Hyderabad: It was a walkathon to beat all previous padayatras by any politician in Independent India. In the end, the 3,648-km journey on foot in 341 days covering 13 districts of Andhra Pradesh appears set to deliver handsome dividends to YS Jaganmohan Reddy, the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) president.
Exit polls for the State Assembly elections predict that Jaganmohan Reddy’s party is set to dislodge TDP and its president N Chandrababu Naidu from power in Andhra Pradesh. A similar outcome also appears likely for the Lok Sabha polls with exit polls indicating that YSRCP is set to do better than Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
The India Today exit poll indicated on Sunday that YSRCP is set to win 130-135 seats in the AP Assembly with TDP coming a distant second with 37-40 seats. Similarly, VDP Associates in its exit poll said YSRCP will win 111-121 seats compared to TDP’s 54-60 seats. A third exit polls to predict a YSRCP victory came from CPS, which predicted YSRCP to win 130-133 seats with TDP following in the second place with 43-44 seats.
However, holding out a sliver of hope for TDP, INNS’ exit poll said the party will return to power with 118 seats and, gave YSRCP 52 seats — the lone one to say so. All the polls predicted actor-turned-politician Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena a nominal presence with a possible maximum of five seats with the lowest being a complete shut out from the Assembly.
Naidu, fighting with his back to the non-existent walls of the much-promised brand new capital city of Amaravati for Andhra Pradesh, is also likely to find the exit polls for the Lok Sabha not to his liking, if their results are reflected in the May 23 vote counting. The TDP president who was attempting to become a key player at the national level, if the BJP led NDA were to falter, is now likely to find that dream dissipating in the summer heat as is his dream of returning to power in the State.
Naidu, whose party allied with BJP and was part of the NDA coalition at the Centre till March 2018, appears to have made the wrong call in breaking up with BJP in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections that were simultaneously held with the Assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh.
Though BJP president Amit Shah said any political party was welcome to join hands with BJP, it is unlikely that Naidu, after casting his lot with Congress in these elections, will return to the NDA fold. With the YSRCP breathing down his neck and Pawan Kalyan too drawing crowds on his own, Naidu chose to make BJP the villain of the piece, harping that the BJP-led NDA did not deliver on the special category status for Andhra Pradesh. However, this strategy appears to have backfired for Naidu, particularly since he earlier agreed to a special financial package that NDA promised claiming that it was better for AP than the special category status.
This dichotomy in Naidu’s claims was fully exploited by Jaganmohan Reddy who never lost an opportunity to also point out that in terms of actual development and welfare, Naidu did little for the people of the State. And throughout his 341-day walkathon, Jagan also interacted directly with tens of thousands of people with YSRCP putting the figure he reached out to during the marathon padayatra at a whopping two crore.
Naidu’s ploy to also follow the TRS playbook from Telangana — a State that views past rulers of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh with some well-deserved suspicion — of trying to rile voters in his State with anti-Telangana rhetoric, appears to spectacularly come apart at the seams.
For people in Andhra Pradesh, who have a neighbour in Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao against whose administration, development and welfare programmes against whom they could weigh their own Chief Minister’s performance, Naidu pegging away at Telangana as a villain along with BJP, clearly appear to have failed to get the desired returns in terms of votes.