Monday, June 18, 2012

AP By-polls: A Jagan vs. Goliath tale

It has been almost 3 years since my post on YS JaganmohanReddy’s handling of the political drama after YSR’s death. The naked ambition and intensity for power in display then by Jagan sustained to fructify into win in 15 Assembly constituencies and 1 parliamentary constituency now.  Even as he is seen battling umpteen charges of corruption while in jail, the party he founded decimated the Congress and TDP in the by-polls.

So what hit the Congress and the TDP the most in the recent by-polls in Andhra Pradesh? Their challenger Jagan was in jail for 15 days before the election making his YSR Congress party literally leaderless. He was interrogated quite publicly, shifting the venues of his interrogation every day and every detail about it was shared with media so that they cover it and publish for the public. Every detail about his arrest and interrogation was made public to create the image of a scamster and a criminal. His properties were attached and other ministers were jailed and interrogated just to send the message out that any minister/MLA who would side with his party would accompany him to jail. His connections with hardcore criminals involved in murders and extortion were made cover stories and prime time news in the powerful pro-TDP print and electronic media, just to remind the public what a devil is, the person they are going to vote is. Yet, the voters elected the devil. Or was it David, as in David and Goliath?

The whole joint exercise of Congress high command, TDP and the powerful pro-TDP media blew up and boomeranged. While these parties wanted to make corruption as the election issue, the core issue subconsciously for the voter has been the unethical nexus of the 2 established 'mainstream' parties and how they launched a witch-hunt against one man, an emerging third party. Too much CBI, too much media, too many speeches about ethics and corruption from Chandrababu, Chiranjeevi and Botsa (interestingly, who all have CBI or other investigative agency behind them in some or other corruption case) etc and their concerted attack on Jagan made the voter feel fishy about the situation and sympathize with the 'underdog' Jagan. In short, Jagan, who already has the financial wherewithal also, was unwittingly made to look like a victim and an underdog by the actions and over enthusiasm of Congress, TDP and the corrupt media. He reminded the voters about the historic NTR's challenge to the then mighty Congress way back in 1984. And naturally the voter sympathized with the uncompromising Jagan in this David vs. Goliath story.

As I posted last, the vote for YSR CP was due to lack ofalternatives. As far as the voter is concerned, there was no difference between these traditional parties and Jagan. 49% voted for Jagan (Congress and TDP polled 22% each) as he was seen as a victim braving the odds! Combined with that the traditional congress voters who believed he is the 'leadership material', in this age when parties seem to driven by secret pacts between them and empty rhetoric about public issues. Ever since his father died, Jagan was on road connecting with masses on issues related to different strata of society like students, farmers etc. which made him look like a 'doer' while Chandrababu's attempts to ape him looked uncharacteristic and forced.  With the Congress deciding to attack the ills of YSR rule while claiming credit for the ‘welfare programs for poor’ he launched, not a single Congress leader sounded sincere in their attack on Jagan.  By jailing him, the Congress and TDP could slow down the exodus of MLAs and cadre from their parties but could not stop the migration of votes. YSRCP may or may not retain the voters into the future, but it is unmistakably a permanent third force in Andhra and Rayalaseema regions. And as well be the future Goliath.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

What would a vote for Jagan mean?

Would a result of upcoming by-elections in favor of Jaganmohan Reddy indicate whether the people of Andhra Pradesh accepted corruption and loot of public wealth as a way of life and maybe even consider it a virtue?  In other words, would making Jagan a winner show bankruptcy of public morality among the people of AP? When a friend quipped something to this effect, he expressed an opinion of a middle class youth who have come up the hard way and made their lives in an apolitical environment. But such an apoliticalness also blinds them to the ground realities of public life and politics and make them blindly limit their views and opinions to news thrust upon the public by the mainstream media. I think any result in favor of Jagan would show not the bankruptcy of public, but that of other political elite in Andhra Pradesh who failed to challenge him because they are as corrupt or even more.

Overbearing Congress high-command hits a self-goal.
TDP and LokSatta sound hollow with their corporate connections.
Do the voters have an alternative in the upcoming AP by-elections? They don’t. The ruling congress which has now conveniently unleashed CBI in the graft cases against Jagan, has now unwittingly given an impression to the voters that it is the real culprit which allowed the whole loot for 6 years that is now being investigated. The way CBI has been used by the union government is outrageous and these elections would teach a congress a fitting lesson. It has just hit a self-goal with its timing of Jagan's trial.

The opposition TDP which has been hand-in-glove with the ruling congress and which infact saved the state government from collapsing lacks the moral high ground to accuse the Congress or Jagan’s party of corruption. It has redefined corruption in political sphere by changing the dynamics of ruling and opposition party. In its anxiety to scuttle Jagan as an alternate political force in the state, it has transformed itself into Team B for Congress.  It is the TDP which unveiled the contractors Raj in AP by speculating and manipulating on huge government contracts in infrastructure and real estate, while it was in power. YSR, after succeeding Naidu, just elevated the game. Every attack of Chandrababu Naidu on Jagan regarding corruption backfires and reminds the voters of his own large scale corporate dealings and how he elevated businessmen one after the other, his rumored benamis, worth thousands of crores to Rajya sabha. Even the small time Lok Satta party has taken questionable stand on issues linked to big corporations like those of Hyderabad Metro rail and the Srikakulam power plants. 

A negative vote against existing political parties
So no matter what these parties or the media channels/newspapers that support them want the voters to think, the voters in general are aware they are all the same. The result forecasted in favor of Jagan in Andhra and Rayalaseema is in fact a vote against all the political parties in the state. That would be a sign of displeasure by the voter against the Congress and TDP which conspired against democratic ethics to suppress Jagan, an emerging political alternative. It would be a vote against an overbearing congress government at the center. Not considering this history of political bankruptcy and viewing the present political scenario through the lens of the media which owns its roots to the very political setup working overtime to preserve itself against the Jagan onslaught will only give a warped picture and prejudiced opinions about how squeaky clean and progressive parties like Congress, TDP and Lok Satta are. The vote for Jagan, for me, would not be a sign of the voter’s ‘compromised morality’ as my friend tends to think.