ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Populism and Patronage

YSR combined a feudal benevolence with benefits for regional capital; that strategy is now in disarray.

The tragic death of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy (or YSR as he was popularly called) in a helicopter crash early this month has brought out into the open the very shaky foundations of the Congress Party in the state. After two decades in the factional politics of Andhra Pradesh, YSR had emerged, in the early 2000s, as the pre-eminent mass leader in the state by successfully gathering into an electoral wave the growing public anger at the neoliberal economic policies of N Chandrababu Naidu, which enabled him to crush the Telugu Desam Party in the 2004 elections.

In office, YSR developed a new idiom of governance and politics. In keeping with his flamboyant personality, he began his first term in office in 2004 by issuing orders to provide free electricity to farmers within seconds of his swearing in. But populism was more than just a vote-catching talisman for YSR. Rather, he saw such measures, specially related to agrarian distress, as the way to hold on to power beyond a single term.

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