Congress’ prodigal sons, now in YSRCP, will be back home soon, predicts AICC observer

Manoj Chauhan, one of two observers appointed by the Congress for the forthcoming elections, is hopeful of the party making a turnaround in A.P. on the lines of Telangana; the party will return to power in the State in the 2029 elections, he asserts

April 24, 2024 07:17 pm | Updated April 25, 2024 09:28 am IST - VIJAYAWADA

AICC observer Manoj Chauhan speaking to The Hindu in Vijayawada on Wednesday.

AICC observer Manoj Chauhan speaking to The Hindu in Vijayawada on Wednesday. | Photo Credit: K.V.S. Giri

The Congress party, which ruled Andhra Pradesh for decades before falling out of favour with voters after the State’s bifurcation, will once again witness a resurgence, according to party observer Manoj Chauhan.

“It is only a matter of time. Like the prodigal son, traditional Congress loyalists who are now with the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) will return home soon,” said Mr. Chauhan, one of the two observers appointed by the All India Congress Committee (AICC) for the Andhra Pradesh elections. Mr. Chauhan landed in Vijayawada on March 29, and has since then been touring Lok Sabha constituencies to gauge the pulse of the electorate in the State.

Brimming with enthusiasm, Mr. Chauhan said he came across Congress supporters in every village that he has visited. “There is a strong anti-incumbency sentiment prevailing in the State. Corruption is a big issue and people have come to realise that no development has taken place, as the YSRCP government was busy distributing freebies to woo the voters,” he said, adding that people are not too keen on voting for an “opportunistic alliance” either — in a reference to the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Jana Sena Party (JSP) joining hands.

Stating that after Karnataka and Telangana, the Congress will make a turnaround in Andhra Pradesh, he said the party will emerge as a viable alternative to the “corrupt YSRCP and an opportunistic alliance”.

“Currently, we are in the process of building the organisation. For now, we are looking at increasing our vote share from less than 2% in the 2019 elections to more than 10% this time. The seeds we are sowing now will bear fruit in the 2029 elections, when Congress will form the government in Andhra Pradesh,” he asserted.

Mr. Chauhan claimed that besides the Kadapa Parliamentary segment, the Congress candidates would also win from a few Assembly seats. “It is difficult to say how many seats at this point as too many permutations and combinations are involved,” he said.

The AICC observer agreed that the Kadapa Lok Sabha seat has become the epicentre of Andhra Pradesh elections for the Congress party. “The crowds at Ms. Sharmila’s election meetings are swelling by the day, reflecting the fact that she has gained acceptance among the people.” He said that unlike the ruling YSRCP and the alliance partners, who are said to be squandering crores of rupees to mobilise crowds, people are voluntarily coming to hear what Ms. Sharmila has to say.

On YSR’s legacy

Speaking about the ongoing tussle between YSRCP president Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy and Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) president Y.S. Sharmila over the legacy of their father, the late Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, Mr. Chauhan was quick to remind that YSR, as he was popularly known, was a staunch Congress loyalist and steadfastly stood by the party’s ideology, which helped him rise to the position of Chief Minister twice, earning people’s love and respect along the way.

“When Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy went to the people seeking their support, his only qualification was that he was YSR’s son. Now that he has failed the people and Ms. Sharmila is of the same lineage, why should people not give her a chance?” he asked.

When asked about the “unscientific bifurcation” of Andhra Pradesh when Congress was in power at the Centre, resulting in the decimation of the party in the State due to the resulting public backlash, Mr. Chauhan said the bitterness is mainly on account of the State losing Hyderabad, where development was concentrated.

“The Congress party promised a good package to Andhra Pradesh so the State could develop on all fronts, but it lost power to the BJP which subsequently left Andhra Pradesh in the lurch,” he said.

‘Consistent stand on SCS’

There is no change in the party leadership’s stand even today, he said, pointing out that the Congress is the only party that has included the grant of the promised Special Category Status (SCS) to Andhra Pradesh in its election manifesto. The ‘Nyay Patra’, as the manifesto is called, includes ‘Paanch Nyay’ or five pillars of justice — ‘Yuva Nyay’ for the youth, ‘Naari Nyay’ for women, ‘Kisan Nyay’ for farmers, ‘Shramik Nyay’ for workers and ‘Hissedari Nyay’ for marginalised communities.

The Congress leader accused the ruling YSRCP and the alliance partners in the State of making elections an expensive affair. “I am told that some candidates are spending close to ₹100 crore. The Congress cannot afford to spend this kind of money,” he said, alleging that the Modi government had frozen the bank accounts of the Congress ahead of the elections. “However, people have already made up their minds in favour of the Congress party,” Mr. Chauhan said.

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