Jaganmohan before being produced in court in Hyderabad on Monday. (PTI)
New Delhi, May 28: Congress leaders concede that Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy’s arrest may have immediate costs for the party in Andhra Pradesh but argue it could pay off in the long run if the assets case discredits him in the eyes of a slice of the electorate.
There’s already strong indication of a sympathy wave taking shape in Jagan’s favour ahead of the June 12 by-elections to 18 Assembly seats.
Although Congress leaders are denying a political plot behind the arrest, citing how the CBI was acting on high court directives, they admit that the popular perception of Jagan being a victim of political vendetta might help his YSR Congress in the by-elections.
However, most Congress leaders also believe that the central leadership is thinking about the long term and hopes to salvage something from the political mess in the key state, probably by 2014 when both the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls would be held.
Local inputs suggest the Congress is anyway not in a position to win even one seat in the by-elections and, therefore, should focus on saving the government afterwards and rebuilding the party’s base for the 2014 polls.
Still, the Congress is alive to a seesaw of favourable and unfavourable possibilities.
One, a Jagan sweep in the by-elections could trigger an exodus from the Congress, project him as a chief minister-in-waiting in the public’s eyes, and encourage him to try and topple the state government right away.
Two, the arrest could hurt his personal credibility and stunt his party’s organisational growth, helping the Congress in future battles. Besides, in case Jagan has to spend a long time in jail, he may not be in a position to cash in on any gains from the by-elections.
The Congress lacks any leader who can match the clout or charisma of Jagan’s family. So, the thinking goes, the best way to check his ascendance is to discredit him and sow doubts in the minds of his potential supporters about the inevitability of his rise to power.
But one tricky possibility remains: the investigations into Jagan’s assets might tarnish the erstwhile Congress government led by his late father Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, thereby tainting the party he belonged to.
Sources, however, argued that protecting the YSR government’s reputation was not the prime concern at a time Jagan’s rebellion and the Telangana dilemma had put the party’s survival at stake in a state that had fashioned its 2004 general election victory.
As they count the pros and cons of the arrest, however, Congress leaders have been firm in denying the party had used the CBI to manipulate this political game.
Spokesperson Manish Tewari today denied the Congress or the Centre had any role in the arrest and claimed it would be madness for a political party to make such a move in the run-up to elections at 18 constituencies.