The Jagan juggernaut
He is India’s richest Member of Parliament, representing Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh, clad in a trademark full-sleeve, striped shirt and chappals. The man, who allegedly amassed Rs 16,63,400 crore through illegal means, doesn’t ever care for a branded wrist watch, but wins election after election for his newborn political outfit, hands down.
He is Yeduguri Sandinti Jaganmohan Reddy, fondly called Jagan, currently lodged in Chanchalguda Central Jail in Hyderabad, in connection with a disproportionate assets case slapped by the CBI.
He turned down an offer of a plum union cabinet post, ostensibly to fulfill the promise he had made to the people that he would visit the homes of those who died of shock or committed suicide following the death of his father and former Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy, in a chopper crash on September 2, 2009.
The Congress high command said no to his plans and he walked out of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s residence with mother Y S Vijayalakshmi and sister Sharmila in toe. “The grief-stricken people of AP thought that Jagan would be made chief minister after YSR’s death. If an ex-pilot like Rajeev Gandhi could become the PM, why not Jagan?” asks Ambati Rambabu, a former APIIC Chairman and YSR Congress Party spokesperson.
As the mangled body of his father was lying in state at the Chief Minister’s Camp Office in Begumpet, his father’s close buddy and then Rajya Sabha member K V P Ramchandra Rao (KVP) started collecting the signatures of legislators on a memorandum urging party high command to crown Jagan as his father’s successor.
Around 150 MLAs and a dozen MPs signed the memo but the Delhi bosses were not impressed with the display of dynastic politics. The mantle then fell on the Congress veteran and finance minister in the YSR cabinet, Konijeti Rosaiah.
“Jagan was in dire need to become chief minister so that he could cover the trail of his illegally stashed money,” said TDP chief Nara Chandrababu Naidu in a recent election rally.
Jaganmohan Reddy took the Indian National Congress membership at an early age. Though raring to jump headlong into the electoral fray, YSR was said to have opposed the move, asking him to concentrate instead on the family business ventures, mostly in Karnataka.
Especially after he became the CM, YSR was particular that his son should not dabble in politics, as it might provide ammunition to his enemies both within and outside the party to attack him. However, with Jagan’s insistence and the family supporting his decision, YSR is said to have succumbed to the pressure and allowed his entry through Kadapa, a family bastion.
The restless Jagan had to wait till 2009 to fulfil his dream and make a political debut by winning the Kadapa Lok Sabha seat.
After a bitter fallout with Congress, Jagan launched his own party – Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress (YSR Congress) and tasted his party's first electoral victory when it bagged the lone coastal seat in the by-polls in March. Jagan won back his Lok Sabha seat in a by poll with a stunning margin of over five lakh votes. His party again swept the June 12 by polls to 18 assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat, leaving the Congress in dire straits and sending a warning signal to the TDP as well.
The by-poll outcome has thrown up the question: How did he do it?Ever since the Election Commission announced the schedule, the only factor that dominated the electioneering was corruption. The ruling Congress party and the main Opposition Telugu Desam Party raised no other issue except the alleged illegal assets amassed by Jagan during YSR’s regime.
All the energies of Congress were focused on Jagan and his huge wealth and his greed to occupy the throne, rather than highlighting the achievements of their government.The same case with TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu, who failed to capitalise on the crisis in the Congress created by the exodus of 18 MLAs to the Jagan camp and its failure to give good governance. The TDP distributed booklets among the people on Jagan’s unaccounted wealth. But the anti-Jagan strategy boomeranged on the Congress and the TDP as the by-poll outcome proved.
According to an exit poll conducted by the Centre for Voting Opinion & Trends in Election Research (CVOTER), only 9 per cent voters considered corruption a serious issue. The periodic "leakages" by the Central Bureau of Investigation to a select group of the media did not have any impact on the electorate. On the other hand, the YSR Congress fully capitalised on the alleged "harassment" of Jagan.
The sympathy wave rose after Jagan’s arrest, which was exploited by his mother Vijayalakshmi and sister Sharmila with their tear-jerking campaigns. With both the Congress and the TDP focusing only on him, Jagan created an impression among the voters that both parties had colluded to crush him.
According to an exit poll, Jagan was an electoral issue for 23 per cent of the voters; 25 per cent stressed on the lack of development in the last two years. Besides, Jagan’s Odarpu Yatra brought him closer to the people.
What makes him click?
No wonder, the YSR Congress secured nearly 47 per cent of the total votes polled in the by-electrons, which is more than the combined votes polled by Congress (21.84%) and TDP (24.23%). If Jagan can sustain this voting pattern, he could decimate his rivals in the 2014 elections. “The CBI case, the imprisonment and the pain that Jagan’s family endured at the hands of Congress made the common man identify with Jagan. Its revenge of the downtrodden,” observed former Information Commissioner Dileep Reddy.
Political observers opine the voters have shown corruption in politics is nothing new and their love towards YSR family will not fade. “It is very difficult to understand Jagan’s courage. He will sit in jail and win the 2014 elections because, unlike others, he delivers his promises,” said Mysoora Reddy, a former TDP leader now with YSRCP. “I am sure God will bring him (Jagan) out. People are also with us. Jagan used to tell every heart beats for his father and as long as their love and God’s blessing are with him, he will do well,” Jagan’s wife Bharati Reddy said after meeting him in jail after YSRCP’s thumping victory in the by-polls.
Bharati got it right. The Congress will have a formidable enemy in Jagan, whether in jail or free, during the 2014 elections.
Lotus pond mansion & other home truths
Jaganmohan Reddy’s permanent address is shown as a 40-room palatial house with private helipad, on Yelahanka Road in Bangalore, estimated to cost over Rs 200 crore. But, the ultra modern Lotus Mahal under construction on a one acre plot of HUDA Heights, Lotus Pond, Banjara Hills in Hyderabad, is out of this world. CBI believes that all the plots were purchased by Jagan’s front companies from the allottees after either paying premiums or by using clout.
The floor plans show 14 escalators, 10 lifts, a mini-theatre of 200 seating capacity, libraries, squash, tennis and volleyball courts, gyms, marble flooring in 60 rooms and bathrooms which are of the size of a single bedroom flat, says a contractor supplying marble from Rajasthan. Lotus Mahal has nearly 30 bedrooms, an office complex, space for 20 servants’ quarters. Two full rakes (one rake is 12 wagon load of a goods train) of marble were commissioned.
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