The Hindu Profiles | On Group of Seven, Y.S. Sharmila and Anup Chandra Pandey

Y.S. Sharmila | The rise of the daughter

A new party will be born in Telangana on July 8, the birth anniversary of former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, when his daughter, Y.S. Sharmila, begins a new political journey. When news broke about her plans to float a political party in Telangana, many wondered what impact her move would have on the State’s politics as she hailed from Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh, where her elder brother, Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, is the Chief Minister.

Ms. Sharmila had never been into the rough and tumble of politics until June 2012, when she campaigned for her brother in his absence in byelections to 18 Assembly and one Lok Sabha constituencies. Jagan, as Mr. Reddy, president of the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), is popularly known, was then in jail in connection with a dozen assets cases. The YSRCP then won 15 Assembly seats and the lone Nellore Lok Sabha constituency in the polls, which took place after Jagan parted with the Congress.

In October 2012, Ms. Sharmila launched a 3,112-km padayatra (journey on foot), from her father’s grave in Idupulapaya near their hometown Pulivendula in Kadapa. The yatra culminated at the column “Vijaya Vatika”, constructed to symbolise the success of the ‘Maha Prasthanam’ yatra of her father at Ichapuram in Srikakulamin 2003.

Ms. Sharmila was received by huge crowds at the over 150 public meetings she addressed en route. She had to take a two-month break in the midst of the yatra because of a fractured knee, which required surgery. During the speeches, she invoked memories of her father, with his trademark wave to crowds with the left hand. She walked 13 km a day and held several racha banda meetings (interaction with village communities). She remained at home following Jagan’s release on bail after a year and a half of imprisonment in September 2013. He then resumed his own “Odarpu yatra”, to console the families of his father’s supporters who died.

Nearly five years later, Ms. Sharmila shot back to fame again, this time with an 11-day bus yatra to campaign for the YSRCP in the 2019 Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. The yatra went with a brand name “Bye bye Babu” and the bus had a ticking clock, suggesting that it was a countdown for Chandrababu Naidu, who was then the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. The YSRCP secured a resounding victory in the polls.

Differences in family

With the rout of Mr. Naidu in the elections and Jagan becoming Chief Minister, Ms. Sharmila and her mother, who was the honorary president of the YSRCP, became silent. There were reports that differences had cropped up in the family when Ms. Sharmila made public her political ambitions by convening a meeting of her supporters from Telangana at her Lotus Pond residence on February 9.

Jagan’s chief adviser and YSRCP general secretary Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy claimed that the differences were sorted out. “We have tried our level best to dissuade Sharmila from plunging into active politics, which is a tough area, but her decision is [her] conscious choice. She feels there is a political vacuum in Telangana,” said Mr. Ramakrishna Reddy.

He made it clear that neither Jagan nor the YSRCP will have anything to do with Ms. Sharmila’s party.

Ever since, there has been hectic political activity at Lotus Pond. A close aide of the family, Vaduka Rajagopal, applied for registration of the party as YSR Telangana Party with the Election Commission. Ms. Sharmila then announced formation of the party at a public meeting in Khammam, following a series of meetings with supporters. She also held a hunger strike at Dharna Chowk in Hyderabad, focusing on unemployment in Telangana, but she was moved away by the police in a day after giving permission for three days.

Ms. Sharmila visited a village in Medak district to console the kin of youth who committed suicide due to unemployment on Telangana State formation day (June 2) and also paid tributes to Telangana martyrs memorial in Hyderabad. On Twitter, she is lashing out at the government. She seems determined on what should be done — build a political party as a counterweight to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi like her brother did in Andhra Pradesh. It's to be seen whether she would manage to pull it off.

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Printable version | Jul 31, 2021 9:22:54 AM |

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