Over the past decade, a lot has changed in the political landscape in Andhra Pradesh. The state, with 175 Assembly seats and 25 Parliament seats, is gearing up for the General Elections amidst a high-pitched political clangour.
Sunday marked the 69th birth anniversary of Andhra Pradeshâ€™s two-time Chief Minister and Congressman YS Rajashekar Reddy. And the two main opposition parties in the state, the YSR Congress Party and the Congress, are battling it out to claim his legacy.
YSR's son Jagan Reddy is on a statewide 'Prajasankalpa Yatra' (political walkathon), with an aim to unseat current CM Chandrababu Naidu. He completed 2,500 km on his fatherâ€™s birth anniversary and stated that his yatra has received the blessings of the people and his father.
YSR Reddyâ€™s sudden death in September 2009 in a helicopter crash left many in shock and in 2011, Jagan decided to launch his own party. Three years later, YSRCP emerged as the largest opposition party in Andhra Pradesh. Shortly after the 2014 Elections, Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated following the Telangana movement.
Congress, the party that Jaganâ€™s father was a part of, faded into the shadows of the political scenario in Andhra Pradesh after garnering only 2.9% of the total votes in the 2014 elections. Speculation is rife that the Congress might not shy away from allying with the ruling TDP in the Assembly Elections next year.
Congress spokesperson Kolanukonda Sivaji insisted that the right to claim YSRâ€™s legacy remains with the Congress.
Speaking to TNM, Sivaji said, "His (YSR) entire political journey was with Congress and no one can separate him from the party. His name synonymous to Sankshema Rajyam (welfare state)."
â€śHe stood by the downtrodden and he spoke against right-wing politics. An alliance with the BJP is nothing but the drilling down of his secular values,â€ť Sivaji added.
Another senior Congress leader, ex MLC and current AICC secretary Gidugu Rudraraju, who has worked in YSR's governments, said "We can't confine him to one section. He is a secular leader, whatever people now may say, his political legacy is undeniably is of Congress".
Gadikota Srikanth Reddy, YSRCP senior leader, told TNM that the Congress is trying to sell â€śwrong fruitsâ€ť.
â€śIf they love YSR that much, why did they file cases against Jagan Reddy and why did they tarnish his (YSR) image and humiliate him after his death?" he asked.
Following YSRâ€™s death, cases of disproportionate assets were filed against his son Jagan Reddy during the Congress regime. The cases alleged that Jagan amassed disproportionate wealth by using his fatherâ€™s position as Chief Minister. Some complaints also named YSR Reddy.
Gadikota Reddy also questioned the Congressâ€™ willingness to enter into an alliance with the TDP, asking, â€śWho will believe Congress now if they say they are YSR's successors?â€ť
Political observers believe that YS Jagan has a better chance of staking claim to YSR's legacy than the Congress.
Senior journalist and political commentator, TS Sudhir said, â€śI don't think Congress can capitalise on YSR's legacy without having enough strength on the ground. Merely claiming YSR as one of their own will not help."
He further opined that Jaganâ€™s political Padayatra will help to attract people as well as votes.
â€śJagan, who is trying to replicate what his father did (YSR's padayatra in 2003 which helped dethrone Naidu), is in a better position to claim his legacy. The walkathon will help people connect with YSR,â€ť he added.