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Jaganmohan wins first round

Jaganmohan wins first round
It is too early to say whether Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress will become another viable offshoot of the mother party like Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party or fade away like P Chidambaram’s Tamil Maanila Congress. Going solely by his success of the last 15 months, his experiment in striking out on his own has been a success. As the latest election results show, there is wide popular acceptance of his party as the 'real' Congress in Andhra Pradesh.

But, it cannot be gainsaid that much of it is due to the emotional factor. The people are still voting for the YSR Congress because of their feelings for YSR, who was one of the most popular chief ministers in recent years. But for Y Samuel Rajasekhara Reddy’s untimely death, the Congress would still have been ruling the roost. Now, its position is like that of an orphan. As a result, an ambitious pretender has gained prominence by exploiting his familial links with the former chief minister.

The pretender has also been helped by the Congress’s customary lethargic style of decision-making. Since it knew that there was no one of YSR’s stature to replace him, it should have been far more accommodating towards his son, who is obviously a go-getter. The latter knew, of course, as he has now said, that he could have 'become a minister immediately, and later, chief minister, and there would have been no CBI investigation'. But, he was obviously too impatient to await his turn. In any case, he feels 'that’s not the way it is destined'.

As of now, destiny has favoured him. He is clearly on a roll, riding on the sympathy wave for his father and perhaps also for himself because of the Congress’s haste in trying to entrap him in the CBI net. So low is the Congress’s credibility that even if Jagamohan is guilty, the people will still see the investigations as a vengeful political ploy rather than an impartial legal exercise. As long as this impression persists, his fledgling party will continue to gain. The Congress, therefore, can expect to be in serious trouble in the next general election in a state which, till now, was firmly under its control and gave it 33 MPs in 2009.

But, few will deny that it is still a long haul for Jaganmohan. After all, he cannot forever depend on his father’s charisma to bring him political success. At some point of time, which will be sooner rather than later, he will be tested for his own merits. It is not known as yet whether he has them. But, one thing is certain. He does not have the advantages which Mamata Banerjee and Pawar had when they set out on their own. While Mamata gained in West Bengal because of the popular disenchantment with the Left, Pawar captured some of the Congress’s own base of support and banked on his own appeal as a Maharashtrian after breaking away from the Congress on the 'foreign national' issue. After that issue died down, he has had no compunctions about being an ally of the Congress.

Jaganmohan isn’t fighting an entrenched adversary like Mamata unless he regards the Congress as one; and although he may have won over a large segment of the Congress’s traditional supporters, his is essentially a factional struggle and, like all such confrontations, it is based on personal ego. His advantage is that with a chief minister as unprepossessing as Kiran Kumar Reddy, he may be able to win over a fair number of MLAs to his side. But the Congress’s 150-plus strength still gives it enough of a cushion. Since the Telugu Desam appears to have lost considerable ground, having been squeezed between the Congress and the YSR Congress, the latter’s hopes lie in replacing the mother organization as the ruling party in the next election. But, there’s many a slip between the cup and the lip.

Any recovery of the Congress at the central level, especially if the prime minister initiates reforms on a priority basis after taking charge as the finance minister, cannot but help the party’s image in Andhra Pradesh as well. It will still need someone with greater popular appeal than Kiran Kumar Reddy as a leader. But, at the same time, the Congress will hope that Jaganmohan will be unable to sustain his hype for another two years till the next election, especially if he has to turn his attention to building up his party from the grassroots level.

As a young man, he has time on his hands. But that is not enough. Political success also needs organisational skill, an ideology, however rudimentary, and an indefinable chemistry with the masses. Whether Jaganmohan has any or all of these is still not certain.
Amulya Ganguli

Amulya Ganguli

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