Tough choice

While the campaign to install Jaganmohan Reddy, the late Y S Rajashekhara Reddy’s son, as the new chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, has a democratic touch to it, it lacked in good taste and decorum and is driven by forces which are not all political. Apparently the reported support of 152 out of 156 MLAs gives the case for Jaganmohan Reddy democratic legitimacy. Congress MLAs in states have not in recent times had an occasion to express their views on who should lead them. They have always endorsed the party high command’s wish and put the seal of approval on the new leader, making the process democratic in form, but  not in spirit. Open contests do not take place at all. Therefore, open support for Jaganmohan Reddy is a surprising change.

But inheritance of public offices by family members is not a democratic idea. In the Congress, as in many other parties, power runs through lineage, however much it goes against the idea of free choice and the need to promote individual excellence. Jaganmohan Reddy, a first-time MP, is a greenhorn in politics and even in the short span of his public life he has managed to invite scandals and controversies. The support for him has come from people who have gained, not always  legitimately, from YSR’s actions and decisions. They feel that his son would be the best person to ensure continuance of the system of personal and institutional favouritism that he presided over. There is also a strong corporate presence in the lobbying. The whole campaign may perhaps have been orchestrated by companies which benefited from YSR’s rule.

The resolutions, expressions of support and demonstrations had started even before YSR’s body was laid to rest and embarrassed senior leader K Rosaiah who has been installed as the interim chief minister. The party high command made known its displeasure over the public lobbying for Jaganmohan Reddy. While he is too young, Rosaiah, who is 76, cannot be expected to lead the government for five years and take the party to the next elections. A new leader will need time to consolidate his position and make his mark. Therefore, the question is when the change of guard is to be effected. Jaganmohan will not be an easy choice for a party that generally frowns on independent support for its regional leaders. With the mourning period over, the high command has a tough decision to make.

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