JAGAN'S KILLER INSTINCT? (The Pioneer editorial)

YSR Congress chief’s exhortation to killChandrababu Naidu is unprecedented

The political discourse in India hit a new low last week as YSR Congress chief, Jagan Mohan Reddy, carried out some vicious personal attacks against Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu in the run up to the Nandyal Assembly by-elections, scheduled for August 23. Within a span of few days, in two separate public meetings, Jagan first came up with a shocker when he said that Naidu should be shot dead for cheating the people of Andhra Pradesh and not fulfilling poll promises. Jagan’s remark drew much condemnation. But an unrelenting Jagan carried on. This time round, in yet another vitriolic attack, he said that it is not wrong to hang the Chief Minister, whom he even called a kalyug rakshasa. The Naidu dispensation is contemplating lodging a criminal case against the YSR Congress chief and workers of the Telugu Desam Party(TDP) have registered complaints against him in several police stations. The Election Commission has served a notice to him, seeking an explanation, but Jagan has claimed that he meant no malice and only wanted to drive home his point. While it’s the electoral watchdog’s domain to decide what it thinks of his explanation, Jagan’s remarks have led to much speculation, mostly indicating that they were not spontaneous but part of a carefully-crafted strategy to take on a deeply-entrenched Naidu. That Jagan’s new over-aggressive posturing could be the brain of his newly-hired backroom strategist,  Prashant Kishor, is being not ruled out. Ensuring a continued presence in the media holds the key to Kishor’s strategies, if one goes by his track record — be it with Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

The YSR Congress has been trying to capture media space ever since the hiring of Kishor, who has been on a recruitment spree to strengthen his war room. With two years to go for the next Assembly poll in the State, stakes are high in the by-election. For Jagan, it holds importance for more reasons than one. The seat was won by his party but his MLA switched alliance to TDP after winning. If Jagan can wrest it back, it will help him avenge the defeat he tasted despite being on the winning side. Further, it will serve as a morale booster for him and unnerve Naidu, who seems to be sitting pretty for now. Also, ever since the TDP stormed into power in the State in 2014, it’s the YSR Congress that has been the most hit with its MLAs and leaders switching sides to the ruling camp in droves. A win could help stem that attrition rate. His remarks may or may not bring along the desired political benefits or mileage, but that it is in no way justified is beyond any doubt. Over the years, India’s political discourse has been dipping to new lows. Accusations, personal attacks, character assassinations, insinuations, barbs and invectives have become routine — the campaigning for the 2014 Lok Sabha election was a fitting example. Political parties went berserk, trading charges and calling names. But an exhortation for the killing of a rival was never therefrain even by the fiercest of enemies in the political circles. Jagan has surely surpassed all the lows. 

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