Political art of the possible: Should Jagan align with Cong for next poll?

Sanjaya

Vijayawada: Any suggestion that it would be safe for him in the next general elections to have a pre-poll pact with the Congress party would draw an angry response from the Opposition leader in Andhra Pradesh YS Jaganmohan Reddy.

“Should I shamelessly align with a party that concocted false charges and kept me in jail without trial for 17 months?” Nobody would dare to say yes since he was absolutely right. Congress President Sonia Gandhi fixed him through CBI for defying her. She wanted him to call off his ‘Odaarpu Yaatra,’ tours meant to console the families which lost their near and dear out of grief on account of YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s tragic death.

Jagan had the courage to get up and walk out of the meeting at 10, Janpath, along with his mother and sister. He defied the mightiest person of the land. That is the reason for his following among the people. However, Sonia never excused the son of the most successful Congress chief minister, who gave the party 33 Lok Sabha seats from undivided Andhra Pradesh in 2009, for saying no to her. Observers say Sonia Gandhi decided to bifurcate the State in order to deprive N Chandrababu Naidu, present chief minister of residual State of Andhra Pradesh and YSRCP chief YS Jaganmohan Reddy of the power that a large State with 42 Lok Sabha seats would give.

In spite of all these facts, there is a strong case for the YSRCP to go for a tie-up with the Congress. It is true that the Congress was routed in AP in the last general elections. The people of AP had punished the party for dividing the Telugu State against their will. But during the last 32 months, the BJP-led NDA government had let the people of AP down on many counts. It did not implement the decision of the UPA-II government to grant special status.  BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu and BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu assured the people of AP at a number of election meetings that the special status would be given soon after coming to power.

The Centre and the State government have been bluffing the people in this regard. The Polavaram Multipurpose Project should have been taken up by the Centre treating it as a national project. It was part of the AP Bifurcation Act 2014.  Small amounts were sanctioned in the budgets and the responsibility of completing the project was given to the State government. This and many other sour points have been raised by YSRCP with Jagan organising protest rallies time and again attracting huge crowds.

The Congress party also has been actively agitating over the issues. The popular anger against the Congress had subsided and their vote bank is returning albeit very slowly. Instead of going solo, it would make sense for the YSRCP to sail with the Congress and the Left parties to avoid division of anti-TDP and anti- NDA vote.

There are no permanent friends or enemies in politics. Before 1996 elections, the DMK was perceived as a party that was supporting the LTTE and so people were extremely angry with the DMK blaming it for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. PV Narasimha Rao, the then PM and AICC president, did not dare to antagonise Sonia Gandhi and her family by having an alliance with the party headed by M Karunanidhi although having a pact with that party was the most prudent thing to do under the given conditions. The incumbent chief minister and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa was thoroughly unpopular what with the plethora of charges of corruption and maladministration against her. Knowing very well that it was a bad decision, PV had to go for a tie-up with Jayalalithaa and paid for it. But the very same Sonia Gandhi for whose sake PV did not venture an alliance with the DMK had, after a few years, allied her party with the DMK  in 2004 elections and gained. When Sonia Gandhi could do business with the perceived collaborators of her husband’ assassins there is no reason why Jaganmohan Reddy should refuse to be friends with his former tormentors.

Jagan had realized that principled politics is not always paying. In his manifesto for 2014 elections, Jagan did not include a promise to waive the farmer’s loans since it would be difficult to keep. Though he was told by his well-wishers that the promise is going to make a critical difference, he did not budge. His adversary Chandrababu Naidu, on the other hand, made the same promise knowing that he would not be able to keep it. Ultimately the promise was partially fulfilled. Farmers are left high and dry.

Jagan must have learnt a lesson or two from  his experience. Expediency is the name of the game. He would be committing a mistake if he refuses to have a tie-up with the Congress. Some Congress leaders might join his party as elections approach. But more than the leaders it is the party that has votes. It would be a costly mistake to ignore the ground reality. The crowds that Jagan has been attracting in his tours should not make him overconfident just like the last time. Unfortunately, the mass of attendance didn’t translate into votes. Such wrong perceptions could cost him dearly once again. Next elections would be now or never for him.

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