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What Congress Can Learn From Jagan Mohan Reddy’s Political Journey

Jagan Mohan Reddy’s journey over the last 10 years contains a lesson the Congress would do well to learn.

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If the one who wins repeatedly is called ‘Narendra’, then the one who engineers a massive comeback is called ‘Jagan’.

Jagan Mohan Reddy – the new Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh.

Jagan’s ‘Fan’ didn't just spread air, but brewed up a storm that blew away both Chandrababu Naidu and the Congress party.

Jagan’s YSRCP made history by getting 151 out of 175 seats in Assembly elections and 22 out of 25 seats in Lok Sabha elections.

Now, instead of making another Antony Committee, Congress should learn from Jagan Mohan.  Jagan’s journey over the last 10 years is a ready-made script in lessons for the Congress.

Jagan’s Political Journey

Jagan made ‘Padyatra’ his political weapon. He covered every corner of the region and won the hearts of the public. Here’s how he did it:

September 2009

Above the hills of Nallamala in Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, there was a helicopter that vanished into thin air mid-flight. The next day, it was found in pieces in the jungle. The crashed helicopter was carrying Andhra Pradesh CM, Jagan Mohan Reddy’s father, YS Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR).

YSR was loved to such an extent that after learning about his death, a number of his supporters killed themselves. In response, Jagan began visiting the homes of these people as part of his ‘Odarpu Yatra’.

‘Odarpu’ means ‘shok’ in Hindi and ‘condolence’ in English. At that time, YSR was not only the CM of Andhra Pradesh, but also the hero of south Indian politics.

But the Congress High Command set his son, Jagan Mohan, rudely aside. First, K Rosaiah was made CM. When he could not handle the party, Kiran Kumar Reddy was made CM.

And the Congress paid the price for this – they lost power. By now, tensions between Jagan and the Congress had come to a head.

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29 November 2010

Jagan left the Congress party.  At that time, he was a Congress MP, and resigned from the Lok Sabha. His mother, Y Vijayalakshmi, also resigned from Pulivendula MLA post.

March 2011

Jagan took over the leadership of the already-established YSR Congress party. In 2011, he contested during bypolls from Kadappa on the party symbol and won by a record-breaking 5,43,053 votes.

In those days, Reddy was a successful businessman. However, he was soon ensnared legal problems. Disproportionate assets cases were registered against him, and Jagan spent 18 months in jail.

Despite his father's legacy, it seemed his power was not assured – but the verdict from the people was yet to come.

2014 Elections

In 2014, he failed to defeat Chandrababu Naidu in the elections. But soon after, he went to seek the public’s blessings.

In this effort, Jagan covered every corner of Andhra Pradesh on foot, and that’s when the public began to see a little of YSR in him.  In the wake of his padyatras, the 2019 election results catapulted Jagan to hero status.

The Lesson For Congress

Instead of working on the ground, the Congress created a committee in 2014 after their election rout – the Antony Committee. After working on it for a few months, the committee suggested some issues to address, and the party duly worked on them. But even then, the outcome after five years was not favourable. The seat count went from 44 (2014) to 52 (2019).

The Congress party should take a cue from Jagan and start a campaign of direct dialogue with the public. After their poor performance, Congress must now understand that slogans such as ‘chowkidaar chor hai’ in rallies, and the noise of the crowd in the roadshows, were nothing but a mirage.

(The story was originally published on Quint Hindi.)

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