Years of bad blood between Jagan Reddy and Chandrababu Naidu is spilling out

If a man is judged by how he treats his enemies, then Andhra Chief Minister Jagan Reddy has a lot to answer for. His opposition leader Chandrababu Naidu and his son are among many leaders of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) placed under house arrest by his government.

The current detention aims to prevent a protest rally. But it seems more like the latest crescendo in a political rivalry that spans at least two generations.


Naidu alleges that eight of his party members were killed, and many more have been assaulted by the ruling YSR Congress party, led by debutante chief minister Jagan Reddy.


“We, as a state, are at the worst possible phase in terms of safety for people. Is there a mechanism to protect people in Andhra? Even as YSRCP kickstarted a welfare center for government employees, another attack took place on our party members in Anantapuram,” Naidu said in a tweet in Telugu on September 6.


Reddy dethrones Naidu from his lair


In the 100 days that Reddy has ruled the state, a myriad of changes have come in. Jagan cited environmental laws to raze a conference hall in the state capital Amaravati, called Praja Vedika. Though it’s a government property, it was built and extensively used by Naidu and could be termed as his ‘lair’.


Reddy found another building which was 'too close to the banks of Krishna river’. This happens to be a palatial home rented by Naidu. His security detail was also rolled back by the state government.


Stripped off his power and pride, Naidu decided it was time to go back to the grassroots and accumulate some popular support via a protest march on foot, padyatra. But Reddy wouldn't have any of it.


The current chief minister knows that padayatras built glorious political careers--starting from former CM and founder of TDP, N T Rama Rao, and Reddy’s own father Y S Rajasekhara Reddy who was also a former CM, and Jagan himself.


Painting his state in his colours


Jagan Reddy has been a mystery to many people who know him, and do not. The five feet five inches tall 46-year-old appears to be soft spoken. Yet, he launched a phased and vicious attack on his bête noire, Naidu, without dreading public opinion. Some political pundits even say that Reddy wants to wipe the state clean of Naidu and his party.


At the same time, he is literally painting the state in his colours. He has painted the state’s gram panchayats in the white, blue and green colours of his party flag. His deceased father’s photo are displayed prominently.


Not all changes heralded by Reddy are cosmetic.


He also cancelled the tender for Naidu’s pet project ₹3,200 crore Polavaram hydel power project. But he is keeping poll promises by taking over private liquor business, which is the first step to implement prohibition in the state.


Reddy learns from Modi, but can they be friends?


Reddy seems too have taken a leaf out of the same book as the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. When Modi stormed to power in New Delhi, he used the momentum to take the floor from the opposition Congress party, which was at the time, led by political elites well entrenched in the system.


Yet, Modi and Reddy are not natural allies. Unlike Modi-led BJP which thrives on Hindu pride Reddy has been a Christian for three generations.


Unsurprisingly, Reddy's move to give ₹5,000 per month honorarium to pastors in his state was against BJP's core philosophy and caused disagreement. The state’s BJP machinery has been attacking Reddy on minor matters of faith. Yet, Reddy is playing it safe with the party which is in power at the center. Maybe he does not want to make another bitter enemy of a party ruling at the center.


Enemy’s enemy is not yet a friend


The Congress party which was ruling in 2013 had cornered Reddy just the way he is targeting Naidu. And, with worse consequences. After his father’s mysterious death caused by a helicopter crash, the Reddy family clashed with the Gandhis of Congress party. Not only did that ensure that he did not get a place in the Congress party where his father belonged, it got him into more trouble.


He had later blamed the Gandhis for instigating CBI raids at his home and offices. This culminated in a disproportionate assets case against him which is still in litigation. In fact, he also spent a few months at Chanchalguda jail.


In that sense, BJP and YSRCP have a common enemy--the Congress Party. But, Reddy has not shown any inclination to make friends with the BJP.


But if he manages to wipe out TDP from the state, then he could ensure that BJP will not dial its former partner Naidu once again. It will ensure that he can enjoy unabated power, which is what people in power always seem to crave for.



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