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Jaganmohan Reddy, Congress Member of Parliament and the son of late Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YSR Reddy, resumed his Odarpu yatra on Thursday. Jagan is undertaking the yatra from Srikakulam to 'honour' his father's memory, defying the directives of his party high command.
He started his tour of two districts -- Srikakulam and East Godavari -- from Icchapuram. The ostensible purpose of the yatra was to console the families of the people who died out of shock after YSR's death.
Earlier, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had asked him to call off the yatra after one of his earlier tours to Mahabubnagar resulted in large-scale violence triggered by pro-Telangana activists.
Jagan arrived by Faluknuma Express on Thursday and was received by thousands of his fans and Congress workers. The young leader unveiled a statue of the late Rajasekhara Reddy on the occasion of his father's birth anniversary.
He later paid tributes to his father at the 'Vijaya Vatika', which was built to mark the culmination of the state-wide 'padayatra' undertaken by Rajasekhara Reddy ahead of the 2004 assembly elections.
Speaking on the occasion, Jagan said he does not feel lonely as his father had given him a 'huge family' that comprised the whole of Andhra Pradesh.
Later, he left for Loddaputti village to console the family of Pyla Chandramma, who died following the death of his father last year.
Reportage: Vicky Nanjappa/Mohammed Siddique/Agencies
Earlier, Rosaiah made it clear that his Cabinet colleagues and party legislators should not join the tour, as the Congress high command has not given its nod.
"Whether or not to take part in the yatra is an individual choice but if any minister, MLA or MLC indeed takes part in the yatra, it will be a clear violation of the high command," Rosaiah told media persons.
He said some of his Cabinet colleagues, MLAs and MLCs had approached him seeking his counsel on their participation in the yatra.
"I told them clearly that they should not participate in the yatra as it did not have the Congress high command's approval. If anyone violates this and takes part in the yatra, the party will deal with them appropriately," he said.
Congress on Wednesday downplayed the defiance by Y S Jaganmohan Reddy who resumed his 'yatra', saying it was not worried by the issue related to 'one MP' who could be indulging in 'childish behaviour'.
Party spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said All India Congress Committee in-charge of Andhra Pradesh M Veerappa Moily will look into the issue at the state level when he returns from abroad.
Moily is in London and will return on Tuesday.
"There are far greater issues to deal with, like the Jammu and Kashmir situation and the economy. This is not an issue on which we are worried about," Natarajan told mediapersons in New Delhi when asked to comment on Reddy's decision to go ahead with the 'Odarpu yatra' despite the party's unhappiness over it.
Asked whether Reddy had defied the Congress directive by undertaking the yatra, Natarajan said, "I am sure the MP knows what the party line is".
Commenting on the issue, a senior party leader said, "It is an emotional issue. He is new to politics. It could be childish behaviour on his part."
Jagan's yatra has come to occupy the centre-stage of the state's political theatre even as the by-elections promise a different drama. Whether or not Jagan's act will culminate in an anti-climax is a much-talked about and curiously observed subject.
Any negative outcome of this showdown (for the Jagan camp) is certain to cast a spell on the Congress government in Andhra, currently headed by Rosaiah. And, just days ahead of by-elections in Telangana, any further trouble in the party could be ominous for the Congress, political analysts point out.
Jagan's decision to go ahead with the yatra may see him facing the Congress high command's music. But this could lead to many MLAs, most of them elected for the first time, walking out of the party in solidarity with the first-time MP. Given the fragile strength it has in the state assembly, a split in the party could spell doom for the Congress.
Jagan's yatra is not an issue that has cropped up overnight.
He had declared his intentions of undertaking the yatra soon after the death of his father. However, the yatra was delayed due to various factors, including the Telangana agitation.
It later took off in the month of April, but was called off again due to the same problem.
Jagan has always maintained that his yatra was not political in nature.
He had initially written a letter to the high command stating that he wanted to go ahead with the trip. However, there was never a clear-cut answer from the high command. It was in this backdrop that YSR's wife sought an appointment with Sonia.
During the meeting, the Congress president tried to convince YSR's wife and Jagan not to go ahead with the yatra.
The high command suggested that Jagan meet the people in one place instead of going ahead with his yatra. However, Jagan was clear that as per the tradition, he must meet people at their homes.
The letters exchanged at this point of time indicated that the high command was not convinced about Jagan's logic. However, Jagan decided to keep his 'promise' to the people and went ahead with the yatra.
Jagan believes that it is the Andhra Pradesh Congress which has been putting a spoke in the wheel. There have been clear instructions to both MLAs and MPs of the state Congress not to attend the yatra since it would be considered as a violation of the high command's order.
The question now is whether Jagan will be suspended from the Congress. This seems to be the obvious consequence that the people are expecting. Jagan never wanted to disobey the Congress high command. Until last month, he was hopeful about convincing the high command. Today, he feels cornered for choosing to meet the people instead of obeying the high command.
However, it won't be easy for the party to suspend him. The high command is well aware of the popularity Jagan enjoys and also knows that there are many MLAs in the Congress who still support him. In fact, on Wednesday morning, several state MLAs met him at his residence and expressed their support. Jagan himself said that these people may not come forward but they will always support him.
Contrary to reports in certain sections of the media, Jagan has no plans of floating a new party. However, if circumstances get worse with the high command deciding to act tough, he would be left with no choice but to form a new party. As of now, only the yatra is on his mind.
Jagan has always maintained that he favours an unified Andhra Pradesh. The Congress will have to act very cautiously while dealing with the yatra at this point of time. The fact remains that during the forthcoming bypolls, the Telangana sentiment will run very high.
But the Congress cannot negate the fact that YSR enjoyed a huge clout in this belt. This aspect is bound to be very crucial during the by polls and the Congress would not want to spoil its chances.