Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy recently suggested that his party, the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress (YSRC), is getting ready for early polls, in line with the NDA’s demand for ‘One Nation One Election’ (ONOE). During a Cabinet meeting on September 27, he reportedly hinted at redeploying his trump card, election strategist Prashant Kishor, who scripted his victory the last time.
Reddy’s five-year term is scheduled to end in 2024. The state may go to polls a year earlier if Jagan endorses the BJP’s proposal.
Talking to The Federal, a former lawmaker from Rayalaseema region said Jagan had shared his election views several times in the past.
Jagan’s support for simultaneous elections is no surprise given his proximity to the NDA and his backing of the Narendra Modi government’s key initiatives, such as the new Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020, agricultural reforms, and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.
The Law Commission submitted a draft report to the government on August 30, 2018, endorsing simultaneous polls. However, it also said that simultaneous elections are not possible without making relevant amendments to the Constitution.
Kishor came into prominence in Andhra Pradesh after he helped Jagan register a resounding victory in 2019. His task now will be to repeat that performance, this time by neutralising the anti-incumbency factor. The ruling camp is confident he can do that, given his recent performance in West Bengal, where he helped Mamata Banerjee retain power.
Can Kishor Replicate the Bengal Model in Andhra?
Beating anti-incumbency is a daunting task. Critics say that, in his desire to establish a direct link with the people, Jagan is running a one-man show by bypassing his council of ministers and party lawmakers. This style of functioning has widened the gulf between the party and the government and the CM and his ministers.
In 2019 Kishor had an easier task. He simply had to capitalise on the anti-incumbency feeling against the previous government. But this time Jagan’s party is in power and the challenge before Kishor and his team is to generate a positive vote. Citing Kishor’s recent work in Bengal, former YSRC MLC Dokka Manikya Vara Prasad told The Federal that a similar performance in Andhra could generate a windfall for Jagan.
Jagan has focused on a welfare agenda that, some say, has pushed development to the back-burner, leaving the middle class and urban sections disheartened. The government’s lack of focus on basic amenities has given ammunition to the opposition. Actor Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party recently staged a protest in West Godavari’s Bhimavaram town, highlighting the dire state of roads in the region. The roads were damaged during the monsoons and the contractors were allegedly not coming forward to take up repair works as their bills for previous works remained unpaid. The spending on welfare has left little money for critical civic and infrastructure works, critics say.
Cabinet Reshuffle on the Cards
When he was sworn in, Jagan promised to ease out veterans and give fresh faces a chance. But now he is in a bind. Any major shake-up is bound to cause some heartburn among the existing ministers. A sense of passiveness has crept in anyway, as ministers feel they have been reduced to figureheads in a “shadow government” being run by Jagan’s trusted aid, Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy, advisor for public affairs.
Legislators too think they are playing second fiddle to village and ward volunteers. With so much discontent among ministers and MLAs, fighting an election becomes is no easy task.