It was November 2010. “How much time did you take to write the five-page letter,” I asked Jagan, when I met him hours after he had sent in his resignation as Congress MP and member of the party to Sonia Gandhi.
`A good part of yesterday’ he replied with a sheepish smile. “But I am not telling you how many drafts, that is personal,” Jagan joked, adding that after all he had to talk about all that happened in the last 15 months.
The young politician certainly looked more relaxed than what he appeared four days back, when I had met him last. The confidence perhaps coming from the noisy firecrackers and voices of support from Congress politicians. A steady trickle dropped in, daring the glare of TV cameras while others chose the privacy of the mobile phone to tell Jagan, `Wherever you go, our network follows’.
“The Congress MLAs and I are actually doing the party a favour,” said Jagan. “They will stay in the Congress and even vote for the party inside the assembly so that the government runs till 2014. But their loyalty will be to YSR and Jagan. And in the 2014 elections, they will sail with us.”
But the moment I asked Jagan what was the trigger, the real breakpoint and he bristled.
“The manner in which my paternal uncle, Y S Vivekananda Reddy (YSR’s brother who was found killed in mysterious circumstances earlier this year in Kadapa) was picked up from Hyderabad, taken to Delhi, made to meet Sonia Gandhi, all in one day, what am I to make of it? It was all planned to create fissures and to show Jagan does not have support within his own family.”
Jagan’s family members who were listening in to our conversation told me there had been no communication with YSR’s younger brother in the last four days.
“I am going to Idupalapaya to seek my father’s blessings. I am told uncle is also in Kadapa,” said Jagan. “I will talk to him there. I will try for a truce.” Seeing my eyebrows rise, he said “What is there? Let him be a minister, I will have my outfit.”
Jagan’s maternal uncle YV Subba Reddy, who went to become MP from Ongole in 2014, pointed out that while Chiranjeevi (who merged his Praja Rajyam party with the Congress) got an appointment with Sonia Gandhi within 24 hours, Jagan’s mother was made to wait for 28 days. And June 29, when Sonia finally met Jagan, his mother Vijayamma and sister Sharmila, he said, it was the day the bond that YSR had established with 10, Janpath, broke forever.
“The two met Sonia first while Jagan was asked to wait. When Vijayamma asked Sonia in what way Jagan’s Odarpu yatra (to console those families whose kin had reportedly committed suicide or died unable to bear the shock of YSR’s death) will damage the Congress, Sonia’s sharp reply was `I am the president of the Congress. I know better’. The two came out of the room with tears in their eyes.”
It didn’t set the right tone for Jagan’s meeting. Sonia reportedly repeated pretty much the same to YSR’s son and a miffed Jagan apparently got up even before she finished to say “God will decide who is right, you or me.”
The normal political practise is to wait for the party to expel you, I mentioned to Jagan, so that you gain sympathy.
“Yes that is right. Perhaps that may have been the right political thing to do. But it is okay. I want to do politics my way.”
Jagan’s exit will translate into a regional party that, he said, will take time to form. “The decision to quit was taken in the last four days so we have not given any thought to what the name of the party will be. That process will take a good one month or two.”
His hyperactive net-savvy supporters at that time were mentioning December 21, his birthday, as the big day when he will announce his party. I told Jagan that December 9, Sonia Gandhi’s birthday, strangely was another date mentioned on the web. He smiled and said “December 9 is also my wife’s birthday”.