Monday, April 22, 2024
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Sharmila-led Congress throws big challenge to Jagan Reddy

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By Sushil Kutty

The Congress has appointed YS Sharmila, the party chief of Andhra Pradesh. But Sharmila, who is the politically estranged sister of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, has a rather weak Andhra Pradesh unit of the Congress to fight her brother Jagan, who in turn is fighting anti-incumbency as well as the old warhorse, the Telugu Desam Party’s Chandrababu Naidu, whose ambition knows no bounds, though Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rise did clip his wings over the last one decade.
It is an open secret in Andhra Pradesh that Chandrababu, like K. Chandrashekar Rao of neighbouring Telangana, harboured prime ministerial ambitions even as Andhra Pradesh stood truncated in 2014 and Jagan Mohan Reddy’s exit from the grand old party in 2011 left the Andhra Pradesh unit of the Congress a shadow of its old self. Now, the Congress has come back to exact revenge with Jagan’s sister Sharmila as the tip of the arrow.
It wasn’t a surprise move, as some are putting it. Sharmila wouldn’t have got the top Congress post if she wasn’t Jagan Mohan Reddy’s sister and that, too, a politically estranged sister with a grudge against her brother. Sibling rivalry is the stuff of legends and sisterly concern is the last emotion in Sharmila’s mind, not that Jagan Mohan Reddy suffers from a case of brotherly love.
Now with all of Congress behind her, Y S Sharmila has double the thrust she had. In BJP IT Cell lingo, the appointment of Y S Sharmila was a Congress party “masterstroke”. Especially, when Jagan Mohan Reddy is Chief Minister and Sharmila’s relations with Jagan come with a keen blood-letting edge. Sharmila had left the YSRCP angry that her brother did not give her credit for the party coming to power.
The ingrate that he proved to be forced Sharmila to “migrate” to Telangana, in a bid to prove her mettle there against none other than the Telangana Rashtra Samithi leader KCR. Fact is, Sharmila had to migrate to the Congress and with Andhra Pradesh going to polls, along with the 2024 general elections, taking on Jagan Mohan Reddy in his own stronghold had become imperative. Sister Sharmila must surely know the brother’s Achilles Heel.
So, the Congress required a new Andhra Pradesh Chief and Y S Sharmila fit the bill. In fact, she was godsend. Also, she happens to be the daughter of the Congress party’s legendary Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, the late Y S Rajashekara Reddy. The challenge now is for Sharmila to get the state Congress fighting fit. The grapevine says it will not be easy. The “new leader” will have her hands full but she has the advantage of starting from scratch.
Another advantage is that her name-recognition is near total. And being Jagan Mohan Reddy’s sister has its own benefits. That said, the brother-sister joust will make it an epic rivalry. Clear battle-lines will be drawn. For the first time, the sister will be asking for votes for herself and not for her brother’s party. The electorate will have to realign in an altogether different manner, with both brother and sister starting with the same advantage/disadvantage.
Y S Sharmila has already set herself up for scrutiny by talking to the minorities, with her own plans for that segment of the electorate. The YSRCP will definitely feel the pinch and the crunch. Also, both the brother and sister are Christians. Again, Jagan stands to lose votes with Sharmila set to cut into the Christian vote-bank which happens to be a substantial chunk in Andhra Pradesh.
By the way, this whole Christian thing has got accentuated because of the Manipur situation and Jagan Mohan Reddy’s friendly ties with the “Hindu” Bharatiya Janata Party, which again spells “advantage Sharmila”. How much having the BJP on your side will help Jagan Reddy will be known only later; for now, the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister can only wait and watch. Sentiments and emotions of the people will be with Jagan Mohan Reddy. In many ways, the perception has been that the son bore the brunt of the tragic death of father Rajashekhara Reddy. He was also the man in the “padayatra”. Jagan Reddy also went to jail for CBI cases against him. The cases are still there, and they still dog him. They go back to when Y S Rajasekhara Reddy was Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister. The CBI comes under the BJP.
So, Y S Sharmila is back in town. And she leads the Congress in Andhra Pradesh. She is pitted against brother and Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy. The two are not friends. Given the slightest chance, they will make a meal out of each other. Congress believes it has a chance to wrest Andhra Pradesh from the YSRCP with Y S Sharmila at the helm. Also, with Telangana already in the Congress kitty, the turn of Andhra Pradesh is next. (IPA Service)

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