The Southern Discomfort
Both national parties, the Congress and the BJP, are in deep trouble in their key bastion states — Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka
IT WAS said of YS Rajashekhara Reddy that each time the then Andhra Pradesh chief minister met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh between 2004 and 2009, the latter would tell him, “I’m here because of you!” It was the Congress’ excellent performance in Andhra Pradesh in the 2004 elections — repeated in 2009 — that gave it the strength to run the UPA and ultimately the government in New Delhi. Rajashekhara Reddy was an unusual state strongman in a party that doesn’t encourage regional chieftains. He had a rough and ready persona, faced charges or corruption and cultivated his favoured crony capitalists. It is telling just how similar his profile was to the chief minister next door — BS Yeddyurappa, who led the BJP in 2008 to its first government in Karnataka.
Today, both parties are bereft of the sure touch of these men. Reddy died suddenly in 2009. He left the state to the Congress and his political legacy and controversial riches to his son, YS Jaganmohan Reddy. Yeddyurappa, forced out of the chief ministry after corruption accusations, found himself alone in a party that didn’t know how to balance his problematic profile with his identity appeal and political acumen. Jagan’s rebel party is set to do well in 2014 and deprive the Congress of a key state, one it won even in 1977, at the height of the Janata wave. As for Yeddyurappa, his breakaway party could cripple the BJP in its one southern bastion in 2013. Reports on two national parties — with a common Deccan headache.