YS Sharmila throws down gauntlet to brother in family stronghold; is set to contest from Kadapa LS seat

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Bengaluru: One of the keenest contests in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections is likely to be at Kadapa. This is where a proxy fight between two siblings, both scions of the YSR family, whose pater familias(late YS Rajashekhara Reddy) left a legacy that is now bitterly contested by his daughter YS Sharmila, and his son, Jagan Mohan Reddy.

Kadapa is the district where the YSR family’s writ is uncontestable. The Lok Sabha constituency, known for its bloody faction fighting in the past, has seven Assembly constituencies – Badvel (SC), Kadapa, Pulivendula, Kamalapuram, Jammalamadugu, Proddatur and Mydukur.

Sharmila’s brother Jagan is seeking a third term in the Assembly from Pulivendula.

Estranged siblings, and a murder to boot

It is not just the estrangement between the siblings that is adding drama to the election. There is a Banquo’s Ghost at the banquet – that of YS Vivekananda Reddy, who was murdered in a bathroom of his house on March 14-15, 2019.

Sharmila’s rival is Avinash Reddy, a cousin and a confidante of Jagan. Avinash is the incumbent MP from the constituency, which has been with the YSR family since 1989, and has been represented by YSR himself for four terms, by Vivekananda Reddy twice, by Jagan himself once.

Avinash has been named A-8 by the CBI in the case of murder of Vivekananda Reddy. Vivekananda, who was the Agriculture minister in the last Congress ministry in AP, before he quit the ministry to fight a by-election against Jagan’s mother Vijayamma, remained in the Congress till the end. Following the death of YSR in a helicopter crash in 2009, Jagan split from the Congress and launched his YSRCP, but Vivekananda remained with the mother party. Vivekananda’s daughter Narreddy Sunitha has pointed fingers at Jagan for her father’s murder.

The rift in the YSR clan

The election has pitted one section of the once-tightly knit YSR family against the other. While most family members are with Jagan, Sunitha and her husband Narreddy Rajashekhar, have supported Sharmila. The mother of the siblings, Vijayamma, torn between son and daughter, has blessed both, and appeared at the launching of the campaign by both.

Although neither Sharmila nor Jagan has spoken openly about the reasons for the estrangement between the two, it is widely believed that Sharmila was unhappy that her brother denied her due in the party that she built and ran effectively when he was in jail for 16 months in connection with the cases filed against by the central agencies.

Sharmila, an able organiser

During her brother’s incarceration in connection with cases of disproportionate assets filed by the CBI and ED, she took charge of the party and built it into an organisation that would go on to deprive the Congress of power in its strongest citadel in the south.

Sharmila went on a 3,000-km long padayatra from Kadapa district to Srikakulam District, covering 14 districts, to work up sympathy for her brother. In 2019, as convenor of the YSRCP, she undertook a 11-day bus yatra against the Chandrababu Naidu themed ‘Praja Theerpu – bye bye Babu” covering 1,553 km, addressing 39 public meetings. The TDP was trounced in the election.

Jagan marginalises sister

But once Jagan was released from the jail, he took control of the party organisation, and Sharmila felt sidelined. Also, according to rumours, there were differences between the siblings over sharing the family property.

After falling out with her brother, Sharmila decided to try her political luck in neighbouring Telangana. Portraying herself as the daughter-in-law of Telangana, the birth state of her husband Anil Kumar, she challenged the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) government, and undertook a 3,000-km march, often coming into conflict with the police who tried to stop her march.

Sharmila approaches Congress

When the Congress won the election in Karnataka, Sharmila changed tack and began negotiations with the Congress for an alliance or merger. She finally merged her party with the Congress, but realising that she had no future in Telangana as the local Congress was against accommodating her, Sharmila decided to return to her roots in Andhra Pradesh.

Realising her organisational abilities, the Congress high command appointed her the president of the Congress party, presenting her with the challenge of reviving the party in Andhra Pradesh, once its invincible fortress.

But Sharmila had to lay to rest some lingering doubts among Congress ranks, who suspected that the rift between the siblings was not too deep, and that their mother would bring about reconciliation between the two sometime in future.

That is why Sharmila had to contest elections, to lead the Congress from the front, to win over at least a chunk of the YSRCP vote base of Reddys, OBCs, ST/ST and minorities. And she had to do it from a Lok Sabha constituency where her brother is seeking re-election from one of the Assembly segments.

The campaigning by both will be interesting. While Jagan will be targeting TDP-Jana Sena-BJP combine, Sharmila will attack both the three-party combine, as well as YSRCP. It should be a watch worth it.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone. The opinions and facts in this article do not represent the stand of News9.)

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