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Stop smiling, start working, Mr YSR

Vijay Simha
New Delhi

As a fan of Godfather, YS Rajasekhar Reddy would probably be aware that revenge is a dish best eaten cold. The problem, though, is that revenge begets itself. Today, he is king. Given the Congress history in Andhra Pradesh, that could be a short today if YSR is not careful.

Euphoria doesn’t work in Andhra. Many have ridden waves, notably NT Rama Rao and Chandrababu Naidu, but they have all been put in their place. At 54, YSR is reaping the benefits of the viagra that people have administered to the Congress. Once the effect wears off, YSR could find himself sagging.

Andhra is a harsh story. Behind the it myth lies a tale of a parched land, angry people, backward districts, muted hopes and depressed growth. Its coffers are empty. The state debt is Rs 57,574 crore, the fourth-worst in the country. The reason for Naidu’s loss is not complex: he simply didn’t connect with the misery of his people.

Most demands here are for basic necessities. People want water. They want affordable electricity and jobs. They want industries so they can be gainfully employed. They want someone to bridge the gap between the glitter of Hyderabad and the grime of its hinterland. They want the police out of the Naxal areas so peace can return. They want dignity, honesty and effort. This is all there is to the story of Naidu’s rout. There’s no conspiracy, no born-again Congress, no sympathy for Naidu or the Naxals. No phoenix-like rise of the mainstream Left.

The extent to which Naidu built walls around himself is directly proportional to the extent of his loss. That he has less than 50 seats only means he needs to wake up. YSR has hit where Naidu refused to look. One of his first decisions was to provide free power to single-bulb users. The next is to waive existing loans of farmers.
The third is to perhaps lift the ban on People’s War. These are things Naidu could have done. What he couldn’t was placate the Telangana seekers. The YSR government will have to deal with that issue sooner than later. Already in life, YSR has learnt that it is easier to get something, and much tougher to retain it. At 34, he was the youngest head of a Congress state unit. From there to the chief minister’s post is normally a small step. It took YSR 20 years.

A whitewash of the kind YSR has landed with gives him no alibis to play with. He could find people short of time and patience in the midst of suffering. He could find goodwill in his party vanishing.

Naidu has got time to introspect. He is not used to being in the Opposition. It could be good for his growth. But YSR? tdp rivals in Cuddapah blew his father to pieces in his own car in 1998. The main assailant was hacked to pieces the same day, but the incident lingers.

A Christian by birth and practice, YSR has a huge feudal past to live down. He comes from the badlands of Andhra, where rival factions led by rich landlords run private armies. Among the shady instances from his recent past are the 1990 communal riots in Hyderabad where YSR was alleged to have played a role; and the agitation against the power tariff hike two years ago that he called off just when he had Naidu on the ropes.

Sentiments and celebrations could give YSR a month or two. After that he’ll have to deliver. Politicians like NTR and Prakash Singh Badal, to name just two, have come to grief after promising free power. YSR is travelling the same path. He might just find it a lonely trudge.

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