At last! The dust has settled after an acrimonious year-and-a-half of political mudslinging. Exceeding all expectations, Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy has stormed to power with an overwhelming mandate dealing a mortal blow to the TDP. The victory couldn’t have been sweeter. For, it is the culmination of an arduous decade-long journey that began with his now legendary parting shot to Congress leader Sonia Gandhi — “Let God be the judge between us” — and passed through many vicissitudes, including 16 months of jail time, defeat in 2014 and defection of a host of legislators to the TDP. Any other man in his place would have buckled but Jagan walked his way to the top. When he uttered the words, ‘Jagan ane nenu’, while taking the oath of office, his supporters were ecstatic but he himself wasn’t visibly jubilant. A brief smile on his lips, was all he had in his moment of glory.
His 3,648-km padayatra across the state is rightly viewed as a gamechanger but those who know him say it has also been a life-changer. Jagan is no longer the man he was a decade ago. Meeting hundreds of people every day for over a year with grievances ranging from a quarrel with a drunk spouse to the heartbreaking loss of a loved one for want of medical aid or helplessness stemming out of a corrupt official’s unreasonable demands, does affect a person even if he is a politician. His impatience to ‘clean up the system’ ought to be seen from this perspective, not through the prism of politics as cynical journalists do, a YSRC leader commented, trying to explain Jagan’s conduct since he assumed the mantle on May 30.
First up, he hiked pensions to the aged, set a deadline for recruitment of four lakh village volunteers, one each for 50 households, to facilitate smooth delivery of government schemes, and increased salaries of ASHA workers, women health workers who haven’t been paid salaries for months. He met up with his Telangana counterpart
K Chandrashekar Rao and in a day, sealed a deal to get Andhra buildings in Hyderabad. He has also initiated a move to shut belt shops to curb the free flow of liquor, the bane of many a family in rural areas. Next, he shook up babudom with a top-to- bottom reshuffle. He got his priorities right, given that his focus is on the welfare of the aged, healthcare and jobs.But as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. His decision to recruit four lakh village volunteers is a risky proposition. After all, one of the major reasons behind Chandrababu Naidu’s fall were the Janmabhoomi committees, using which local TDP leaders wreaked havoc in rural areas interfering in every government scheme. What is the guarantee that the volunteers won’t go the same way? Another decision of Jagan, to review contracts awarded during the TDP regime, is also raising eyebrows. Despite what critics say, there is nothing wrong in reviewing graft-tainted contracts. The process to do it, of having a judicial commission to vet not only past contracts but also future tenders, could slow down the pace of works. But if that is the only way to ensure transparency, so be it.
Jagan’s big step in the last one week is, of course, his Cabinet expansion. He inducted five deputy CMs, one each from the SC/ST, BC, Kapu and Muslim community, at the risk of being mocked at by his opponents. They surely will not wield powers commensurate with their position. The strategy is to consolidate the YSRC among these sections. Similarly, he gave seven Cabinet berths to BCs, demographically the largest in the state, and four each to Kapus and Reddys (his own community). He also rewarded loyalists. For the disappointed aspirants, he held out the promise of revamping the Cabinet wholesale in two-and-a-half years. A career in politics is no preparation for government, says Sir Humphrey Appleby in Yes Minister. By the time the new ministers learn the ropes, they could be on the exit list. If some of them perform well, will they also be shown the door? The administration would surely suffer. This is one please-all act Jagan should not have committed himself to.
Deputy Resident Editor, Andhra Pradesh