Jagan's road to victory: A 3,600 km walk, nine gems and that 2.2 crore YouTube views song

Like his father, Jagan undertook a statewide padayatra covering 3,641 km and interacting with at least two crore people in 14 months - a feat unmatched by any other politician.
YSRC chief Jaganmohan Reddy (Photo | EPS)
YSRC chief Jaganmohan Reddy (Photo | EPS)

VIJAYAWADA: The electoral victory could not have been sweeter for YS Jagan Mohan Reddy. It has been a long time coming. The 46-year-old made his electoral debut in May 2009, exactly a decade ago, when he successfully contested from the Kadapa Lok Sabha constituency - the YSR family's bastion.

A few months later in September when his father and the then chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy died in a chopper crash, it was thought Jagan, who holds a master's in business administration, could succeed him.

Ministers and leaders loyal to YSR lobbied hard with a signature campaign persuading many legislators to back Jagan, then aged just about 36. But fate willed otherwise. The then Congress president Sonia Gandhi anointed veteran leader K Rosaiah as the chief minister thwarting the young man's dream of succeeding his illustrious father.

Jagan's insistence, subsequently, on going ahead with 'Odarpu Yatra' ostensibly to console the families of those who had died of shock upon hearing of YSR's untimely demise widened the rift between him and the Congress high command.

While Sonia Gandhi disapproved of his move seeing in it an attempt to stake claim to YSR's legacy, Jagan maintained -- he sticks to it now too -- that he sought to reach out to the bereaved families to keep his word. He had promised at the chopper crash site itself that he would meet the families of all those who had died of shock in the wake of his father's death.

A defiant Jagan went ahead with his yatra, pulling large crowds and sending the Congress into a tizzy. In November 2010 he quit the party following an ultimatum to stop the yatra and floated Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress (YSRC) in March 2011.

He resigned as MP and contested the bypoll winning by a record margin of five lakh-odd votes. Thus arrived Jagan onto the political landscape of the then undivided Andhra Pradesh, displaying defiance, courage of conviction and self-confidence -- qualities that were tested much sooner than he expected.

A plethora of petitions against him in the high court by Congress and TDP leaders accusing him of amassing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income and striking quid pro quo deals during his father's stint as the CM brought upon him CBI and ED probes.

He was arrested by the CBI in May 2012 and spent 16 months in jail emerging out at the height of the agitation for the creation of Telangana. Though he took a firm stand against division of the State and sat on a hunger strike, he couldn't do much to prevent it. Unlike the TDP, he wound up his party in Telangana and entered the electoral battle in the residuary state of Andhra in the 2014 elections as a favourite. But TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu squeaked through striking winning alliances with the BJP and actor Pawan Kalyan.

Frustrated for the second time, Jagan found himself fighting an existential battle for his political survival. Naidu weaned away 23 of his 67 legislators and sought to decimate the YSRC. Effective and combative, but lacking in patience and stratagems, Jagan roped in the poll wizard Prashant Kishor in May 2017 to firm up his 2019 campaign. That truly changed his fortunes. It was a perfect blend of his perseverance and Kishor's strategies that saw him through in May 2019 catapulting him to the CM's gaddi finally after a decade-long journey.

Winning Strategy

The hard work he put in since May 2017 is perhaps unprecedented in the annals of Independent India's political history. Like his father, Jagan undertook a statewide padayatra covering 3,641 km and interacting with at least two crore people in 14 months - a feat unmatched by any other politician. Realising that his weakness is at the grassroots, he formed a network of both level workers - a formidable force to take on the strong cadre of the TDP.

In fact, he held a series of district-level meetings meeting over five lakh booth workers. But what made the difference were his reach out programmes. In all, Prashant Kishor's Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) ran 17 on-ground and 18 online campaigns. It is a two-pronged strategy to strengthen the party and reach out to the people.

He wrote personalised letters to over 60,000 village-level neutral influencers, and sought their suggestions under the Jagan Anna Pilupu programme, making neutral voters participate in shaping his policies.

The booth-level workers and party leaders were in constant touch with voters throughout conducting five door-to-door campaigns in two years. To outwit Naidu, Jagan came up with his Navaratnalu -- nine gems-- promises ranging from affordable healthcare, education, sops for farmers and women, to incentives for sending children to school.

The Ravali Jagan, Kavali Jagan (Jagan must come, Jagan we want) campaign proved highly successful with the song touching 2.2 crore views on YouTube and reverberating in every nook and cranny in the State. Through these programmes, the party reached out to one crore households at least once in the last two years.

The 400- strong I-PAC team was also instrumental in data crunching, conducting the social media blitz and guiding YSRC candidates. Last but not the least, its catchy slogans, Ninnu Nammam Babu (We don't believe you Babu) and Bye Bye Babu proved instant hits denting the credibility of the TDP chief.

The campaign managed to posit Jagan as a man of his word, the true heir to YSR, in contrast to the unreliable Naidu. In short, it made people see in Jagan YSR 2.0.

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The New Indian Express