With 3,000-km padayatra, Jagan hopes to follow his father’s footsteps

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on January 11, 2018 Published on July 10, 2017

Wooing the masses YSR Congress Party president YS Jagan Mohan Reddy (file photo)   -  PTI

But baggage of corruption charges may pull down his CM aspirations

With his eye on the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister seat in 2019, YS Jaganmohan Reddy is following the footsteps of his father YS Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR), whose padayatra in 2003 was seen to have fetched him the CM post.

Coincidentally, incumbent Nara Chandrababu Naidu was the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister 15 years back too, when YSR succeeded in capturing his seat.

Jagan, 44, was reelected president of the YSR Congress Party (YSR-CP), the main Opposition in AP, at its plenary on July 8 and 9 at Amaravati, the State’s new capital.

Among his first announcements was the intent to launch a six-month ‘walkathon’ beginning October 27, from his ancestral village of Idupulapaya in Kadapa district of Rayalseema.

Longest distance

The padayatra will take him to all the districts to finally end in Ichchapuram in Srikakulam, north coastal AP, covering 3,000 km.

The mission may or may not make Jagan the CM, but it will surely be the longest walk undertaken by any politician in the two Telugu States.

The mission 2019 decision seems to have caught the ruling TDP by surprise.

Poll strategist Prashant Kishor, who actively attended the YSR-CP plenary, is said to be partly responsible for the padayatra decision. He is credited with crafting novel strategies that determined the success of some of the top national leaders in the recent past, including that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Virtually sounding the election bugle for 2019, Jagan, who carries a huge baggage of corruption charges, has reeled off a slew of promises intended to attract large sections of voters.

These include total prohibition as well as fiscal doles to farmers, women and youth. In 2014, his party garnered 67 out of the 175 Legislative Assembly seats in AP.

But Jagan could face a tough customer in Naidu, who is himself, no stranger to padayatras.

The CM has unveiled grandiose plans to build a strong AP. His party has an alliance with the BJP, which is strong at the Centre. But, at 67, Naidu may be unable to replicate his 2,500-km walk in 2012, which he took as an opposition leader. Moreover, the challenge to turn his election promises into reality are indeed daunting.

History of walks

There is nothing novel about padayatras in AP politics. In fact, it’s replete with instances where it has proven to be a successful tool.

Way back in 1989, Marri Chenna Reddy, a shrewd politician, effectively used short walks in cities — to highlight the neglect of the common man’s concerns and the misrule of NT Rama Rao — to come to power.

In 2003, the 55-year-old YSR covered 1,450 km in rural AP to convince voters of the anti-people policies of Naidu and stormed to power in a dramatic fashion.

At that time, Naidu was betting big on then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s ‘India shining’ campaign and sympathy for him after narrowly escaping a Naxalite attack.

Taking a leaf out of this, Naidu himself set off on a walking tour to convey to people his changed priorities and pro-people, development model. He reaped rich dividends from the exercise in 2014.

Major difference

The major difference between the padayatra of YSR and his son is that the former was at a low as far as his finance and business was concerned and inching higher as a Opposition leader finally to vanquish Naidu. Jagan, on the other hand, is a multi-millionaire, but mired in innumerable corruption and business related cases.

His political image is not its peak now. Will he be able to change the perception of the voters? Will he wriggle out of the cases? The jury is out.

Published on July 10, 2017
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