Election bells rang a little early for Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu. YSR Congress Party president, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, not only addressed a party meeting at the plenary, but also sounded an early poll bugle eyeing the Assembly election 2019. This move of his comes with several caveats. His release of manifesto, especially to make the state liquor-free in a phased manner, seems to be the key ingredient. Prashant Kishor, Jagan’s new political strategist, might have copied this idea from Bihar, where Nitish Kumar, albeit was not successful in his implementation, but the idea effectively helped catapult his political image. Reddy’s announcement that the increase in liquor prices would be to such a level that only crorepatis will be able to buy it, could possibly fetch him female votes. Issues like liquor-ban, reservations, farmers loan waivers strike an emotional chord with the voters. These electoral Brahmastras work within a provincial realm of public memory.
With his announcement, Reddy might have thrown his emotional hat in the electoral ring, however, he should not underestimate Chandrababu’s political acumen. Another move of his worth mentioning, are his consistent padayatras, which did not wreak massive political response in comparison to his father and ex Chief Minister of AP, YS Rajashekara Reddy’s iconic padayatra prior to 2004 elections. Although this new liquor move could help Jagan, he should be careful in reaping progressive political dividends (‘progressive’ is the keyword) out of this and ensure this remains fresh in people’s mind, after all, two years is a long time. The flipside of this move is, by letting the cat out of the bag this early, he could have shot in his own foot, however, he managed to score a goal which his opponents might have planned on scoring a few months later. On the outset, it poses a threat to Chandrababu, however, Jagan should be reminiscent of people’s short memory.
Jagan has also been confident that his stigma of being accused of graft is offsetted by the infamous ‘cash for vote’ quagmire which surrounds Chandrababu. Many a times, he was emboldened by this blemish on Chandrababu’s career,not to mention a certain section of unforgivable voter base which till today considers the reprehensible episode where Chandrababu betrayed his father-in-law, ex Chief Minister, legendary actor NT Rama Rao. His soft-pedaling with the BJP also could prove counter productive for TDP. The liquor move coupled with frequent exposing of injustice to farmers could possibly erode the loyal traditional ‘Kamma’ voter base of TDP. After being a victim of Operation Akarsh, Jagan has an arduous task of identifying his true-blue followers and keeping them burnishly entertained. Prashant Kishor factor is worth mentioning. Although he brought success to Modi and Nitish, him and his ideas were equally disastrous to Congress in UP. (sorry state of Congress in Pradesh could have also been a reason).
Question is, given the greenhorn clique which surrounds Jagan, can he maintain to consistently fire such salvos and yet retain the momentum, since no salvo is effective when thrown, unless maintained. Only time can tell.