Hyderabad: Congress rebel Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddywon re-election to the Lok Sabha by a landslide on Friday after challenging the ruling party in a contest he had painted as a test of his claim to being the rightful heir to his late father’s political legacy in Andhra Pradesh.
The 38-year-old businessman-politician won the Kadapa by-election by a margin of 543,053 votes—a record for Andhra Pradesh—over his nearest rival D.L. Ravindra Reddy, the Congress candidate. He polled 687,068 votes against 144,015 for Ravindra Reddy, improving his victory margin from 178,846 votes in the 2009 election.
Polling 127,183 votes, senior politician M.V. Mysura Reddy of Andhra Pradesh’s main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) finished third in a field of 42 candidates. Both Ravindra Reddy and Mysura Reddy lost their deposits.
The 8 May by-election was necessitated by Jagan Reddy’s resignation from the Lok Sabha in November after his rebellion against the Congress leadership, which had sidelined him following the September 2009 death of his father and then chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, popularly known as YSR, in a helicopter crash.
His mother Y.S. Vijayalakshmi, who gave up the Pulivendula assembly seat after her son turned against the Congress, returned to the state legislature. She triumphed over her estranged brother-in-law Y.S. Vivekananda Reddy, the Congress candidate, by 85,191 votes, another record margin.
Jagan Reddy, who in March started a party known as the YSR Congress, had been seen as the front-runner in Kadapa, a pocket borough of the YSR family, which won the seat for the Congress in seven elections since 1989.
The family’s political base was reinforced by public feeling that Jagan Reddy had been wronged by the Congress leadership, which tried to appropriate credit for the work done by his father in promoting health and education programmes and economic development of Andhra Pradesh, some analysts said.
“The Congress tried to snatch away the YSR legacy,” said K. Nageshwar, a journalism professor at Osmania University and an independent member of the state legislative council. “The feeling among the voters has been that the Congress has not treated the family properly. YSR was the chief minister who twice catapulted the Congress to power (in Andhra Pradesh). The way the Congress treated the family in the post-YSR period is a subject of contention.”
“It is a sympathy vote combined with political support,” he added. “They dovetailed into one (another) in an inseparable way.”
Jagan Reddy’s departure fuelled dissidence within the ruling party, which bought insurance against a possible wider revolt by moving to merge movie star Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party with itself in February. Chiranjeevi’s presence in the Congress’ Kadapa campaign, together with 14 state cabinet ministers, failed to prevent a rout.
“The Congress party got rid of Jagan Mohan Reddy and roped in Chiranjeevi. What did it gain?” Sabbam Hari, a Congress member of Parliament and backer of Jagan Reddy, asked on the Sakshi television channel controlled by the latter. “Some people think this (victory for Jagan Reddy) is limited to Kadapa; but I can tell you that whenever elections take place in the state, this will be the result.”