Y.S. Sharmila joins Congress, braces for head-on battle with brother and Andhra Pradesh CM Jagan Mohan Reddy

Congress hopes to reclaim YSR’s legacy with his daughter’s return to its fold; party failed to win a single LS seat in 2014, 2019 elections; Congress is biggest secular party in India, says Ms. Sharmila

January 04, 2024 11:57 am | Updated 09:46 pm IST - New Delhi

Y.S. Sharmila, sister of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, joins the Congress party, in the presence of AICC chief Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi at in New Delhi on January 4, 2024

Y.S. Sharmila, sister of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, joins the Congress party, in the presence of AICC chief Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi at in New Delhi on January 4, 2024 | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Thirteen years after the Congress lost loyal voters, leaders and a significant organisational structure in Andhra Pradesh due to a split engineered by the current Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy, the party is making a bid to recoup its losses by inducting his sister Y.S. Sharmila, daughter of the late legendary Congress CM Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.

After months of speculation, Ms. Sharmila, founder of the YSR Telangana Party, joined the Congress on Thursday in the presence of party chief Mallikarjun Kharge and former party president Rahul Gandhi. She later met Congress Parliamentary Party chairperson Sonia Gandhi at her residence. She also announced the merger of her fledgling party with the Congress. 

Also read: Political road closes for Y.S. Sharmila in Telangana but opens in Andhra Pradesh

Reclaiming YSR’s legacy

Calling the Congress the “biggest secular” party in the country, Ms. Sharmila said that her father — popularly known as YSR — would have approved of her decision. “It was my father’s dream to see Rahul Gandhi as Prime Minister of our country and I am very glad that I am going to be a part in making that happen. Whatever responsibility the Congress will lay on me, I promise to fulfil that responsibility with all loyalty, integrity and diligence,” Ms. Sharmila said.

According to sources, Ms. Sharmila faces pressure to take on the mantle of the party’s state President in Andhra Pradesh, pitching her into a head-on battle with her elder brother, the State’s CM and chief of the YSR Congress. Ms. Sharmila was reportedly hoping to consolidate on her work in Telangana and, as a gesture, had announced support for the Congress during the recent Telangana Assembly election. The Congress, however, is hoping that bringing her on board will revive the party’s electoral fortunes and enable it to reclaim YSR’s legacy in Andhra Pradesh. 

Congress eyeing turnaround

“This is a turnaround moment for the Congress in Andhra Pradesh and we consider it as the starting point of a Congress comeback in the State,” the Congress’ Andhra Pradesh in-charge Manickam Tagore said. In the last two general elections, the Congress could not win a single seat in the State. 

There has been a long-standing feud between the siblings, the result of a prolonged power struggle after YSR’s death in a helicopter crash in September 2009. Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy inherited YSR’s mantle, launched the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) in 2011, and went on to become Chief Minister in 2019; but none of his family members got a place in the power structure.

Despite this, as many Congress leaders pointed out on Thursday, Ms. Sharmila played an active role in building up the YSRCP. “When Jagan was jailed in 2012, Sharmila had led a 3,000-km walkathon across 14 districts of undivided Andhra in his support,” a senior Congress leader pointed out. However, Ms. Sharmila was ultimately forced out of Andhra Pradesh and, in July 2021, launched the YSR Telangana Party. She now faces the challenge of having to backpedal many of her pro-Telangana statements, which often run counter to sentiments in Andhra Pradesh. 

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