year after his father took over. He made his uncle Vivekananda Reddy resign from Kadapa. But to YSR’s discomfort, the Congress party high command refused to accept Viveka’s resignation, which put paid to Jagan’s plans.
Though Reddy’s family ruled over Kadapa for the last two decades with an iron hand and retained the seat since 1989, winning consecutively for six times, Jagan can ill-afford to be smug this time round with P Srikanth Reddy, an IT professional who founded Foursoft Ltd Company, making efforts to give Jagan a stiff fight on behalf of TDP.
The Stanford-educated entrepreneur has already attracted the attention of the local press by inviting European human rights activists to tour Kadapa to study the alleged political oppression in the region. He is trying to rope in international organisations for the forthcoming elections as observers in the Kadapa election to ensure that voters exercise their franchise without fear.
Kadapa, especially Puliven-dula segment, was showered with many projects in the last five years by the YSR government. A multi-specialty hospital in the name of Rajiv Gandhi, a livestock research center named after Indira Gandhi, a government engineering college in the name of Nehru, an IIIT, underground drainage system and a tourism project are some of the initiatives undertaken by the Reddy government here.
However, Srikanth Reddy, son of the former chief justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court Justice Chennakesava Reddy, dismisses the argument that Kadapa developed under the tutelage of the YSR family. He challenged the Reddy family for a debate on the development of the district, which was not reciprocated by the Congress Party. “If YSR thinks his development work will bring him victory in the polls, let him allow free and fair voting here,” he says.
It is true that there is an undercurrent of resentment in the area against the Reddy family due to various factors. The family is seen as having amassed wealth, growing in power and arrogance, favouring kith and kin in all contract works coming up in the district. The villages here are notoriously faction-ridden, and the groups keep changing their loyalties to political parties to keep the opponents at bay. Though TDP has never won in Kadapa Parliament or Pulivendula Assembly seats, the party always had a substantial following in the area. Despite the total control of Pulivendula by the YSR family, the TDP candidate managed to get 30 per cent of the votes in the last two elections.
It is this fact that is driving Srikanth Reddy to make a determined bid for the Kadapa Lok Sabha seat. He has been touring the constituency for the last nine months, trying to get his political act together. His efforts to bring attention to the alleged violation of human rights in the area, at international level, have given fillip to his campaign.
These initiatives are causing nervousness in the first family of the state, who cannot afford any dent in their stranglehold, especially with Jagan in the fray. However, supporters of the Reddy family remain unfazed. The CM’s son will have it easy here, we are only concerned about ensuring a huge margin, says district Congress president Suresh Reddy.
It is to be seen if Jagan can make a successful politician, the way he could as an industrialist and media baron. But one thing is sure; Jagan is going to make his political presence felt very strongly both at the state and national level in the years to come.
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