Lok Sabha member Kanumuru Raghu Ramakrishna Raju has alleged threats from his own party, taking a heavy toll on the image of the ruling YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh, headed by a popular leader like YS Jagan Mohan Reddy. It also brings into sharp focus the simmering discontent within the party hardly a year after it came to power.
Raju, who was elected to the Parliament from Narasapuram in West Godavari district, mailed a petition to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla seeking protection from his own party men. The MP’s personal secretary also petitioned the District Superintendent of Police requesting him to direct the Station House Officers in the constituency to provide Raju a strong security cover.
The MP raised the banner of revolt against the Chief Minister when the party ranks were celebrating the occasion of Jagan’s one-year rule. The rebel MP accused at least three YSRCP MLAs from his Parliamentary constituency of indulging in illegal sand extraction and housing scams as the CM failed to walk the talk in realising his promise for corruption-free governance. As an offshoot of Raju’s outbursts, the followers of the “tainted” MLAs burnt his effigies, daring him venture into the constituency and face the consequences.
The think-tank in Jagan’s party suspects that a section of intra-party dissident leaders are behind Raju. Lending credence to the suspicion, nearly half a dozen YSRCP MLAs voiced their opposition on the functioning of the government under Jagan’s leadership just before the MP resorted to embarrassing the party higher-ups.
Time for introspection?
The dissenting voices can provide an opportunity for Jagan to indulge in some introspection over his style of functioning. It is alleged that Jagan has been running the government with a coterie comprising bureaucrats in the CMO (Chief Minister’s Office) and his favourite party men. The coterie remains a major barrier, denying access for party MLAs and even ministers to the CM. Major decisions, such as officer postings and contract works at the constituency level, are taken by the CM’s “backroom boys” without any role for the respective MLAs or the ministers handling the respective departments.
Denial of easy access and existential threat are among the issues raised by the disgruntled MLAs. Not less than 70 party MLAs have failed to get an opportunity yet for a personal interaction with the CM since their election. Jagan’s heavy focus on welfare at the expense of development reportedly reduces the MLAs at the constituency level to persona non grata among their own electors. The lawmakers seem to be nursing a feeling that they have become less relevant in their constituencies.
During the TDP regime, MLAs, armed with the Assembly Constituency Development Fund (ACDF), used to be the pivot of development works in their constituencies. However, MLAs in the YSRCP government have been divested of ACDF. The ACDF has now become CM-centric with the changed nomenclature of CMDF (CM Development Fund). While the administration is centred around the CMO at present, lawmakers in the Assembly constituencies during the previous TDP regime enjoyed undue powers in postings and transfers of officials. Jagan has decided to take up the postings of even Revenue Divisional Officers and Sub-Divisional Police officers only at the CMO level.
No firefighting mechanism in place
Raghu Ramakrishna Raju, who seemingly has no permanent loyalties to any particular party, has been consistently voicing his reservations in the media over restrictions imposed by Jagan on party MPs in accessing the Prime Minister and union ministers. As per the protocols set by Jagan, any MP wishing to meet leaders of the NDA government needs to get prior clearance from the party General Secretary and Parliamentary Party Leader V Vijayasai Reddy.
The clout Raju enjoys with the NDA top brass is such that he managed to get into Home Minister Amit Shah’s chambers effortlessly sometime back when the CM was waiting for an appointment. Raju is said to have prevailed over the Speaker in appointing him Chairman of the Subordinate Legislation Committee, bypassing his party leadership.
Why have things in the YSRCP come to a head within such a short span of coming to power? Before the 2019 elections, Jagan’s political strategist Prashant Kishor advised him to strengthen his party’s organisational apparatus right from the booth level, with constant interactions at all levels involving Jagan himself. But Jagan came to power with a landslide victory without taking that advice, and the government and party is centred around one man, i.e. Jagan, commented political analyst Vikram Poola. Referring to the barrage of dissenting voices from party lawmakers, Vikram pointed out that there is no mechanism in place within the party to douse the flames.
There is no strong opposition in the state after Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP facing rout in the elections. Besides, there is not even a critical media. All this breeds an authoritarian in Jagan, says a senior YSRCP leader who wished to remain anonymous.
Gali Nagaraja is a freelance journalist who writes on the two Telugu states. Views expressed are the author’s own.