Wednesday, September 14, 2011

And yet YSR won, how?

The loot of Andhra Pradesh, Part-1 and Part-2 discussed in detail how much corruption seeped into the system under the Congress CM, YSR and his family. Despite all the outrage and open loot, YSR won back the elections in 2009. It is but natural to be asking and thinking how this happened if all that has been discussed is true. In my opinion, there are four main factors (in no particular order) that helped YSR win back the election in 2009.

1. The massive psychological and perceptional campaign

In 2009, TDP alliance won 34.54% share of the vote as opposed to the 36.53% of the Congress.There is just about a 2% difference in the vote share between these parties and therefore all the small and big perceptional and psychological points YSR scored over Naidu mattered a great deal. In my opinion, YSR very adeptly played the psychological game to the hilt. He turned the constant coverage of his corruption as a boon. He was successful in stressing that this is all a propaganda; that the media is all negative; that Naidu did more corruption; and finally opened a newspaper for himself. While stressing on this "negativity", YSR also roped in multiple other factors to play with the sentiments of people. Some examples:

  • Rains during his tenure
It didn't rain for the last three years of Chandrababu Naidu's tenure. From the second year of YSR's tenure till his 5th year, it rained bountifully every year without fail. He converted this natural occurence into his credit. He and the Congress party lost no opportunity to shout at the top of their voice - Rains are falling only because YSR is the CM. It never rained when Naidu was CM, it always rained when YSR was CM. Believe it or not, this created a huge sentimental impact of many people (including the non-agricultural folks!). After the first phase of elections in AP, some media started speculating that Naidu is going to come back to power. Since the elections were in May, it was very hot. At about that time, the Met department predicted a delayed monsoon. YSR immediately caught on to that fact and used it in his second phase of campaign - the mere speculation of Naidu's returning back to power is causing a delay in monsoon!

  • The trust and credibility factor
Another overdosed campaign was that YSR was the most credible and trustworthy person and leader ever to be born! He never took action against any wrong doer if he/she was close to him. The scale of the wrong doing never mattered to him - if he liked the person, he would not touch them at all. Despite it's huge negative impact on the polity, a big positive spin was given to saying that YSR never betrays those who trust him! Naidu is cunning, but YSR is friendly. YSR has a best friend, Naidu doesn't have a best friend also. Naidu doesn't believe in anyone. YSR forgives even those who betray him! This perception was very strong in some well educated and neutral voters too.

  • State government employees
Many state government employees were not happy with Naidu's style of functioning. He was strict, demanded performance and results from them, and was ruthless in admonishing them in public. He made many surprise visits to offices and didn't think twice before suspending employees. It is said that they too played a vital role in his defeat in 2004. YSR in contrast gave them a free hand. Employees were more content under YSR and hence he could get their support easily.

  • Always has a smile (rather heartily laughing face)
Yet another psychological point - YSR always has a smiling face. Naidu never smiles! Every small thing counts when you won just by 2%!
  • Counter to the Corruption
YSR's only point when pointed out to the corruption under his rule - Naidu was much more corrupt. Any argument on corruption always ended up with rhetoric of Naidu's corruption.
  • Taking on the well-established media
Two major newspapers, eenadu and andhra jyothy, were going bonkers on his government. He took them head-on, criticized them day-in and day-out, and finally opened his own newspaper and TV channel! So now we had people discussing the "war" between the media, and not the corruption charges anymore.

  • Welfare programs
His welfare programs achieved two things. One obviously is that they actually benefited sizeable number of people. The second one is that the perception of him being a poor man's messiah got imprinted into the minds of neutral voters. For example, a software engineer who benefited from Naidu's IT policy and is now placed in a good job now started to think - "ohh yeah, Naidu never did anything for the poor. YSR is doing so much, even though he is corrupt." Naidu lost quite a chunk of those votes too - simply because of this perception of the well-settled class of people thinking YSR is better than Naidu.

2. The welfare (free for all) programs

I will not be discussing the drawbacks/corruption/irregularities in these schemes here. Merely mention what they are and how they intend to benefit.

  • Free power
The backdrop of the 2004 elections was that the TDP rule failed to take care of the farmer's needs. YSR's main plank was that he will alleviate the farmer out of his misery. He will alleviate the poor people out of their misery. And midst this backdrop he won the election in 2004. The first file he signed was on "free power to the farmers". And since absolute free power is near impossible, slowly that has been diluted to exclude rich farmers etc. The remaning free power was given for seven hours a day, intermittently. Even if it was not given for seven hours, what actually did matter was that it was free. To the farmer for whom every ten rupees counts, this was something he never forgot.
  • Health insurance and Ambulance service
This was another huge hit amongst the poor, rural and lower middle class segment of Andhra Pradesh. Essentially, if you are white ration card holder, you are entitled to health care in most private hospital for ailments that are out of your reach. So for example, you need to be operated upon for a major operation which will cost you about 2 lakhs. Under ordinary circumstances you cannot afford it, but with this scheme you can get the operation done and the government will reimburse all the costs! So to all those people who couldn't get ailments cured at government hospitals, this became a boon. Suddenly, you see people who otherwise could not have afforded this health care, now happy and content. People I know have been so happy with the government for this scheme.

YSR also popularised the Emergency Ambulance service. Even in rural areas, you had ambulances reaching you within 15 minutes (with a picture of Rajiv Gandhi on it).
  • Fee reimbursement
YSR announces that the government will reimburse the full education fees (under-graduate, graduate, PG courses) of all BC students (eligbility criteria was very low too)! Colleges were hit because of late payments from the government, but students and their families were thrilled that their education costs are now free - and that's what mattered here!
  • Rs.2/Kg rice
This was the pet scheme of NTR in both his first tenure and his subsequent tenure in 1994. YSR, out of the blue again, announced that he will give rice at Rs.2/kg at ration shops!
  • Pavala vaddi (loan @ 25p) for Self Help Groups
He introduced loan at just 3% for Self Help Groups in the state. This encouraged small scale businesses to flourish well. And get their votes too.
  • Absorbing the Rs.50/- increase on LPG cylinder
When the central government hiked the LPG rate by Rs.50/- in 2007, YSR decided that the state government will absorb the cost
  • The perception about Jalayagnam
This was another huge perception campaign launched. It was made to look like Jalayagnam project was already complete and the state is now free of any irrigational problems. Only 12 out of the planned 48 have been completed so far. But YSR made sure inagurations of projects happened at a regular pace. So in case even if people forgot, they would suddenly be reminded of this project and think YSR is like the water god of AP!

Bad economics, one would argue? True no doubt. It is difficult for any free for all scheme to sustain in the long term. So imagine the troubles to maintain so many free-for-all schemes. The Finance minister himself would say that these schemes are a burden. Unless you have a steady revenue generating model, you cannot sustain these freebies. And where did revenue come from - real estate and higher taxes! But then there is only so much real estate one can sell. You and I can sit in the coziness of our offices/home and have the luxury of talking about "long-term" impact blah blah. Try telling a daily wage labourer or to that massive population that depends on nature to earn well, that the concessions he/she is getting will be disastrous for the economy in the "long-term". He will care a scoot. What mattered to them is that their present is good, with a promise of a similar future from a man whom they believed to be "credible".

3. Split in the opposition vote.

Elections are also about the complex electoral math. Just to avoid a split in the opposition vote, the entire opposition in the state entered into an alliance. TDP, TRS, CPI and CPI(M) all formed a "Maha kutami". But then Chiranjeevi played the spoilsport. Remember the statistics - TDP alliance gets 34.54%. Congress gets 36.53%. Chiranjeevi got 17% and Jayaprakash Narayan's Lok Satta got 1%. So you have a full block of 18% that would have gone either way (most of it into the opposition's vote). And this electoral math guided YSR and the Congress party to a slender majority (156/294) in the Assembly elections of 2009.

4. The money from the loot

And ofcourse the massive money power unleashed helped capture the votes of the vulnerable sections. It would be naive to assume that money played no role at all in those elections. It did, and it contributed to the victory too. Plus it is with this loot money that a newspaper and a channel were set-up. This loot money was used for counter attacking the opposition, and this loot money was used to distributing (either directly or indirectly) during the elections to vulnerable sections.


Also, those who say Naidu did nothing for the state are just fooling themselves. Even if we believe that the development of IT is his *only* achievement - take a look around at the number of steady jobs created not just in urban but even for people from other areas, the number of secondary sectors that flourished (like security, cab, catering - each in turn providing employment), and the real estate bump through which these politicians made so much money! To discount such a phenomenal contribution to the growth of the economy is naive. His success in fostering the Self-help groups (they succeeded only in AP), his stress on various initiatives like rain-water harvesting (neeru-meeru), people's participation in welfare programs through "Janmabhoomi" (you know, all his speeches used to end with Jai Hind Jai Janmabhoomi - liked that a lot :) ), clean environment etc - did impact a sizeable population too. Contrary to popular perception, TDP alone won 1crore 34 lakh votes in 2004 to Congress's 1crore 37lakh. Just 3 lakh votes between these two parties. The major loss for TDP was from it's alliance with the BJP (between TDP+ and Cong+, there was ~20 lakh vote difference!).

Anyways, A combination of the above four factors helped him win, despite the massive loot. His corruption did help the opposition, but like mentioned above the slender lead of 2% of votes (about 10 lakh votes) made all the difference. Nevertheless, the dire financial straits that the state is in, is testimony to his lack of vision. Leave all economics aside - think just about this - you have ensured that many people are dependent on you for their expenses, without really increasing their income levels and now you say - you know what, sorry I can't cover these expenses. live with it. The misery you cause because of that false hope is unbearable and that is what some people have already begun to experience. That's the sad reality too.

And with this, ends the series on YSR :) Sorry for bombarding you with these long posts!


Pardha said...

Good Points; YSR mostly made the people becomes more lazy with the welfare programs. AAAROGYA SREE was one of the programs with full of SCAM. :)

If u look at Aarogya sree, 6000 Crores has been invested in this scheme so far and the all the public money gone to private hospitals and Insurance companies. ( There is a NEWS that insurance company who is the main beneficiary is a chennai based company who was floated just after YSR came to power in 2004 and all the directors are close friends of Jagan and YSR and congress workers. Well, I dont neither endorse that NEWS nor doesn’t want to trust it , however the bottom line is in the name of welfare programs, diverting the public money to their own private men, political leaders only forgetting a long term developmental activities and becoming mahatmas )

In any organization, state or country, development needs to be short term and long term. While giving short term benefits to poor people, infrastructure would need to be developed and slowly you can get away from these schemes. Political parties doesn’t have this long term vision and only depending on the short term vote bank politics and the rift between poor and rich people of this society is increasing day by day and is the primary reason why people vote fort these political leaders even though they are corrupt and greedy because Poor people want the welfare schemes and in return, political leaders are coming out with more innovative ideas to become more corrupt and loot public money.
It’s good that people have benefitted on this program, however, if you take at least 75% of 6000 Crores that has been spent and invest on the public health system, govt hospitals, we could have 3 AIIMS like hospitals in whole of state, the benefit, u won’t need this scheme for ever and money going to private hospitals, but instead people can come and use these govt hospitals.

narahari said...

good article..

akula naresh said...

appreciate u for accepting Ur favoritism to naidu openly rather posing neutral like our journos,
to the contrary of wt u r telling,chiru grabbed the vote share of congress but not tdp...if chiru did not contest,position of cong. wld have been much better....Kaapu community who mostly used to vote for congress shifted their loyalties towards chiru
chandra babu ruled the state for nearly 2 tenures and hw can one say that he did nothing....he did something. people of the state took a call comparing both..
mind u both ysr and chandra babu r politicians nd don't expect them to do social work.
people of the rural sector needs appeal of sensitiveness towards them nd ysr showed that.
IF it is a matter of mindset of people,y it is a crop holiday after ysr's death nd drought b4 ysr came to power

Chandu said...

One more thing you missed out YSR paid 5000Rs for all farmers who couldn't get loan waiver.

This created a great impression on all farmers. Still he couldn't cross 36% vote share.

Anonymous said...

purely hippocretic nd completely undermining the democaric setup of the land.same stories in much elaborated way were explained to the people of state by two rogue news papers of the state -eenadu nd andhrajyothy nd people of the state have taken decision consequently.The credibility of this EEnadu lies in the fact that the daily pretends as if there is nothing wrong/fishy in KGBASIN
ysr is better in all the fields wn compared to chandra babu,chandra babu went on to give all free promises nd even direct money transfer scheme is one among them but people of the state r wise enough to decide who is who
Maha kootami and prp have affected the vote share of congress but not tdp as convinently misled in the article

Anonymous said...

Your soft corner for Naidu, though masked, is clearly visible \

YSR winning elections also meant that corruption isnt an issue for people, when the leaders does something for them. Naidu didnt do anything for them, YSR did. Chapter over.

I agree with your point on daily labourers. When, we as people, forget that they too are a part of society they will not care for us and the "economics" we speak. They look toward to the ones who take "care" of them and "follow" them.

May be not for us, but for some down trodden people who had their stomachs filled, debts cleared, dear ones saved because of Arogya Sree and ambulance services, he is definitely not God, but next to God, no matter how cynic we are.

The programs by Naidu, except for "Janmabhoomi", no one hardly mentioned about any success to them. And Janmabhoomi spent more money for ads rather than work. Check out the expenditure and the ads for that program.
Well, if saying " Jai Hind" is the only criteria for a scheme in your books, might be you need to rethink on what a scheme is supposed to achieve.

Sudhir said...

@Pardha - thanks for the detialed comment. Even I always wondered why can't the govt. improve facilities in govt hospitals instead of spending money to insurance company! Never got a convincing answer though. I tried to do some research on irregularities in Arogyasri but could not find any relevant material. Anyways, like you have also observed, this scheme did benefit lot of people and hence has been termed as a success. Need to see how it will sustain in the long term.

@akulanaresh - how are you so sure that ALL of Chiru's votes would have gone to Congress? How can one estimate that ALL 70 lakh votes would have gone to YSR only? That in my opinion is a very short sighted view of the result. these 70 lakhs votes might have been split either way and so to qualify them as only congress votes is unfair.

@narahari thanks :)

@anonymous1 - It would have been great if you atleast left your name so that it will be easy to address you with the name. This blog attempted to explain why YSR won, and you did the same too but called me hypocritical! What else can I say..

@Anonymous2 - Please leave your name next time you comment. Coming to the content of your comment, I have a few questions for you. My "soft corner" for Naidu was never masked, it was always visible. If I have a "soft corner" for him, just what is wrong in that? Would you care to elaborate? Next, you say "chapter over" after making a generic point that CBN did "nothing" while I have detailed what he did. I have also mentioned how poor people reacted to these schemes, so what is your problem? If your problem is my "soft corner" for Naidu, then live with it!


reddy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
reddy said...

Please don't mislead with the figures showing that there is only 2% difference of votes.In 1999 elections TDP got 180 seats.In 2004 it got 47 seats. Take a freaking guess of how much was the difference in vote..7%..yeah..7% between 180 and 47. Now consider one party or rather one man against all other parties combined. I would say 2% is rather a comfortable win, not to mention the fact that votes got divided between congress and chiranjeevi. yeah chiru got congress's votes..not TDP's. just look at the party he joined.

I would like to quote Guardian columnist George Monbiot. “In throwing him (Naidu) out of their lives, the voters of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh may have destroyed the world’s most dangerous economic experiment,” he wrote when the nine years of a lopsided vision came to an end in May 2004. What experiment was this? This was the Vision 2020 ghosted for Naidu by McKinsey. VIsion 2020 was not babu's was the dream of an american consultancy Mckinsey trying to silently establish East India Company in Andhra.

He privatized power,health sectors. 30 million people lost their job. .many youth committed suicide with HIS NAME written in the letter. How many DSC's did he conduct in his tenure??How many people got govt. jobs?? He is the one who introduced contract method in employment,privatized APSRTC, increased current charges.Is n't he the one who said people should just choose another profession instead of agriculture.(that is putting the statement lightly).He refused to even agree that farmers were committing suicides. he said they were staging it for the money. He didn't give a single np to the poor farmers who died. As soon as he is out of the power he immediately remembers them and embraces them. He promises them all sorts of things.The reason that employees hate him is NOT because HE IS STRICT or His surprise visits..they hate him because he makes them works on Sundays and holidays. When ever he used to come all the children must be lined up along both sides of the road in hot sun just so because he could pass them and plant a freaking plant.

One more thing about YSR : Do any one think that the absence of YSR in the state and the agitations going on after his death are coincidental??Do you know how much loss the state has incurred during this period?? All are complaining about his corruption.He may be corrupt ,but who isn't?? To each his own. Majority of the families in the state have been befitted from at-least one of his scheme. That is the reason he became a leader from the people.

Sudhir said...

Hi "Reddy",

There IS a 2% difference in the votes in 2004. I was merely saying that when about 34% vote for TDP, how can you discount the contribution of CBN?? What is misleading in that fact??? I just told a fact! A 7% dip did contribute to his loss in 2004. Who is saying otherwise? My argument was against people like you, who think he did "nothing".

Do you want me to quote all those who wrote why YSRs policies are bad? Finding multiple arguments on any political leader is quite easy. I bet, if these same columnists that you quoted above criticise YSR tomorrow, you will go full throttle against them too.

And what is with bringing "East India Company" into Andhra Pradesh?

Just like how your family benefitted from his schemes, I benefited from his schemes. Is that a big sin? You make it look like all those who support Naidu are a burden on this society ! As if all those who benefited from his government are useless.

This kind of emotional arguments and "so what if he is corrupt" is exactly the reason why we cannot have a decent argument. I still wonder what makes you think that a party that wins about 34% vote share in the state "did nothing" for the state. Ponder over it.


PS: How are you so damn sure that ALL of Chiru's votes would have gone to Congress? I would really like to get an insight into that.

Anonymous said...

To whoever said Chiru got Congress' votes and not TDP's, I have but one question: if that is true what explains Congress winning 12 seats in East Godavari. How many Congress votes were there in that district that congress could win 12, Chiru could win 4 and come second in 8 more places?

Anonymous said...

When a person in public life wants to establlish industry it should be a role model for others but a person like y s jagan is not acceptabe as he amassed lot of wealth. till recently he was in cogress but when he was denied cm post then he started comenting the govt. He should learn that his father waited for two decates to become cm. There are honest cms in our country and with minimum corruption cms like Naveen panik did woders in orissa Everybody should praise sonia for not acccepting pm post. in my openion she is greater than nehrua nd indira who are power mongers. Sonia should keep factionists out of power.

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