After covering 3,648 km across the breadth of Andhra Pradesh, YSRCP President YS Jaganmohan Reddy entered the town of Ichchapuram in the state’s Srikakulam district on Wednesday, to be greeted by a massive number of supporters. Signaling the end of his 14-month-long 'padayatra'. Jagan unveiled a pylon to mark the event.
The party hopes the 429-day-long padayatra will help it to storm to power in the elections to be held in April-May. Party leaders have claimed that Jagan reached out to two crore people during the padayatra, which covered over 134 out of 175 Assembly constituencies in the state.
The YSRCP chief had set out on the padayatra on November 6, 2017, from his home town Idupulapya in Kadapa district. At a time when Jagan's name was appearing in news only in relation to corruption scandals, it was former poll strategist Prashant Kishor who was said to be behind his decision to go on a padayatra.
Dr Pentapati Pulla Rao, a senior political observer, told TNM, “The padayatra will definitely create positive ripples in favour of YSRCP, since it appears to create a connection between the leader and people. The padayatra was a good way to remain in the public and be part of media discourse. It also helps a leader understand the problems across the regions."
Jagan and his YSRCP even decided to boycott the proceedings of the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly, instead choosing to undertake the padayatra. For Jagan, the yatra was not just a means to connect with the people, but also to assert himself politically and position himself as Naidu's primary adversary.
“The padayatra was basically done to help him consolidate his earlier base. After his 2014 loss, he faced several setbacks, including losing 22 MLAs to TDP, and therefore, he had to round up his supporters and stem the rot in his own party. To that extent, the padayatra has been successful,” says Telakapalli Ravi, a senior journalist and political analyst.
This mass outreach programme was to conclude in six months but Jagan continued it in view of the elections. It was also delayed as Jagan had to attend a hearing in a CBI court in Hyderabad every Friday, in an ongoing disproportionate assets case.
Jagan began the last day of his padayatra from Kojjiria village walking along with top party leaders including MPs and MLAs. His cadre raised slogans like 'Raavali Jagan' (Jagan must come to power) as the young leader continued walking, occasionally greeting the people with folded hands.
“Jagan has taken a calculated decision to end the padayatra. He is now all set to decide candidates and jump into the poll fray. The stage is all three parties want to show that they are ready for electoral battle. Either way, Andhra Pradesh can expect a fierce and interesting time ahead,” Telakapalli Ravi added.
Observers feel that Andhra Pradesh is all set for an interesting battle ahead as Telugu Desam Party (TDP) led by Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party (JSP) are all set to clash with the YSRCP in a three-way fight.
Looking to wrest power from Naidu, Jagan hopes to repeat the feat of his father and former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, who undertook a similar padayatra and came to power in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh.
YSR, as Rajasekhara Reddy was popularly known, had covered 1,450 km under his foot-march, which brought him to power. Interestingly, it was Chandrababu Naidu whom he unseated from power. YSR died in a helicopter crash in 2009, a few months after he led the Congress party to power for a second consecutive term.
Jagan later quit the Congress party and floated YSR Congress. In 2014, YSR Congress bagged 67 out of the 175 Assembly seats, thereby emerging as the chief Opposition party in the Legislative Assembly.
"Now, he has to prepare the ground for furthering the battle. Most importantly, he has to select his candidates besides looking at the moves made by his rivals,” Dr Pentapati Pulla Rao added.
Inputs from Charan Teja.