For a country that boasts huge opportunities in a big economy, Indian politics has decided coparcenary bearings. It’s an inheritable business where the educated middle class dare not step in. The statewide “yatra” of the ambitious Congress member of Parliament, Jaganmohan Reddy, is one such inheritance story. It is giving grief to the leadership of his party.
Reddy’s father, the late Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, ruled Andhra Pradesh with a tight fist: the press, opposition figures and those who opposed him had to cope with disagreeable music. The party high command liked him as under his stewardship, the state remained firmly in Congress control. The price to pay was the now-familiar phenomenon of personality-driven rule, in which the ruler often looms larger than his political party. It’s a pan-Indian trend. The Badals in Punjab, the Chautalas in Haryana, the Thackerays in Maharashtra and the Karunanidhi clan in Tamil Nadu are good examples. Reddy Jr is now trying to replicate this model in Andhra Pradesh.
Unfortunately for him, he is in the wrong party for that wish to succeed. At the state level, political dynasties are the domain of regional, caste-based, parties. National parties are less tolerant of such behaviour. To add to Jagan’s problems are the facts of his utter lack of administrative experience and his youth. These inspire little confidence in him by his party when it comes to managing a politically complex and difficult state. That, however, has not deterred him for staking his “claim” to the top job in the state.
He has no business making such demands. Seen from any angle, be that of competence or of democratic political functioning and any other consideration, his ambition is clearly out of line. Yet, one has to say that there is something amiss in an established party such as the Congress that repeated signals from the leadership have not deterred Reddy Jr. Clearly, either the party’s political grip on the state is not firm or it has not paid sufficient attention to party affairs in the state. Both the state leadership and the general secretary in charge of the state have a lot to answer for.
If there is one thing that Jagan Reddy’s rebellion demonstrates, it is that regionalism continues to power political imagination across India.
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