Jaganmohan Reddy

Remembering YSR, Jagan’s mother turns emotional

“I will go and greet your mother and come.” 

That was Andhra Pradesh Governor ESL Narasimhan telling YS Jaganmohan Reddy, not realising that the mike on the table on the dais at the Indira Gandhi stadium in Vijayawada had picked up the audio. The Governor had just finished administering the oath of office and secrecy to Jagan. He walked ahead to greet Vijayamma who was flanked by her daughter Sharmila and daughter-in-law Bharathi. Jagan’s daughters were seated on the dais as well. His elder daughter Varsha had flown back from London where she is a student at the London School of Economics to be present on the occasion.

For Vijayamma, it was an emotional moment to hear Jagan say “YS Jaganmohan Reddy ane nenu”. Not surprising she broke down, hugging Jagan as he wiped her tears, struggling to hold back his own emotions. It was extremely poignant as Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, DMK chief MK Stalin, Andhra government officials and the entire crowd of 25000 people looked on at a very private mother-son moment playing out in public

The mind automatically went back to that day in 2004 when Vijayamma was by YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s side, her grandson on her lap, as he was sworn in as CM of Andhra Pradesh by Governor SS Barnala at Lal Bahadur stadium in Hyderabad. And again in 2009 when YSR returned to power. The YSR-Vijayamma romance was replete with stories about how the then chief minister always liked to see her face, smiling shyly, before he set out on an outstation trip. 

YSR’s death in the helicopter crash in September 2009 changed Vijayamma’s life for ever. For one, she changed from a homemaker to a reluctant lawmaker, being compelled to contest from YSR’s seat Pulivendula and elected unopposed in December 2009. But that was the only concession the Congress High command was willing to make. 

(from left) Bharathi Reddy, Vimala Narasimhan, Vijayama, Sharmila

With the Congress leadership in Delhi not willing to concede the Andhra unit’s demand that Jagan succeed YSR as chief minister, the divide between the party and the family grew. Delhi was also not happy about Jagan travelling to the Andhra countryside to console families whose kin had reportedly died due to shock after YSR’s death. The Congress saw this as Jagan and his family’s plan to foment trouble for the Rosaiah government in Hyderabad.

On 29 June 2010, according to those in Jagan’s family, Vijayamma felt humiliated by Sonia Gandhi. When Vijayamma and Sharmila met Sonia Gandhi first to ask in what way the Odarpu yatra would damage the Congress, the reply was reportedly sharp.

“I am the president of the Congress. I know better.” The meeting ended there with the two women exiting the room in tears. Jagan was to walk in next to meet the then Congress chief next. Sonia Gandhi repeated what she had said to Vijayamma to Jagan. Miffed by her tone, Jagan apparently got up even before she finished to say “God will decide who is right, you or me.”

Within a few months, Jagan and Vijayamma walked out of the party, resigned their seats as MP and MLA respectively and floated the YSR Congress in March 2011. That only increased their troubles. Cases that were filed against Jagan by Congress and Telugu Desam leaders, relating to Disproportionate Assets ended in the YSRCP chief going to prison for 16 months between 2012 and 2013. That was the toughest period in Vijayamma’s life as she and Bharathi struggled to keep the party and his media business afloat. Many in Hyderabad still remember the mother sitting on dharna outside the CBI office in Hyderabad when Jagan was arrested in May 2012. 

The 2014 election did not go as planned with Vijayamma losing the Lok Sabha election from Visakhapatnam. The next five years were spent fighting the Telugu Desam and guarding their flock of MLAs and MPs from migrating to the ruling party. The mother in her came to the fore as she looked at with concern her son walking the extra mile – 3600 km to be precise- in order to make it count for his party. She and Sharmila also campaigned hard for the party in the last phase with the sight of the entire YSR clan promising to bring back Rajanna Rajyam back to Andhra, striking a chord. 

Which is why 30 May is so significant for Vijayamma. It is not the victory of a politician but a mother who trusted her son to come good, to win the battle in the people’s court. It is the moment of truth for a mother who backed her son’s fight.

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