Jagan Reddy sweeps Andhra Pradesh: Last-minute welfare sops, TDP credibility crisis led to poll rout of Chandrababu Naidu
The biggest electoral strategic mistake Naidu did was to reduce the electoral discourse into a personality fight between him and YS Jaganmohan Reddy leaving aside the issue of development. People voted for him in 2014 as he was seen as a symbol of development and governance. But, the poll battle turned into an ugly and acrimonious personal rivalry between Naidu and Jagan.
The voters had no confidence in Naidu's welfare politics as he always symbolised reformist politics that is against political populism.
The biggest electoral strategic mistake Naidu did was to reduce the electoral discourse into a personality fight between him and YS Jaganmohan Reddy.
The poll battle turned into an ugly and acrimonious personal rivalry between Naidu and Jagan.
Proving all election predictions wrong, YS Jaganmohan Reddy-led YSR Congress Party registered a landslide victory inflicting a humiliating defeat on Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party (TDP). A number of factors have contributed to this trend that even the best psephologists also could not predict.
Firstly, the arithmetic — the TDP won the 2014 mandate by a slender margin. The BJP and the actor-turned-politician Kalyan had supported the TDP-led alliance. Both the partners deserted TDP this year. The BJP is anyhow marginalised due to the antagonism it suffered from masses over the denial of special status to Andhra Pradesh, but, Kalyan damaged TDP's electoral fortunes though the extent of it is debatable. The TDP, which cannot digest its all-pervasive loss, tried to invent reasons external to them.
The TDP and the "friendly" media tried to wish away the success YS Jagan registered due to Kalyan inflicting damages on Naidu. But the story has a lot more to offer. Early reports revealed that Jana Sena polled more votes than the winning margin of YSR Congress in as many as 31 seats. Assuming that all the votes polled by Jana Sena belonged to TDP (since the party is not in the fray) YSR Congress could win with 120 out of 175 seats while the magic number is only 88.
In fact, such an assumption is erroneous as Jana Sena would have cut the votes of YSR Congress, too. Political observers certainly infer that Kalyan has cut more TDP votes, as his supporters voted for TDP in 2014. Yet, the TDP's all-encompassing defeat cannot, in anyway, be attributed to Kalyan contesting as a third player in a hitherto polarised contest between TDP and YSR Congress. Moving far away from his brand of politics and economics, Naidu implemented a slew of welfare measures to lure the electorate.
The cash transfer on the day polling was held of Rs 10,000 to a women's self-help group was the beacon of hope for Naidu's party. Besides, Naidu government implemented a cash transfer of Rs 10,000 to farmers, Rs 2000 unemployment allowance and increased old age and widow pensions. The TDP was doubly sure that the voters will stand in queues to re-elect them to retain these welfare measures. But, the gravity of TDP's defeat reveals that the electorate dismissed the poll eve sops as political gimmickry of Naidu.
In fact, the voters had no confidence in Naidu's welfare politics as he always symbolised reformist politics that is against political populism. On the contrary, thanks to the legacy of his father late YS Rajasekhara Reddy, Jagan's politics were identified with welfare economics.
Besides, frequent U-turns by Naidu resulted in a sort of credibility crisis for the TDP leadership. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his election campaign described Naidu as U-turn babu. There are innumerable instances on which Naidu has really switched from one end of the pendulum to the other. He praised Modi as the harbinger of hope and aspirations. Later he called Modi a disaster. He rebuked idea of special status calling it not a panacea. Later he retreated to make it his main electoral plank. He summarily rejected the opposition demand to pull out of NDA only to do exactly the same. There are many such instances where Naidu exactly did the opposite of what he espoused earlier. Thus, voters received his election eve welfare sops with a lorry load of salt.
The biggest electoral strategic mistake Naidu did was to reduce the electoral discourse into a personality fight between him and Jagan leaving aside the issue of development. People voted for him in 2014 as he was seen as a symbol of development and governance. But, the poll battle turned into an ugly and acrimonious personal rivalry between Naidu and Jagan.
His tirade on Modi went well with the voters as long as it was limited to the interests of Andhra Pradesh neglected under the NDA dispensation. But, Naidu unnecessarily took it to the national level. He was with Modi in 2014 at a time when the then BJP prime ministerial candidate was enjoying a massive pro-BJP tide. Naidu has certainly benefitted from pro-Modi sentiments in 2014. He assessed that Modi is facing anti-incumbency and joined the anti-Modi bandwagon. But, as the political sentiment turned positive towards Modi, especially when the BJP successfully attempted Hindu consolidation and embraced the plank of muscular nationalism, Naidu's tirade against the prime minister and his open embrace of Congress did not go well with the people.
Naidu's attempt to repeat the KCR formula did not convince the Andhra electorate. KCR reaped political dividends during the last Assembly elections by triggering Telangana sentiment targeting Naidu's intervention in Telangana politics. Naidu also tried the same trick as Jagan moved closer to KCR. But, KCR anticipating a possible negative impact smartly distanced himself from Andhra Pradesh poll campaign trail disarming Naidu's strategy. Similarly, Naidu's unrelenting tirade on Narendra Modi seemed to have yielded diminishing political returns.
Meanwhile, TDP MLAs suffered serious anti-incumbency. Perhaps taking a cue from KCR (again), Naidu did not attempt any major change in his candidates. But, this proved to be costlier. The politicisation of administration created a lot of resentment among the ordinary masses. Naidu government constituted Janma Bhoomi committees and the selection of beneficiaries of government schemes was done by these committees at the grassroots level keeping aside the government machinery. These committees were mainly comprised of TDP activists. Though Naidu dissolved them owing to the negative feedback, the experiment seems to have done irreversible damage to TDP.
The comprehensive victory of Jagan defies all logic and apologetic explanations of rivals. The defeat of TDP is complete.
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