New Delhi: A new book by seasoned journalist Amar Devulapalli has detailed how Sonia Gandhi messed up in Andhra Pradesh and pushed Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy — the state’s incumbent Chief Minister — to sever ties with the Congress and form his own party, thereby denying the ‘grand old party’ the citadel that gave it the maximum number of Lok Sabha seats than any othe state in 2004 and 2009.
In ‘Decan Powerplay’ (Rupa Publication), Devulapalli writes that soon after the tragic death of Jagan’s father, Congress strongman and the state’s former chief minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR), in a helicopter crash, at least 737 men and women committed suicide in shock over the death.
“Jagan wanted to take out an Odarpu Yatra across the state to honour the memory of his father and share the grief of families who had admired the late leader. But Sonia did not accord the permission to the yatra despite several requests,” Devulapalli notes.
He writes that this led to Jagan leaving the Congress once and for all and floating his own political party, the YSRCP.
The state Congress leadership was uneasy with the idea of Jagan touring the state and consolidating his grip over the legacy of YSR.
“Despite these misgivings, Jagan remained with the party and appealed to the leadership for the yatra’s permission and for six months — October 2009 to April 2010 — he tried to convince the party high command that he had the best interests of the party in his heart,” Devulapalli writes.
Finally, unwilling to hold back any longer, Jagan did start the Odarpu Yatra on April 9, 2010, with the purpose of consoling the families of the 737 men and women who had taken their own lives grieving for their leader. The names of these 737 individuals are inscribed on a plaque at Idupulapaaya, a village in Kadapa district, the home ground of the Reddys.
The author writes that the Congress High Command chose to see this as an act of defiance. Yet, Jagan was undeterred, maintaining that the Odarpu Yatra was his way of honouring the people of his state.
To reassure the Congress leadership that this was not an act of rebellion by Jagan, his mother Y.S. Vijayamma and sister Sharmila, who’s now his political rival in the Congress, requested an appointment with Sonia Gandhi to explain the purpose behind the Odarpu Yatra.
“Finally, Jagan was given an appointment with Sonia Gandhi in June-end of 2010. He met her along with his mother Vijayamma and his sister. It was a 40-minute meeting at Sonia Gandhi’s 10 Janpath residence in New Delhi. Jagan tried his best to assure Sonia about the non-political nature of his meetings with the kin of the people who died of shock following his father’s tragic death,” Devulapalli writes.
An adamant Sonia would have none of it. She asked him to gather all the families of the deceased at one place and console the gathering in one go, rather than individually.
Following the meeting, Jagan announced he would resume the yatra on July 8, 2010 — his father’s birth anniversary — from Ichchapuram in Srikakulam district, the place where YSR concluded his epic padyatra that brought the Congress to power in 2004.