Jagan rattles Nehruvian edifice
by Sandhya Jain on 07 Dec 2010 11 Comments

Jaganmohan Reddy’s revolt against Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s refusal to anoint him as chief minister of Andhra Pradesh signals the end of her personal hegemony within the party and undermines the Nehruvian edifice upon which this family’s domination of the polity rests. This will have an escalating impact, especially in states where leaders do not need party high command endorsement for legitimacy and support.


This is evident from the manner in which Jaganmohan Reddy’s supporters went on the rampage all over the state after he quit the Congress on Nov. 29, and vandalized the party office in Kadapa and renamed it YSR Bhavan, from Indira Bhavan. Citizens long perturbed over the manner in which public roads, government buildings, welfare schemes, et al have been named after scions of the Nehru-Gandhi family, could never have imagined the denouement would begin within the Congress party.


So incensed were young Reddy’s supporters that they torched and locked up several party offices across the state, defaced and burnt posters of Sonia Gandhi, and even burnt her effigies in some places.


Jaganmohan’s exit was expected after his television channel, Sakshi, launched a vituperative attack against Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress, which virtually coincided with the rout in the Bihar elections. This salvo followed a year-long battle of wits with the high command which disapproved of his ‘Odarpu Yatra’ to ostensibly condole families whose members allegedly died of shock or committed suicide after the accidental death of chief minister YSR Reddy in September 2009; it was widely seen as Jaganmohan’s attempt to stake claim to the chief minister’s office.


Congress asked chief minister K. Rosaiah step down, but installed Kirankumar Reddy instead, and incensed Jaganmohan by luring Y.S. Vivekananda Reddy (brother of YSR) to Delhi. Cornered, he wrote a five-page resignation letter to Sonia Gandhi, claiming to have borne humiliation for fourteen months while a malicious campaign was unleashed against him, his family, and his late father. The last straw was the conspiracy to vertically split the family of the leader who twice gave Congress victory in Andhra Pradesh by offering a cabinet berth to YSR’s brother.


In a dig at Ms Gandhi, who used a praetorian guard to takeover the Congress and became president by physically throwing the incumbent Sitaram Kesari out of his office room and having her own nameplate pasted on the door, Jaganmohan said that though 150 MLAs supported his elevation after YSR’s death, he obeyed her instructions and supported Shri K. Rosaiah. Thereafter, he helped in the smooth election of N. Kirankumar Reddy.


On his controversial Odarpu Yatra, Jaganmohan insisted it was his duty to visit the families of those afflicted with grief after his father’s death. He twice postponed the Yatra, but finally took off and was attacked from several quarters after he drew overwhelming public adulation. He felt the party high command was behind efforts to erase the memory of his late father from the hearts of the people. Matters did not improve when YSR’s widow, Vijayalakshmi, tried to mediate, and it took the family a month to gain an audience with Ms Sonia Gandhi.


News reports suggest that Ms Gandhi lost her temper with Vijayalakshmi and demanded that the Yatra be cancelled, or reformatted as meetings in district party offices, thus scuttling Jaganmohan’s ambitions to emerge as the next mass leader after his father. Jaganmohan was reportedly infuriated at his mother’s humiliation, a feeling aggravated by sponsored opposition to the installation of YSR statues in many villages.


In a frontal attack on Ms Sonia Gandhi, Jaganmohan alleged that some state leaders called press conferences to malign the late YSR after personally meeting her. YSR’s photographs disappeared from party programmes and government functions. Jaganmohan needled the high command by alleging that many persons had doubts about the helicopter crash in which his father died. He rubbed it in by defending the Sakshi Channel diatribe against the leadership on the occasion of the party’s 125th anniversary, as also its coverage of the Bihar elections!


Claiming he could not bear the daily humiliations, Jaganmohan said he and his mother were resigning their positions as MP and MLA respectively, and leaving the party. As a parting shot, he said that despite the malicious campaign that he was conspiring to bring down the Andhra government, he would not take the coup route taken by N. Chandrababu Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party.


Yet there is little doubt that this is precisely the revenge Jaganmohan will wreak on Congress. But he will move with caution. As of now, he is said to have the unstinted support of 20-25 MLAs, but if he moves prematurely to split the party, Congress could make up its numbers with 18 MLAs from cine star Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party.


Hence, for now, he has asked his supporters not to quit the Congress, though he is reputedly finalizing plans to launch a new party - Youth Sramik Ryot (YSR) Congress - from Kadapa, his erstwhile Lok Sabha constituency.


Jaganmohan is waiting for the right opportunity, and that may come sooner, rather than later. The fledgling Kirankumar government is already in trouble, with ministers Vatti Vasantha Kumar and Komatireddi Venkat Reddy resigning on Dec. 2 itself, following allocation of portfolios after the swearing-in ceremony, though the former has since returned. The aggrieved ministers claimed that all ‘plum’ (revenue earning) portfolios were cornered by the powerful Reddy community, which received 14 berths in the new cabinet, while backward classes received ‘dry’ portfolios and only 10 cabinet posts – a shocking imbalance of caste equations in a party once noted for social engineering. At least five other ministers, including a Reddy, are ripe for revolt, so clearly we have not heard the last of this saga.


Suddenly the Nehruvian norm of top-down leadership and rootless satraps for states is under challenge. Simultaneously, Sonia Gandhi, once perceived as de facto queen-empress, poised to install her son and heir as prime minister at an opportune moment, came unstuck at the first attempt to nudge Dr Manmohan Singh. If he seemed a pushover when the Supreme Court made the startling demand for an affidavit on his role in the 2G scam, he soon proved immovable. The Supreme Court blinked and virtually apologized, and the Bihar elections shattered Rahul Gandhi’s prime ministerial ambitions. Sonia Gandhi retreated, defending Manmohan Singh’s spotless character...


The author is Editor, www.vijayvaani.com 

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