THE WEEK was on board Jagan Mohan Reddy's bus when he was attacked

The AP CM resumed the yatra on April 15

54-Following-the-attack-that-injured-him Jagan-NAUT: Following the attack that injured him, Reddy continued his yatra after a one-day break.


I COULD SEE the large gate. It was only a stone’s throw away. But, getting close to it was another matter. My first attempt was futile―I was pushed back by the crowd thronging the gate. On the other side of the gate was Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy―the compound where he had camped overnight, to be precise.

Reddy had embarked on a 21-day bus tour ahead of the general and assembly polls in the state on May 13. Titled Memantha Sidhham (We are Ready), the bus campaign will cover the state from end to end. This day, April 13, would be day 13. He was starting from Namburu, just off National Highway 16, on the outskirts of Vijayawada.

My second attempt to get to the gate also failed. As I glanced around in desperation, I saw two former ministers forcing their way through, helped by their aides. I had no such help, but fortunately, after a few more minutes of braving the jostling, members of the chief minister’s team spotted me and helped me get through.

In the compound were tents in the colours of the YSRCP flag―blue, green and white. Candidates and senior leaders gathered for the morning briefing at around 9am. By then, Reddy had completed almost a quarter of his day. The 51-year-old is usually up by around 4:30am. The next one and a half hours are allocated for yoga and resistance exercises after which he relaxes with tea and sits down to read Telugu and English newspapers for about an hour. Post 7am, he calls up party leaders and has breakfast at around 7:30am. For years, his frugal meals have been a topic of much discussion. Breakfast is usually a glass of vegetable or fruit juice.

At around 9:15am, Reddy enters the waiting area with a smile and greets party leaders. The next hour is spent meeting cadre and clicking photos with them.

Meanwhile, the light-coloured Volvo bus is being readied to start the day’s journey. At around 10:15am, Reddy’s copper water container is placed in the bus. A sign that we are about to start. Sure enough, a few minutes later, he greets the crowd gathered outside and enters the bus. I follow soon, the only journalist who would be in the bus. The interiors are beige and Reddy is in the front seat close to the driver. The other, dozen or so leaders are seated on long couches that line either side of the air-conditioned bus. There are TV screens at both ends, but they are kept in sleep mode. Shades to cover the long glass windows can be summoned at the press of a button.

As the bus swerves outside the gate and on to the bypass road, the crowd calls out Reddy’s name and raises slogans. Among the crowd are a significant number of women across age groups. Reddy signals for the bus to stop and steps out. As the automated steps roll out, he comfortably sits on them to interact with the crowd. Overwhelmed and emotional, a middle-aged woman seeks help in getting medical treatment for a family member. He listens, reassures her and glances towards the grievance team. The three-member team tails the bus, in the fifth car in the convoy. They are tasked with noting down representations that come to the notice of the chief minister. Their job is to follow up until the issue is resolved.

After some selfies and handshakes, Reddy gets back on the bus, which starts rolling amid deafening cheers and slogans. The bus is pursued by frenzied followers on bikes. They attempt to take selfies while riding, bringing the vehicles dangerously close to the bus, and are shooed away by security.

Along the stretch, people either wave, fold hands, or sometimes kneel. At the many stops, Reddy alights and interacts with as many as he can. One of the stops is a convention hall in Mangalagiri constituency. Telugu Desam Party president N. Chandrababu Naidu’s son, Nara Lokesh, is contesting from here. The YSRCP has given the ticket to M. Lavanya from the weaver community, who constitute a large percentage of the voters.

After the meeting, it was time for lunch. Reddy is known to have a light lunch with just two rotis, accompanied by vegetarian curry and a bowl of fruits. “Today is a lucky day,” said a CMO staffer, explaining that they had skipped lunch on half the days during the yatra.

In the second half of the day, the bus entered Vijayawada. The areas being visited now fell under the Amaravati region. The TDP has tried to set the narrative that the residents and farmers of Amaravati are unhappy with Reddy because his regime floated the concept of three capitals.

As the bus reaches Tadepalli Junction, close to Reddy’s residence, his wife Y.S. Bharathi is among those waving at him from the crowd. In Vijayawada, the protocol of interaction changed. Instead of alighting from the bus, the leaders used a small ladder and climbed on to the top of the bus through a hatch set in the roof. From this vantage point, they greeted the crowds.

For the next three hours, the road show became noisier, more colourful, and spirited. It took more than an hour and a half to cross a 2.5km-long bridge. It was a real show of strength, considering that Vijayawada is a TDP bastion, where the dominant community is Naidu’s Kammas.

Around 8pm, at Singhnagar in Vijayawada, there was commotion within the bus. We heard that something had happened to Reddy and stood in shock as he descended, supported by security personnel. The other leaders who followed said he had a hard object thrown at him. He had sustained a deep cut above his left eyebrow. V. Srinivas, an MLA who was standing beside him, also sustained an injury near his left eye.

Dr M. Hari Krishna, who has been associated with Reddy for more than a decade, is now a CMO staffer and was onboard the bus to administer treatment. Murmurs within the bus was that TDP workers were behind the act, as the area had a party office.

Within 15 minutes of receiving medical attention and a bandage being applied, Reddy was back on top of the bus. However, a few minutes later, he was advised to return inside as the swelling had worsened, and so had the bleeding. As the road show continued, he would go atop the bus once again, but had to be escorted back to his seat. Finally, the bus sped towards the night’s camp at Kesarapalli.

Late in the night, he was taken to the Vijayawada government hospital, where the wound was sewn shut with three stitches. Reddy rested in Kesarapalli on April 14 and resumed the yatra on Monday, April 15.