Yeduguri Sandinti Jagan Mohan Reddy, the man of the moment in Andhra Pradesh, has had a meteoric rise in politics. He has now reached his goal, nearly a decade after he aspired for the top post in the state following death of his father and then Chief Minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, in a helicopter crash.
With his YSR Congress Party on course for a landslide victory in the 2019 Assembly elections, Jagan Mohan Reddy has repeated what his father had achieved in 2004 — logging Telugu Desam Party’s N. Chandrababu Naidu out of power. What the young leader could not achieve in the Congress, he has done it by floating a new party and slogging for eight years, banking on the legacy of YSR, as his late father was popularly known.
Jagan, as the businessman-politician is popularly known, made the YSRCP replace Congress as the second major political force in the truncated state of Andhra Pradesh in 2014 and in 2019, led it to power. As he gears up to take over as the second Chief Minister of new state of Andhra Pradesh, the focus is on the 46-year-old who proved his political acumen by defeating much experienced 69-year-old Chandrababu Naidu. When YSR led the Congress to power in undivided Andhra Pradesh in 2004, Jagan was running his businesses, mostly from Bengaluru. YSR was in a hurry to groom his son as his political successor. He tried to make his brother Y.S. Vivekananda Reddy resign from Kadapa Lok Sabha seat in 2005 to pave way for Jagan’s election. While Vivekananda agreed, then Congress President Sonia Gandhi scuttled the move and asked YSR to wait till 2009.
Making an impressive electoral debut, Jagan was elected to Lok Sabha from Kadapa in 2009 elections, when his father retained power in the state. Barely six months later the death of YSR in a chopper crash plunged the state into political chaos. Even before Jagan’s burial, YSR loyalists started “Jagan as CM” campaign, much to the dislike of Congress leadership, which choose veteran leader K. Rosaiah as YSR’s successor. Seen as rebellious and a man in hurry to take over the mantle, Jagan defied the party leadership to embark on “odarpu yatra” to console the family members of those who died of shock or committed suicide following YSR’s death. As Jagan’s rebellion continued to pose a challenge, the Congress leadership replaced Rosaiah with Kiran Kumar Reddy to deal firmly with dissidence. When Vivekananda Reddy was inducted into state cabinet, Jagan accused the Congress of dividing his family and quit the party along with his mother Y.S. Vijayamma, who was earlier elected unopposed from Pulivendula Assembly seat, which fell vacant following YSR’s death.
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Jagan, with a handful of loyalists, floated the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSCRP) in March. By winning by-elections from Kadapa Lok Sabha and Pulivendula with huge margins, the son-mother duo proved their popularity in the faction-ridden Rayalaseema region. However, the alleged dramatic increase in Jagan’s wealth when his father was the Chief Minister had already triggered demands from his rivals in Congress and also the TDP for a thorough probe. Following a Central Bureau of Investigation probe ordered by Andhra Pradesh High Court in 2011, a series of cases were registered against him and his aides. In what is called the ‘quid-pro-quo’ cases, Jagan was accused of getting investments into his businesses by firms and individuals in return for the shown undue favours shown to them by the government headed by his father in the form of approvals, leases, contracts and government land. However, the YSRCP leader denied all the charges as “witch-hunting”.
Jagan’s rivals also targeted his media ventures, alleging that the ill-gotten wealth of YSR had gone into a Telugu newspaper and a channel owned by him. The CBI arrested Jagan and sent him to jail on May 27, 2012. After 16 months in jail, he was granted bail. In the affidavit filed along with his nomination from Pulivendula last month, Jagan mentioned 31 criminal cases pending against him including cases booked by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate under Prevention of Corruption and Act Money Laundering Act among others. He, however, was not convicted in any case. After the release from jail in 2013, Jagan started building the party and undertook ‘padyatras’ or foot marches like his late father to know people’s problems. With striking similarities to YSR, Jagan became known for making an instant emotional chord with the masses, mingling with them, shaking hands and cupping everyone’s chin in a commiserative gesture. Though deprived of a win in 2014 mainly due to the TDP’s alliance with the BJP, Jagan continued his struggle. Unfazed by defection of nearly two dozen MLAs to the TDP, he focused on strengthening the party. He set a new record through 14-month-long ‘padyatra’ , which ended in January this year. Covering a distance of 3,640 km on foot, he promised to usher in ‘Rajanna Rajyam’, a reference to his father’s rule during which welfare schemes were implemented for various sections of the society.
Unlike typical Indian politicians, Jagan is usually clad in a formal striped shirt and trousers. Fit and smartly dressed, he enjoys a huge following among youth. Jagan, who had his schooling at Hyderabad Public School, holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree. His wife Y.S. Bharathi is a business woman while his daughters Y.S. Harshini Reddy and Y.S. Varsha Reddy are pursuing higher education. In his election affidavit, Jagan declared family assets of over Rs 500 crore.