By Sharon Thambala
Amaravati, Nov 7 | Friday marked exactly three years since Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy embarked upon an epoch making 3,648 km-long Paja Sankalpa Yatra (padayatra or marathon walkathon) in Andhra Pradesh to personally see the difficulties being faced by people as part of his political strategy to capture power and get close to the masses.
“All through his walkathon, Reddy met lakhs of people from different walks of life and tried to understand the problems they were facing. He met farmers, auto-rickshaw drivers, students, private employees, koya tribals, labourers and the list goes on and on. I think he met almost all kinds of people living in the Telugu state and gained insights and knowledge which most politicians did not have,” Talluri Raj Kumar, a YSRCP leader from Kalla village in West Godavari district told IANS.
He started off from his father Y. S. Rajasekhar Reddy’s memorial landmark YSR Ghat in Idupulapaya in Kadapa district and walked through 134 assembly constituencies of the 175 in the southern state.
Walking 10.6 km a day on an average, the former Chief Minister’s son journeyed for about 341 days under hot sun in the summer, drenched in the rain during monsoon and not wavering to the elements but with dedicated focus and winning thousands of supporters en route.
“Throughout his walkathon, Reddy did not stay at any leader’s home overnight or take victuals from anybody but pitched a tent for overnight halts everyday,” said Jaswanth Reddy, who accompanied the Yuajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) founder from the beginning till the end of the epic walkathon which culminated at Ichchapuram in Srikaklulam district on January 9, 2019, spanning 14 months.
Hundreds of people poured out their woes to Reddy, asking him to solve their problem once he becomes the Chief Minister after winning the elections. Reddy (47) also asked their votes promising the same.
Along the way, many people stopped just to shake hands or pose for a selfie with the YSRCP supremo who comes from a political family which is not new to marathon walkathons.
Back in 2003, Reddy’s father Rajasekhar Reddy also undertook a historic 1,500 km-long walkathon to successfully topple Nara Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government in 2004 elections to later become the Chief Minister of united AP.
After that feat, the undivided state saw two more Congress chief ministers, K. Rosaiah and Nallari Kiran Kumar Reddy, who inherited the fruits of Rajasekhar Reddy’s labour.
Kiran Kumar Reddy later went into oblivion and is not active in politics while the Congress ship sank in the mid-ocean of Andhra politics, decimated by the gross miscalculations and misadventures of Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi.
Such lethal was the blow which Congress party received in the Telugu state that many of its lifelong leaders and stalwarts sunk into the political abyss to never rise up, both in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
A few smart ones jumped ship and survived the Congress extinction in the Telugu states, such as once mighty Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief Botsca Satyanarayana, K. Keshava Rao and many others.
“Time and again, Jagan Mohan Reddy’s family believed in going into the midst of the people, going into the grassroots and connecting with them on the most basic things in life. Unlike Nara Chandrababu Naidu, their political rival, who counted on most modern things to market himself,” observed Kumar.
Immediately after the tragic death of Rajasekhar Reddy in a helicopter crash on September 2, 2009 at Pavuralagutta in Kurnool district on his way to Chittoor, his son Jagan Mohan Reddy promised that he would meet the families of every person who died in the aftermath of the then CM’s death through a Odarpuyatra (a journey to comfort).
Later, when Reddy was arrested for alleged corruption in Sonia Gandhi’s regime, his mother Y. S. Vijayamma and sister Sharmila continued the Odarpuyatra to stay connected with the people, despite the several difficulties posed by the then incumbent Congress government.
Propelled by the padayatra, Reddy won by a landslide in the 2019 elections to complete 17 months in power and fulfil some of the promises he listed in his election manifesto.
“It is a matter of great pride that over 90 per cent of the promises made along the course of the iconic Praja Sankalpa Yatra were fulfilled within the first year of coming to power itself; reiteration of our commitment to the people of Andhra Pradesh,” said Home Minister Mekathoti Sucharitha.
In the tsunami of success which Reddy witnessed, winning 151 assembly seats and 22 MP seats, a good number of common folk who plunged into politics reposing faith in his leadership have also come out with flying colours.
Police inspector Gorantla Madhav resigned his job to join forces with Reddy and won the Hindupur Lok Sabha seat, common man and Dalit leader Nandigam Suresh from Bapatla Lok Sabha, Thoguru Arthur, another police officer, from Nandikotkur assembly seat and others.
It remains to be seen how many more marathon walkathons will Reddy require in the future.
(Sharon Thambala can be contacted at email@example.com)