Hunger Games, Andhra Style

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jaganmohanAfter the Congress CWC decision was out on a seperate Telangana state, every political party in undivided Andhra has been trying to figure out the best way to profit from the inevitable. Most have been tumbling and falling while continuing their double-speak on Telangana – “accept the decision” on one hand and whip up sentiments in the rest of Andhra against separation on the other. Seemandhra sentiments for a unified Andhra probably will never gather the buoyancy and intensity that can compare with the kind that runs in Telangana. However, that has not stopped political parties – like the TDP, a section of the Congress and the YSRCP (Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party) – from indulging in theatrics. For good reason. Several MPs and MLAs from these parties are also businessmen with ventures in Hyderabad worth thousands of crores.
Of course, in theatrics, few can beat Jagan Mohan Reddy, YSRCP chief. Jagan’s coming of age in politics was in itself theatrics at its best. He quit Congress after his father YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s death in a helicopter crash, when Congress high command chose to discipline him rather than allow him to make himself the natural heir to the Andhra CM’s position. Defying orders, he continued his Odarpu yatra – supposedly a condolence yatra to console the grieving masses.

Today, despite having spent more than 15 months in Chanchalguda jail – on charges of corruption and cronyism – Jagan’s grit has taken no beating. He continues to be as ambitious as ever. On 26 August, he went on a hunger-strike in jail against the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. After five days of fasting, he was hospitalised and even after that, he refused fluids at NIMS (Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences), Hyderabad. Elsewhere in Andhra, YSRCP members too are reportedly carrying out hunger-strikes. The other parties that have raised a voice against bifurcation are also indulging in similar theatrics. For a good reason.

Nobody in Seemandhra seems as determined to come to power as Jagan when the state goes to polls in 2014. Whereas pundits have predicted that TDP will not fair as badly as they did the last time (with 92 seats of 294 assembly seats), according to surveys and experts, Jagan is touted as the favourite in Seemandhra. One of the reasons is simply that the YSRCP has been on campaign mode ever since Jagan’s arrest. His sister, Sharmila Reddy and his mother, Vijayamma have gone on padyatras, garnering support for a party that has 17 MLAs as of now – all of whom are deserters from the Congress and the TDP.

But why exactly is Jagan protesting against bifurcation is anybody’s guess. A genuine ethno-nationalistic sentiment to have a unified Andhra Pradesh, where no region will be discriminated against, could be the reason. Party leader Mysura Reddy expresses concerns like water-sharing and the administrative nightmare the creation of Telangana poses. However, bigger reasons lie in electoral calculations. Whereas Jagan’s YSRCP was never big in Telangana, their hope was always pinned on sweeping the Seemandhra region. Enough numbers in Seemandhra would have meant an opporutunistic, cynical post-poll alliance, giving Jagan the CM position he so badly desires. However, with Congress’ Telangana option, past calculations stand obsolete. To further add to the woes of YSRCP, the Congress has neatly held the bait on Rayala-Telangana (an arrangement where Kurnul and Anantpur will become a part of Telangana), casually mentioning it as an option from time to time. This changes everything for the YSRCP as Rayalaseema is their only forte as of now. Of course, the family-run YSRCP is also a party that is big on money and has business interests in every sector: political power will only further help them flourish. So you have to skip a meal or two. Big deal.

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