Assurance or fear of rivals: What’s behind Jagan’s YSRCP lifetime leadership?

Assurance or fear of rivals: What’s behind Jagan’s YSRCP lifetime leadership?

In a move that is bound to trigger wild speculation, Andhra Pradesh chief minister, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy was unanimously elected the lifetime president of YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) on the concluding day of the party’s plenary held in Guntur on Saturday (July 9).

Vijayamma quits party to help Sharmila

Paving the path for Jagan to become the sole commander, his mother, YS Vijayamma, till now the party’s honorary president, stepped aside. She announced her resignation from the party on the stage.

Explaining the reason behind her decision to quit the party, Vijayamma, wife of late YS Rajasekhar Reddy, said she wanted to join hands with her daughter YS Sharmila who recently launched her party ‘YSR Telangana’ in the neighboring Telugu state, in line with the ideals of her late father.

“Sharmila has launched a party in Telangana as the daughter-in-law of the state. As the mother of Sharmila, and wife of YSR, it’s my responsibility to support her. So I am not supposed to remain as honorary president of YSRC. My daughter is fighting to realise the dreams of YSR in Telangana. I have decided to stand by her,” she said.

The YSR family has become India’s only political dynasty that has set up two separate regional parties in two states.

Also read: Riding on YSR wave, Sharmila plots a comeback in Telangana

Although the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (now YSR Congress Party) was launched by Jaganmohan Reddy in 2011, till recently, other members in the family including YSR’s wife and daughter had equal stakes in its running.

While Jagan was the supreme commander of the party, his mother and sister strove to bring the party to power in Andhra Pradesh in 2019.

But, Sharmila started distancing herself from the YSRCP after Jagan’s stupendous win in the 2019 elections. In July 2021, Sharmila, much to the surprise of all, launched the political party in Telangana stating that the people of the state need Rajanna Rajyam (YS Rajasekhar Reddy Raj) more than KCR’s Bangaru Telangana.

No leadership threat from family

With his mother resigning from the party, and sister launching her own outfit in Telangana, Jagan has become the sole leader of the party without any claimant for any position in the family.

Still, the party’s plenary elected him the lifetime president of the organization without the need for an election for the post of president at every plenary meeting in the future.

The plenary of the party which met at Guntur for a two-day session adopted an amendment to Article 1 to elect him as the party’s national and lifetime president.

As many as 22 sets of nominations were filed on behalf of Jagan. As there was no other nomination, he was declared elected unanimously by the Returning Officer.

Through another amendment, the party’s name Yuvajana Sramika Rytu Congress Party was changed to YSR Congress (YSRCP).

Like any other regional party in India, YSRCP is a family enterprise. YS Jaganmohan Reddy is the supremo of the party. The chances of the emergence of a rival or a challenge to his authority are remote.

Similarly, the rise of dissidence is unthinkable. And now, since his sister and mother parted ways to chart their own course, the possibility of an internal revolt, too, has diminished.

And Jagan can be elected president of the party any number of times in an election however nominal it might be. Eschewing election robs the party of this democratic element.

What’s the motive?

But why has Jagan chosen a seemingly undemocratic means to lead the party is the question that is being debated in political circles.

Even party leaders have no clue as to what more it adds to the image of Jagan when everybody agrees that it was he who was singlehandedly responsible for the landslide victory of the party with 151 MLAs in 2019 and is the unquestioned leader of the party.

Many leaders feel the tag ‘lifetime president’ is unnecessary as people know that he is the permanent leader of the party.

Also watch: The rise and rise of Jagan Mohan Reddy

According to a leader who doesn’t want to be quoted, a new phase has begun for the party with this plenary and many seniors want him to be the permanent president of the party in its new avatar.

Prominent party leaders attended the event where Jagan was elected as the party’s lifetime president.

“When Jagan wanted to launch a political party, he was looking for a name that incorporates the name of his father YSR. But, a party called YSR Congress (Yuvajana Shramika Rathu Congress party) was there in existence at that time and he liked the name. So, he borrowed the party by appointing the founder of the party as one of the general secretaries. Though the word YSR sounded like his father’s name, in reality, it had a different meaning i.e. Yuvajana Shramika Rythu (youth, labourers, and farmers). Today, the plenary adopted a resolution changing the name of the party to YSR Congress, which literally means YS Rajasekhar Reddy Congress Party (YSRCP),” the leader said.

So, Jagan might have thought of becoming the permanent head of the new avatar of the party by the new designation of ‘lifetime president’,” the party leader added.

Former minister and party’s Kandukuru MLA M Mahidhar Reddy has a different version. He opines that Jagan’s election as the party’s lifetime president is more of a message to the people than to the party.

By the gesture, he said, Jagan might be to conveying to the people a message that he is responsible for everything, good or bad, and he would be there around to ensure that all the welfare programmes he has launched would continue.

“Jagan has given primacy to developing contacts with the people. He loves to interact with the public directly. This is because the party evolved into a mature organization and eventually came to power in 2019 mainly because of his padayatra, basically a mass contact program. So, he may be reassuring the people by this post of lifetime president, that he would be there for long to take care of their interests,” Mahidhar Reddy said.

According to Reddy, while TDP president Chandrababu Naidu depended on the image of the party launched by NT Rama Rao, Jagan had to struggle a lot to build a new party on his own image and credibility.

“So, he might have thought the plenary is the right forum to reassure the people he would be at the helm of affairs permanently to look after the welfare of the people,” Reddy said.

Opposition parties, however, have a different interpretation to the whole affair.

Anti-democratic, reveals Jagan’s insecurity, says Opposition

Former minister and Telugu Desam Party’s politburo member Kalva Srinivasulu said the word ‘lifetime president’ was not only undemocratic but also “anti-democratic” as it would do away with the process of electing a president democratically.

“A political party is an organisation of people with a particular objective. To achieve this objective, the members of the party would elect one among them the president for a particular period. So, this requires a democratic setup. The party ought to conduct membership drives and periodic elections to the committees from the village level to the state level. Electing a leader lifetime president goes against the spirit of democracy. After coming to power in 2019, Jagan destroyed all democratic institutions in the state and unleashed a rule of terror to harass the members of the opposition party. By becoming lifetime president, Jagan is now set to destroy the party as well. It reveals a lurking fear of the emergence of a challenge to his authority from within the party,” Kalva said.

Former speaker of united Andhra Pradesh and leader of Janasena party Nadendla Manohar said the decision to elect Jagan as the lifetime president of the party indicates a serious anomaly in the party.

“It has clearly revealed the weakness of the party and the insecurity the leader feels in the party. Is anybody expected to lay claim for the post of the president?” he asked.

Jagan has unwittingly made public the turmoil in the family, he added.

“A political party is nothing but coming together of individuals to serve the people. It ought to be a collective effort against the one-man show. Getting the party elect him as lifetime president shows how obsessed Jagan is with authority. It’s not good for the party and the state,’ Manohar said.

All eyes on Election Commission

K Srinivasulu, a noted political scientist and senior fellow at ICSSR, New Delhi, felt that the Election Commission of India (ECI) may not ratify the election.

“The responsibility of the ECI is to ensure that the political parties are run democratically. Electing a person as the lifetime president of a party defies the definition of democracy. Jagan’s election has to stand the scrutiny of the election commission,” Srinivasulu said, adding that the irrational decision is prone to negative criticism and was bound to portray the party in poor light.

A huge crowd had assembled to cheer for Jagan at the grounds in Guntur where the event was held

“Holding organisational elections periodically imparts the party a semblance of democracy. When there is no challenge to one’s authority why curtail the process? The election of Jagan lifetime president is irrational and illogical,” Srivasulu opined.

But the lakhs of party members who attended the meeting held on the grounds of Acharya Nagarjuna University gave a thunderous applause when party’s general secretary and Rajya Sabha MP V Vijaysai Reddy announced Jagan’s election as the party lifetime president.

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