Andhra Pradesh after the April elections in 2019 has been caught in a battle between warlords of rival parties to promote the legacy of their respective patriarchs.

The legacy wars in Andhra are increasingly resembling Tamil Nadus battles
news Politics Saturday, September 07, 2019 - 19:24

In Andhra Pradesh, a legacy war is brewing and it appears to be following in Tamil Nadu’s footsteps. Tamil Nadu has been witness to a legacy conflict among the ideological descendants of CN Annadurai, a protégé of social reformer EV Ramasamy (Periyar) for more than half a century: M Karunanidhi, MG Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa in the past. And at many points, the legacy war has crossed the boundaries of civility and decency.

Andhra Pradesh is taking a leaf out of Tamil Nadu’s book, but with a degree of variation. In contrast to the war of succession in Dravidian politics in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh after the April elections in 2019 has been caught in a battle between warlords of rival parties to promote the legacy of their respective patriarchs.

TDP’s N Chandrababu Naidu, who left the indelible imprints of his mentor NT Rama Rao and himself in governance, development and public welfare, went into oblivion after his party’s rout at the elections. Naidu was succeeded by a young YS Jagan Mohan Reddy as Chief Minister whose YSRCP won 151 Assembly and 22 Lok Sabha seats with a landslide victory. He came to power with a promise of maintaining the legacy of his father and former Chief Minister of united Andhra Pradesh late YS Rajasekhar Reddy by establishing “Rajanna Rajyam.”

Soon after Jagan’s ascendance to power, the shape of the YSR legacy started to emerge in the ruins of his rivals. The Praja Vedika building constructed next to the residence of former CM Naidu on the Krishna riverbed gave way to Jagan’s feverish bid to erase the images of his rival a month after he assumed charge. It was followed by scrapping of contracts related to Polavaram Irrigation project under construction on the Godavari river; a port at Machilipatnam; Anna canteens, named after NTR with an aim to serve poor with food at Rs 5; Chandranna Bhima, an insurance scheme named after Chandrababu Naidu; and Chandranna Kanuka, another scheme carrying the Naidu tag aiming at distributing essential commodities to low income group families for free during Ramzan, Sankranti and Christmas. The capital building in Amaravati and farm loan waiver scheme introduced by the TDP government to free farmers from debts also met with the same fate. The Jagan Mohan Reddy government is planning to label all these welfare schemes under his own brand of “Navaratnalu.”

Legacy: A semblance of Tamil politics

A political analyst who did not wish to be quoted told TNM that the legacy war in Andhra Pradesh under the stewardship of Jagan Mohan Reddy has gone to a new level with the undermining of infrastructure projects that remained symbols of his TDP rival. In one sense, it is part of building his own party’s political culture. Karunanidhi during his period as Chief Minister in Tamil Nadu built a new Assembly-cum-secretariat complex in Tamil Nadu with Rs 1,200 crore. His rival Jayalalithaa of AIADMK who succeeded him in 2011, converted the complex into a multi-super speciality hospital, but did not demolish the swanky building unlike Jagan, the analyst commented.

Jagan appears to have taken a cue from Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is out to erase images of Nehru from public minds.

“Congress Brand” giving way to NTR legacy

The advent of NTR’s TDP replacing the monolith Congress in Andhra’s power play in 1983 had brought in a new and alternative political culture. The Congress established its authority surrounded by images of its iconic leaders Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. Erasure of Congress symbols associated with welfare and development schemes was not overtly observed after NTR came to power.

After Naidu took over the reins from his mentor in the August 1995 coup, he confined himself for the most part to assert his position, trying to come out of NTR’s shadow up until 2004. When he lost the election in 2004 to the Congress led by YS Rajasekhar Reddy, Jagan’s father, Naidu began to fall back on NTR’s legacy.

By then, YSR as Rajasekhar Reddy came to be known widely, started naming schemes and projects after his party stalwarts Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi – like the Indira Sagar irrigation dam and Rajiv Aarogyasri.

Jagan emerging as YSR’s heir apparent

YSR’s death in a helicopter crash in September 2009 triggered a legacy war within the Congress between his son Jagan Mohan Reddy and others trying to capitalise on his charisma in the public. As part of claiming his father’s legacy, Jagan embarked on Odarpu Yatra, involving the families of YSR fans who were shocked and saddened by his demise, against the wishes of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who oversaw his resignation from the grand old party in November 2010. During the so-called Odarpu Yaatra, Jagan saw hundreds of statues of his late father installed in every nook and corner of undivided Andhra Pradesh.

In 2014, TDP came to power with Naidu as first Chief Minister of the bifurcated state which eventually saw all the schemes that carried the tags of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi re-named after NTR.

Jagan is now ensuring that all the schemes are tagged with his father Rajasekhar Reddy’s name. 

Gali Nagaraja is a freelance journalist who writes on the two Telugu states. Views expressed are the author's own.

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