Disconnect from cadre, controversial policies: What led to Jagan Mohan Reddy’s rout in Andhra Pradesh

The outgoing CM YS Jagan claimed that he has no clue why the support and love he showed for women and elderly did not translate into votes.

ByBhaskar Basava

Published Jun 04, 2024 | 10:19 PMUpdatedJun 05, 2024 | 4:25 PM

YS Jagan during the campaign

In a landslide victory against YSRCP chief and incumbent Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, the TDP-JSP-BJP alliance in Andhra Pradesh won 163 out of 175 seats. The trends left YSRCP with just 12 assembly seats.

This result marks a significant shift from 2019, when Jagan won 151 out of 175 Assembly constituencies.

Many attribute this shift to the coalition of former allies, as their individual performances in 2019 were 39.5 percent for TDP, 5.53 percent for JSP, and 0.84 percent for BJP, totalling 45.87 percent. Since they united, Jagan, who had secured 50 percent of the votes in 2019 while in government, faced anti-incumbency sentiments and caste polarisation driven by TDP, JSP, and BJP.

However, certain factors shaped the discourse against Jagan, as echoed by his cadre and party members.

Interestingly, in his press meeting, the outgoing CM claimed he had no clue why his support and love for women and the elderly over the past five years did not translate into votes.

However, issues such as his inaccessibility to the cadre, pending funds for local works, and policies related to liquor, sand, electricity, and land troubled Jagan’s prospects, as discussed in this report.

Read: As TDP marks a stunning comeback in Andhra, CM Jagan set to resign, Naidu is sought after

Jagan is not heard, and not present

Nenu Vinnanu – Nenu Unnanu” (I heard, and I’m here) — that’s the iconic slogan of the YSRC Party campaign in 2019, where Jagan invoked his father’s words to assure the public and cadre that he is always there to listen to them.

However, in contrast, after Jagan won power in 2019, he didn’t directly meet the cadre, who were disgruntled with the volunteer system he introduced.

He has repeatedly stated that he and his volunteers are eliminating the middlemen system. However, the cadre felt sidelined as they were completely excluded from governance.

In an earlier investigative story, a three-time MP mentioned that village-level party members could effectively conduct voter profiling like all other parties. However, party directives have led to even volunteers being added to booth-level committees despite the ban from the ECI.

“Earlier, people used to come to us for many works. But, now, our stakes have been completely reduced,” another Mandal leader told South First. He added that the cadre at the village level is not showing interest in working for the party, as, in addition to their existing woes, the funds meant for the Panchayat through the finance commission were diverted.

“Many of us have debts and looked up to him for releasing funds when we joined. However, he neither assigned new projects nor released funds for previous works,” he added. This put the cadre in an awkward situation.

Moreover, stating that he would seek votes in his name, he changed around 81 candidates for the forthcoming elections.

The incumbent MLAs and district party leaders waited for appointments with him but could not meet him face-to-face to raise their queries.

Former MLC and YSRCP Guntur District President Dokka Manikya Vara Prasad told South First that he had waited many months to meet Jagan but couldn’t.  Finally left with no option, he exited the party.

The same sentiment is echoed by a key BC community leader who wanted to remain anonymous. Although inactive, he is still loyal to the YSRCP and says mere mobilisation through welfare without including senior leaders is a wrong calculation.

He added that he had issues with the candidate selection in one of the assembly seats in Guntur.

Similar instances of candidate changes, made without the acceptance of the cadre, coupled with the trend of presidentialised elections, have led to a perception of a diminished role for local leaders at the constituency and district levels. These leaders were not as active as they were in the past.

The South First has earlier written an article on Jagan avoiding questions from the cadre in a report: Andhra CM YS Jagan is still distant from the cadre as elections loom. 

Read: In a chart: Results of Andhra Pradesh assembly elections 2024

Sand policy led to unemployment

Just a few months before the elections, Jagan appealed to the public, saying, ‘Vote for me; only your family has benefited.’ Eventually, the narrative and political discourse revolved around the choice between ‘Yes Jagan’ or ‘No Jagan.’

He derived confidence from his administration, which implemented 29 welfare schemes, benefiting around 8.7 crore beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfers. Many of the schemes specifically targeted women as direct beneficiaries.

These schemes catered to various population segments: 4.2 crore beneficiaries from the BC community, 1.37 crore from the SC community, 37 lakh from the ST community, 35 lakh from minority groups, and 65 lakh from the Kapu community.

Right up to the final day, the party remained confident that its welfare programmes would secure it an electoral victory. However, policies such as sand, liquor, electricity, and land appealed to most voter segments, contributing to dissatisfaction with the YSRCP.

The sand policy regulates transportation and mining, imposing costs compared to the free sand policy under the previous TDP regime. This has adversely affected at least 30 lakh construction workers across 40 trades, as reduced real estate activity has led to unemployment struggles in this sector.

“The prices are rising so high, how can we sustain with that amount?” Barla Saraswathi asks.

“Plus, we have two children in college in Vizianagaram. We heard that women workers here earn ₹600 a day, and men get ₹700, so my husband and I decided to move to Vijayawada.” But Bala Saraswati shares that she gets work only for half of the month.

Saraswati shared the plight of her colleagues, who echoed similar experiences, both those who received welfare and those who did not.

Read: TDP-led Jana Sena, BJP alliance set to sweep Andhra: exit poll

Liquor, inflation and mistrust

To reduce liquor consumption, part of the liquor ban promised in the YSRCP in 2019, its chief has hiked the prices and barred private shops through the new policy on liquor that he brought in after he came to power.

Though Jagan, in many interviews, shared that he realised that the promise couldn’t be fulfilled, the government introduced total regulation, unlike ever before.

The administration raised prices, implying that it would decrease consumption. However, in reality, this has been contrasted with the following: “This has impacted those consumers in all sections of society, especially low-wage workers in various trades and traditional YSRCP voters from the rural backdrop, who now face significantly higher prices for liquor and allege ‘cheap quality,’” says NGO Jana Chaitanya Vedika president V Lakshmana Reddy.

Further, many families have expressed dissatisfaction with the state’s electricity policy, citing steady price increases, surcharges, customer fees, FPPCA, power duty, and adjustment charges. This has created a debate that Jagan was giving only to take it back.

Pusarala Sai Lakshmi, a toddy worker from Pithapuram, has received ₹18,500 over the past four years as part of the YSR Cheyutha scheme. However, she is unlikely to vote for YS Jagan, as he has not provided additional support to the toddy community, whose income has declined, compounded by inflation and high electricity bills.

Further, the Land Title Act 2023, recommended by NITI Aayog, has stirred controversy on the ground. Despite TDP’s alliance with the ruling BJP at the Centre, they have generated controversy over this bill.

The TDP and JSP have driven the accusations in rural areas that lands will be unjustly taken away through Jagan’s influence if he returns to power, just like it was done with the Dharani scheme. This grabbed public attention as there was already discontent around Jagan’s image on the Pattadar passbook, which was redistributed after record digitisation.

This has been echoed by the YSRCP spokesperson and AP Trade Promotion Corporation Limited (APTPC) Chairman K Ravichandra Reddy in an earlier article.

He said, “TDP, with its narrative over the Andhra Pradesh Land Title Act, created a negative image of the party, suggesting it would seize lands. This was despite them being a constituent of the NDA, and the AP Land Title Act being solely based on the recommendations of the NITI Aayog.”

(Edited by VVP Sharma)