Edited By: Oindrila Mukherjee
Last Updated: February 25, 2023, 19:10 IST
Padyatra, or walkathon, has been a game-changer in Telugu politics for long. As assembly elections inch closer, leaders of all major political parties in Telangana have walked various distances to reach out to people.
While the BJP successfully completed five phases of ‘Praja Sangrama Yatra’ last year, Telangana Congress chief A Revanth Reddy has been on his ‘Hath Se Hath Jodo Yatra’ since February 7, and YSRTP chief YS Sharmila’s ‘Praja Prasthanam’ padyatra – an epic journey she undertook over a period of one-and-a-half years – is set to end on March 5 at Palair. Telugu Desam Party leader Nara Lokesh kickstarted his 4,000-km ‘Yuvagalam’ padyatra in Andhra Pradesh in January.
The main aim of all these yatras was to show the people why there must be a change of regime in Telangana. All the parties have alleged corruption in government deals, lashed out at chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s “autocratic rule” and promised to bring back “former days of glory”.
E Venkateshu, a political science professor from Hyderabad Central University, explained the lure of the padyatra.
“Padyatra is a Gandhian technical tool for electoral mobilisation of the community. Mahatma Gandhi used it to spread his message during the freedom struggle and it is still a powerful tool. Though there has been an explosion of media, like print and electronic, in recent years, you can capture only 3 to 4 percent of the vote bank through these channels. Padyatra is a good tool to reach closer to the people. It brings you face to face with the voter,” Venkateshu said.
He added: “You get to know the issues, challenges and polity matters. Before bifurcation of the state, YS Rajasekhar Reddy and N Chandrababu Naidu undertook these yatras. After bifurcation, Jagan Mohan Reddy (YSRCP), Sharmila (YSRTP), Bandi Sanjay Kumar (BJP), Revanth (Congress) and Nara Lokesh (TDP) are doing it. Historically, it has been seen that the party undertaking the yatra has come to power. YS Rajasekhar Reddy and later, his son, Jagan Mohan, came to power after they undertook padyatra. This, in a way, shows the maturity of Telugu voters who want to gauge the capabilities of their leaders up close.”
The professor, however, said the padyatra was helping spread dominant caste hegemony in Telugu politics. It was either the Reddy, or the Kamma castes that had embarked on these yatras. Second, they were being used as a mobilisation tool by dynastic parties, he added.
Rajasekhar did it and his son and daughter followed him. Same goes for Naidu and his son Lokesh, Venkateshu said.
The ruling party, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi, has never undertaken any padyatra. It forged its path by forming alliances with other parties and launching a separate Telangana agitation.
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