It’s a do-or-die battle between Naidu and Jagan in AP

M Somasekar | | Updated on: Apr 08, 2019
File Photo of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.

File Photo of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.

YSR Congress party chief Jaganmohan Reddy during an election rally in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, Sunday, April 7, 2019.

YSR Congress party chief Jaganmohan Reddy during an election rally in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, Sunday, April 7, 2019.

YSR Congress is all charged up; embattled Telugu Desam is fighting on many fronts

The simultaneous elections in Andhra Pradesh, scheduled on April 11, are a ‘do or die’ battle between Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu (69) of the TDP and YS Jaganmohan Reddy (46), President of the YSR Congress Party. The no-holds-barred campaign has been turned into a direct fight between the two.

Naidu’s tactics

Being the shrewd politician that he is, Naidu has sensed anti-incumbency sentiments over shortfalls in fulfilling his grandiose promises of building a world-class capital city, providing jobs and making the State economically strong. He has resorted to blaming Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the NDA government at the Centre for the shortfalls and invoked “Andhra pride” to offset voters’ ire.

In 2014, Naidu in an alliance with the BJP scraped through with 106 of the 175 Assembly seats. In the 25 Lok Sabha seats, the TDP won 16 and BJP 2. The YSR Congress secured 68 seats and 7 MPs. This time, the Congress (I) has been pushed to the sidelines, the BJP is fighting a losing battle and Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party in tie-ups with Mayawati’s BSP and the Left parties appears an also-ran.


The elections are witnessing unprecedented use of social media and publicity blitzkrieg. A novelty this time is the use of biopics. While Nandamuri Balakrishna made a two-part biopic of his father NTR, it was countered with a biopic on YSR, with Mamootty essaying the lead role. Ram Gopal Varma chipped in with Lakshmi's NTR , which ruffled feathers in the TDP camp.

Battle between families

Money power and caste alignments propel this straight battle between two families – the NTR family and the YS Jagan family. Naidu, who fought YS Rajasekhara Reddy in 2004 and 2009, has found himself pitchforked against the latter’s son since 2014.


To outwit his opponent, Naidu in 2014 made rather unrealistic promises on the capital city, jobs, industries and overall growth of the State after bifurcation, which began with strained finances and mounting debts. Relations with the BJP and Modi started going sour rather quickly. The overzealous Venkaiah Naidu (Vice-President), then a Union Minister, and Chandrababu combination’s rush with projects and initiatives irked the BJP leadership.

Sensing that the two Naidus were cocking a snook at the BJP’s growth prospects in AP as envisioned by Amit Shah, the BJP kicked Venkaiah Naidu upstairs to the non-political post of Vice-President. The Centre also started tightening the purse strings, which affected the progress of ongoing projects such as Polavaram and Amaravati. It also asked for accountability in spending.

Naidu tried to replicate his Hyderabad-IT building strategy. He made high-pitched presentations at the World Economic Forum, roadshows in the US, pushed a ‘Look East Policy’ to attract investments from Japan, China, Singapore etc with little success. All these raised high hopes and simultaneously posed some challenge to Prime Minister Modi, who was also trying to shine on international forums.

The tenuous relationship with the BJP frayed and they formally broke up in February 2018. Thereafter, it has been a progressively intensifying fight, which culminated in personal attacks and mudslinging.

As a last-ditch effort, Naidu is putting all his eggs on a shrill anti-BJP, anti-YSR Congress campaign with subtle understanding with the Congress (I) and the Jana Sena Party. Pawan Kalyan had contributed to Naidu’s win in 2014. The TDP campaign is anchored on promises of ₹2 lakh per poor family in different forms, attacking Jagan on his alleged corruption charges, raking up emotions on how Modi ditched AP and portraying Jagan as a stooge of the BJP and Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao.

Though the TDP-BJP combine won comfortably in 2014, the votes separating them from the YSR Congress was just 5.5 lakh of the total polled.

Jagan’s potential

On his part, Jagan has done everything in his command to pin down Naidu. From a record-breaking political walkathon of over 3,000 km to having a tacit understanding with the BJP, he is leaving no stone unturned. He has also promised to to support any national party that gives special category status to AP.

True to form, the youthful Jagan has been relentless in taking the alleged failures of the Naidu government to every household in his nearly one-year walk across the State (earlier, YSR walked 1,500 km, and Naidu did over 2,000 km). Jagan has addressed hundreds of rallies across the State and got his seven MPs to resign over the special status issue, which has evoked panic reactions in the Naidu camp.

He tries to shrug off the huge baggage of economic offences, the quid pro quo cases that continue to dog him with weekly court visits. He has countered these charges by highlighting the corruption in the TDP government in the mega projects such as Polavaram and Amaravati, and the ‘Vote for Note’case involving Naidu himself.

One huge advantage Jagan can count on is his being tuned in to the pulse of the people of all regions in the past five years. The YSR Congress has come up with a manifesto that promises benefits to the people of all walks of life and all regions.

Advantage YSR Cong

Given the critical caste dynamics and the role of money power in the outcomes of the election, the YSR Congress has reached out to the BCs, the traditional vote bank of the TDP, in addition to consolidating strengths in Rayalseema, minorities, SC/ST. The tacit understanding with the BJP and role of TRS are expected to add up too. Whether the people of AP will choose a young leader who promises to stand with them or reaffirm faith in a leader who claims to fulfil grandiose plans remains to be seen.

Published on April 08, 2019

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