VIJAYAWADA: 'Give me one chance,' he had implored before the electorate, stressing at rally after rally that he 'heard them, and stands by them' to alleviate their suffering. During a historic 14-month long 3,641-km padayatra, he invoked the memory of his father, the late YSR. On Thursday, the people heard him.
Yeduguri Sandinti Jaganmohan Reddy got what he had asked for and more. The 46-year-old's YSR Congress Party (YSRC) beat all predictions to hand TDP chief and incumbent Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu the biggest defeat of his four-decade career. The YSRC stormed to power winning 150 of the 175 Assembly seats in the State reducing the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) to just 24 seats.
Its performance in Lok Sabha constituencies was equally impressive. Bagging almost all the seats, it put paid to any hopes Naidu may have had of playing some role at least in Parliament.
Actor and Jana Sena chief Pawan Kalyan, touted as a kingmaker, couldn't even make it to the Assembly, losing both the Gajuwaka and Bhimavaram seats from where he contested. His party won just a single seat.
Even as his supporters erupted in joy, Jagan, conscious of people's expectations, promised to prove himself a good chief minister in six months to one year.
"This mandate comes with tremendous responsibility," he said at a press conference at his residence in Tadipalli.
"People saw the good governance of my father. I will repeat history... and rule in such a way that the country will look up to us. Many are asking me on what file will I sign first. I have seen first-hand people's problems. I have heard them and will stand by them. We will implement all Navaratnas (promises made to the people)," he asserted.
Jagan, who won from Pulivendula by a margin of 90,110 votes, will take oath on May 30 in Vijayawada. The YSR Congress Legislature Party will now meet on Saturday to formally elect him as the leader.
In contrast to the celebrations at the YSRC chief's residence, the scene at TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu's house in Undavalli was predictably sombre. Naidu faxed his resignation to Governor ESL Narasimhan in the evening and in a brief press statement congratulated Jagan, Prime Minister Modi and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Without taking questions, he said he would review the results and let people know his future course of action.
The TDP chief appeared shocked. After all, 17 of his ministers, including his son Nara Lokesh, lost.
Lokesh, who made his electoral debut this election in Mangalagiri, lost by 5,300 votes to YSRC's Alla Ramakrishna Reddy. Naidu himself trailed at one point in Kuppam but rallied to win by 30,722 votes down from 47,121 in 2014.
The challenge for 69-year-old Naidu, the longest-serving chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, would be to keep his flock together. The next five years could pose an existential crisis for the TDP with Jagan having vowed to constitute a special investigation team to look into alleged corruption under the Naidu dispensation.
Battling heavy incumbency, Naidu had banked on last-minute freebies to women and farmers to bail him out but the people did not seem to have taken kindly to his repeated U-turns, and his failure to fulfil several promises, including the farm-loan waiver.
For Jagan, the challenge would be of a different kind. Naidu's profligacy has ensured an almost empty treasury. To implement all the promises he made would be practically Mission Impossible. As per estimates, he would need anything from Rs 1 lakh crore to Rs 4 lakh crore for his promises. The State, already burdened with up to Rs 3 lakh crore debts, can ill-afford the same. More importantly, his promise to extract special category status, including industrial incentives, for the State too appears impossible with the BJP, which denied it, retaining power at the Centre.
Personally for Jagan, the result is poetic justice. Having made his electoral debut exactly a decade ago in May, 2009, his career has seen many ups and downs including 16-month jail time for his alleged corruption. He has 31 cases pending against him still filed by the CBI and ED. He came close to becoming the CM twice - once immediately after his father's demise in September 2009 and the next time in the 2014 elections when he lost by a whisker to the TDP. In 2014, the YSRC won 67 seats and TDP 102 but in terms of vote-share, the difference between them was just about one per cent.
Five years later, there were no such close calls.