Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy

YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) is all set for a landslide victory in Andhra Pradesh, decimating his archrival and chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP).

As per latest trends, YSRCP is leading in 152 out of 175 assembly constituencies in the state, far ahead of TDP’s tally of 23.

For Lok Sabha, YSRCP is leading in 24 out of 25 seats.

Most exit polls have predicted YSRCP’s victory, but none of them estimated such a wave for Jagan Reddy.

Not an easy victory


Related stories

National Monetisation Pipeline | A game changer for infrastructure investment in India

Distributed renewable energy is vital for India’s clean energy transition

Central banks should not mandate 'green' investments: Raghuram Rajan

Jagan Reddy had twice came close to becoming chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, but power evaded him.

Jagan Reddy, who was widely predicted by opinion polls to win Andhra Pradesh in 2014, lost narrowly to the deft political maneuvering of Chandrababu Naidu, who aligned with BJP and Pawan Kalyan’s Janasena. People also placed hope on Naidu, for his experience and Modi’s support to lift the truncated state out of the financial morass it is in, after it was bifurcated that year.

Rubbing salt on the defeat, Jagan Reddy was also hounded by a barrage of corruption cases filed against him during the reign of Congress government, and Naidu quickly started poaching his MLAs and MPs, further making him politically vulnerable.

He came close to becoming chief minister in 2009 as well, following the death of YS Rajasekhara Reddy, Jagan Reddy’s father and a popular chief minister of the combined state of Andhra Pradesh, there was widespread support from the legislators of the state Congress unit, to anoint him as the chief minister.

But the Congress high command rejected this proposal and later put a restriction on Jagan Reddy’s Odarpu Yatra, where Reddy visited houses of the deceased under full public spectacle, to console their families. Scores of people have allegedly died or committed suicide, unable to digest the loss of YSR.

Jagan Reddy defied the Congress’s order and continued his Odarpu Yatra, raising the banner of revolt against the party.

The Congress, which was in power in the state and at the Centre, didn’t take this defiance lightly. Soon all the land allotments and mining leases, awarded under his father YSR's tenure, were under CBI scanner. The CBI alleged that Jagan Reddy built massive media and cement businesses, based on quid-pro-quo arrangements, where the beneficiaries of these allotments invested in his companies for inflated premiums.


To begin with, Jagan Reddy has some positives going for him. He is young – only 46 years old – as compared to his rival Naidu, who is 69 years. A vastly improved leader in terms of oratory in Telugu, Jagan Reddy is also at ease in English, given that he had his schooling at one of the premier institutions, Hyderabad Public School.

He inherited the legacy of his father YS Rajasekhara Reddy, who has been the most popular chief minister in the Telugu states and remains fresh in the memory of people for his pro-poor welfare schemes like free power for farmers, Arogysri (health insurance scheme), fee reimbursement, and many more. The charisma of YSR is naturally rubbed on him.

Jagan Reddy asserted himself in the vacuum left by Congress, which was decimated in Andhra Pradesh from its roots, following its decision to bifurcate the state. He quickly captured the Congress’ social base of Reddys, Dalits, STs and minorities.

Read Also | Naveen Patnaik: Defying Modi wave, Odisha's 'Mr Clean' wins 5th straight term

Smart moves

Jagan Reddy hit the road very early; he has virtually been in campaign mode through the last five years. He was often criticized for not attending Assembly sessions and losing out on the opportunity to raise a voice against the government. But, Jagan Reddy knew very well that in the days of social media and 24x7 news channels, one can mount an impressive fight against a government without even sitting in the Assembly. He launched Praja Sankalpa Yatra, a mass outreach program that covered a distance of 3,648 km over a span of 341 days on foot. YSRCP claims that he directly interacted with 1.25 crore people.

He exposed the failures of the TDP government, frequent flip flops of Naidu on special status for the state, and corruption of local leaders. He also came out particularly hard at Janasena leader Pawan Kalyan, even attacking him personally. It was a calculated move, Reddy didn't want a second player to cut into the anti-incumbency vote.

He made some peace with Eenadu, the largest circulated Telugu daily that’s been around his neck for much of his political life.

He got political strategist Prashant Kishor on board to devise a campaign strategy. Kishor’s team at I-PAC has infused much vigor to Jagan Reddy’s campaign through social media, targeting young people.

Even while his opponent Naidu is part of the NDA government, Jagan Reddy silently established a channel of communication with the BJP.

With the exception of not granting special status to Andhra Pradesh, Jagan Reddy has maintained strategic silence on Narendra Modi’s government. He, in fact, called the Modi government “phenomenal” in a recent interview to a national TV channel. Jagan Reddy chose to stay publicly away from the regional party or opposition groupings.

He also did temple hopping, bathed in the holy Ganges and touched the feet of seers. Political analysts attribute this to convincing voters about his pro-Hindu credentials. Reddy is a Christian by faith.

All this did help him, his corruption cases have gathered dust in courts, and many were acquitted. No one knows at this point of time what’s the status of these cases.

Challenges ahead

The massive mandate also comes with huge expectations.

Andhra Pradesh is financially still in a mess. Naidu, quite uncharacteristic of himself, introduced reckless doles and was diverting precious financial resources towards building a new capital at Amaravati and spent massive amounts of money on publicity blitzkrieg. All this is funded by loans, putting a huge strain on the state’s finances. Andhra Pradesh lost claim on Hyderabad during the bifurcation, which used to be the economic engine of the combined state.

Jagan Reddy will have to walk a tightrope. Not only he has to bring fiscal discipline, but also work towards fulfilling his nine major promises – that include a promise to offer financial assistance of Rs 50,000 to farmers; fee reimbursements for students; government bearing medical treatment costs above Rs 1,000; Rs 2,000 pension to senior citizens; interest free loans to self-help groups; and 25 lakh houses for poor people.

He also needs to address the problems of farm distress, rising unemployment, and shrinking water resources in the state.

He may get some help from the Centre, given his proximity to the BJP, but needs to generate much of those resources internally.

Reddy, who read the autobiography of Lee Kuan Yew, the man regarded as the father of modern Singapore, will have to borrow some ideas from there to build the state anew and fulfill his promises to the people.