Why Jagan Mohan Reddy is unperturbed over YSRCP lawmakers deserting him

Jagan Mohan Reddy went for a rejig after BRS chief K Chandrashekar Rao suffered an ignominious defeat in the Telangana Assembly elections.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Feb 23, 2024 | 4:00 PMUpdatedFeb 23, 2024 | 4:00 PM

Alla Ramakrishna Reddy, who resigned from the YSRCP on 11 December and joined the Congress, returned to Jagan's camp on 20 February. (Supplied)

It is a gamble that YSRCP chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy believes will pay off and help him continue his dominance in the upcoming Assembly and Lok Sabha polls in the state.

He is unperturbed by the turbulence his massive social re-engineering exercise had created in the party while finalising the list of candidates for both elections.

The exercise triggered an avalanche of desertations. The party’s sitting MPs and MLAs are leaving Jagan in search of greener political pastures in other formations, including the TDP, an outfit so far that was in their crosshairs.

The TDP has no grudge against them. It has been waiting for this moment.

The latest departure from the YSRCP was that of Rajya Sabha member Vemireddy Prabhakar Reddy. The lawmaker for the erstwhile Nellore district has decided to join the TDP.

The trouble began in the YSRCP camp after Jagan fielded fresh faces for the elections. He nominated in-charges for 68 of the 175 Assembly constituencies and 16 of the 25 Parliament segments. The new faces either transferred the sitting MLAs or MPS to other constituencies or benched them the with promise of utilising their services in whatever way the party deems fit in the future.

A promise was not what they wanted.

Also Read: Will warring YSRCP leaders upset Jagan Mohan Reddy’s ‘175’ apple cart?

The list gets longer

Apart from Prabhakar Reddy, Narasaraopet MP Lavu Srikrishna Devarayalu, too, has joined the TDP. Machilipatnam Lok Sabha member Vallabhaneni Balashourie joined the ranks of Jana Sena  Party, and Kurnool MP Sanjeev Kumar, though left the YSRCP, is yet to join any party.

The Narasaraopet MP was miffed with the party for asking him to shift to Guntur since Jagan wanted to field a backward leader in his sitting seat.

The list of sulking YSRCP lawmakers is long. Labour Minister Gummanur Jayaram is one among them. He was asked to contest the Lok Sabha from Kurnool, leaving his Aluru Assembly segment, also in Kurnool. Rayadurg MLA Kapu Ramachandra Reddy has already left the YSRCP and he is yet to make up his mind on his next move.

Ongole MP Magunta Srinvasalu Reddy is unhappy after his name figured in the Delhi excise policy scam. He is waiting for the BJP to join the TDP-Jana Sena alliance so that he can contest as a saffron party candidate. Apparently, it pays to be on the side of the ruling party at the Centre in the time of crisis.

Ongole MLA Balineni Srinivasa Reddy is also grumbling for being marginalised in the party.

Former Minister Vasanta Nageswara Rao’s son and Mylavaram sitting MLA Krishna Prasad is upset with the party for appointing S Tirumala Yadav as the in-charge of the constituency. Krishna Prasad is likely to join the TDP and contest from Mylavaram.

Similarly, Penamaluru sitting MLA K Parthasarathy, a Yadav leader, has left the YSRCP. He might contest from Nuzvid on a TDP ticket.

Also Read: The fall and rise of Jagan Mohan Reddy: From son of a 2-time CM to eyeing CM chair for 2nd time

Unsuitable wintering grounds

Those who are leaving the YSRCP camp may be getting a warm reception in the TDP or the rejuvenated Congress under the leadership of late YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s daughter YS Sharmila. However, for various reasons, the wintering grounds do not suit some of them.

For instance, Mangalagiri MLA Alla Ramakrishnan Reddy left the party after Jagan chose to field Ganji Chiranjeevi, a backward community leader. He contested from Mangalagiri on a TDP ticket in 2014 and made Ramakrishna Reddy run for his money.

As Chiranjeevi breathed down his neck, he could just scrape through with a thin majority of 13 votes. In 2019, he did not have to face Chiranjeevi as the TDP fielded N Chandrababu Naidu’s son Nara Lokesh whom Ramakrishna Reddy defeated.

But Chiranjeevi joined the YSRCP in August last. The party is now pitting him against Lokesh in Mangalagiri.

But Ramakrishna Reddy, unable to stand Chiranjeevi replacing him, left the YSRCP and joined the Congress led by Sharmila. But he could not stay there for long and did a quick return.

He said he would be more happy in the YSRCP camp. He vowed to back Chiranjeevi and humble Lokesh again, implying that he has reconciled to the fact he has to play second fiddle to him.

The TDP, however, is rolling out a red carpet for the YSRCP deserters to beat Jagan in the perception game on which politics is built. The TDP is trying to create an impression that the suffocating atmosphere in the YSRCP has triggered the exodus. The TDP leaders contend that unilateral decisions of the YSRCP chief are making the MPs and MLAs chart their course outside the party.

The buffeting that the YSRCP has been receiving began after the chief minister decided to change faces for both Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies.

Also Read: After Telangana poll results, YSRCP dissects BRS defeat

The Telangana lesson

It is said that he began the shake-up after watching how BRS chief and former chief minister of Telangana K Chandrashekar Rao suffered an ignominious defeat in the 30 November Assembly elections. He had fielded almost all of his party MLAs.

The YSRCP supremo apparently has kept in mind how several MLAs had gathered anti-incumbency load on their shoulders during the past five years and how replacing them with others might throw up better results.

The YSRCP chief is keen on having a different mix of candidates this time in the wake of a potential threat from the TDP. After TDP supremo Naidu was sent to jail by the YSRCP dispensation last year in connection with the Skill Development Scam, the yellow party’s fortunes began looking up as the development stirred sympathy among the people.

Additionally, Jana Sena president Pawan Kalyan is now Naidu’s comrade-in-arms. Both of them are trying to rope in the BJP but the saffron party is not in a tearing hurry to come on board. It is obvious that the BJP has no stakes in the election and it is keeping its cards close to its chest to see how the cookie is likely to crumble, going forward.

The BJP might temporise the issue till the TDP would go down on its knees and plead to join the TDP-BJP alliance in which case the saffron party could demand its pound of flesh. The BJP also wants to keep the YSRCP in good humour, as no one knows what the Lok Sabha elections have in store for the BJP though the present trend points to the possibility of the saffron party scoring a hat-trick at the Centre.

Under these circumstances, Jagan has a reason to feel flustered with the stacking up of forces against him behind the enemy lines. His latest rejig act is to ensure that the party, after being in power for five years, should not fall victim to the anti-incumbency factor, particularly when the firepower of the TDP, Jana Sena, and possibly BJP has gone up considerably.

Also Read: Of the Kamma-Reddy (TDP-YSRCP) caste rivalry in Andhra

Dominance of caste

It is a gamble to believe that doing exactly the opposite of what KCR had done in Telangana would pay dividends since the socio-economic milieu of the Telangana electorate is different from that of Andhra Pradesh.

For instance, in Telangana what matters most in any election is the Telangana sentiment and the natural aversion against feudalist tendencies of the rulers due to its long history of exploitation by the landed gentry.

In Andhra, caste is of the essence and all other factors become secondary. Ever since the assassination of the then Congress legislator and Kapu leader Vangaveeti Mohana Ragan Rao in 1988, caste distinctions have only become sharper and they continue to do so between dominant moneyed Kammas and populous and easily irritable Kapus, who once constituted the farming class on the banks of Krishna and Godavari rivers.

After Jagan took over in 2019, the Reddy dimension also came in as an interloper, which may have led to Kapus finding Pawan Kalyan more acceptable now than in 2019.

Though many MLAs and MPs are unhappy over the changes taking place in the party, most of them are biting the bullet and staying in the YSRCP. Though the TDP may welcome them with open arms, they may not get tickets for the seats they desire, since the TDP has been grooming its own candidates.

The party may face the wrath of the cadres in case it entertains such leaders who “arrive by parachutes.” As there is no clear assurance for them, many of them are staying with the YSRCP, hoping for better days.

“Jagan Mohan Reddy’s gamble of changing major part of the team may after all pay off as those that are being eased out have the anti-incumbency factor working against them,” a senior journalist and political analyst in Vijayawada, said.

“Those who are being brought in are more relevant if viewed from the caste prism. The leaders may leave but the workers will remain with YSRCP since their loyalty is towards Jagan Mohan Reddy. The MLAs and MPs are only ceremonial figures in the YSRCP,” he said.