Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy’s sister, Y.S. Sharmila, is likely to float a separate political outfit in Telangana, parting ways with her brother who is not supportive of her move. Andhra government officials, however, maintain that there is “no personal rift” between the two.
Sharmila came out of near political hibernation Tuesday to hold a meeting with a hundred-odd party workers from Nalgonda district at the office of Jagan-led YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) in Hyderabad.
“My intention is to speak to leaders and the cadre from all the districts and understand the ground realities,” Sharmila told the media after the meeting. “There is no Rajanna Rajyam (YSR rule) in Telangana and we want to understand why… We will bring back YSR rule here.”
This is the first time that Sharmila has held a political meeting since the 2019 assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh when she campaigned for her brother.
What has puzzled political observers is the fact that the YSRCP was hardly involved in organising the meeting. Jagan’s picture was also conspicuously absent from the posters.
Andhra government officials, however, insist that the siblings have not fallen out. “There is no personal rift between the chief minister and his sister — they are family. That being said, there could have been ideological differences between both,” Andhra government advisor Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy said Tuesday.
“She wanted to expand the party in Telangana and Jagan Reddy was against it and made it very clear that his focus is entirely on Andhra Pradesh,” Sajjala added. “Attempts were made to tell her how it may not be a good idea to enter Telangana’s political space and discussions have been on for three months over whether the YSRCP should expand in Telangana, which Jagan Reddy is opposed to because he believes that by doing so, the leverage between states is lost.”
Hinting that the YSRCP party has nothing to do with today’s meeting, Sajjala further said that Sharmila may be contemplating launching her own party. If that ever happens in the future, it would only be ideological differences between parties but not individuals, he added.
Sharmila could float a new party
Sharmila is the daughter of Congress leader Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy who was the chief minister of erstwhile united Andhra Pradesh from 2004 until his sudden demise in a helicopter crash in 2009.
After his death, Jaganmohan Reddy had broken away from the Congress to form the YSRCP.
Considered a natural crowd puller, Sharmila is known to resemble her father more in his mannerisms than her brother. When Jagan was in jail in 2013 over corruption charges, Sharmila held a padayatra in Andhra Pradesh, campaigning for the party, and was also lauded for holding the fort.
She campaigned for Jagan during the 2019 Assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh but has not been in public since.
She was neither part of his cabinet nor made a member of Parliament despite speculation that she would get a Rajya Sabha seat. Sharmila has, however, never contested elections.
Political analysts say she might be finally looking at a political career.
“Maybe she is trying to build pressure on the family. A few months ago when Vijayamma (their mother) was asked about Sharmila’s political career, she replied that ‘God’ would take care of it,” political analyst Telakapalli Ravi said. “That she has not been seen with Jagan at all after he took over as CM is adding to the rumours of a tiff. But she cannot take revenge on Jagan by starting a party in Telangana — there is little scope for it, we need to wait and watch how this will pan out.”
Analysts also point out that Jagan’s family-owned regional news channel, which prioritises coverage of his party’s activities, has barely given any coverage to Sharmila’s meeting.
“It is clear from her statement that she is entering Telangana politics but it is also indicative enough that she is not here to strengthen Jagan’s YSRCP,” said political analyst Nageshwar Rao. “If you see the posters, there is no mention of Jagan anywhere ... The talk about her setting up her own party following a rift with her brother might not be true at this time but it hints that this new party or entity may not be an extension of YSRCP.”
Sources who attended Tuesday’s meeting said Sharmila expects her brother’s support in her new political journey — the details of which are expected to become clear in the coming months.
“I supported him during his time, so I hope he does the same now,” sources quoted her as saying.
BJP or KCR may be behind move
Political analysts also said it is evident that there is massive support from a political group for Sharmila.
“It could either be the TRS or BJP because both these parties have amicable relationships with Jagan,” Nageshwar Rao said. “But it is a question if KCR would help or support the rise of another party in his own land and will Jagan help KCR beat the BJP? KCR might be a friend of Jagan but would the latter dare to help KCR against BJP is a question.”
The Telangana Congress believes that KCR is behind the move. “If Sharmila has any issues with her brother, she must deal with it in AP, and not here,” Telangana Congress MP Revanth Reddy said. “Sharmila’s move is nothing but an arrow thrown by KCR. He has realised there is anti-incumbency in the state and winning next time looks difficult, so to split the Congress vote-bank, he is using this method. The people of Telangana must understand that Sharmila never supported a separate state.”
Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao reportedly made a veiled reference to Sharmila’s political entry Sunday saying it was destined to fail. “It requires a lot of strain to launch and run a political party,” the chief minister was quoted as having said. “We have seen the launch of quite a few regional parties in the past in Telangana, whether it was that of former MPs Ale Narendra, Vijayashanti and Devender Goud. They have all hit the dust within no time.”
A section of political observers say that if Sharmila were to enter Telangana politics, the BJP could be a gainer as she could eat into the Congress party’s Reddy and Christian support base.
“It is too early to say anything now. Let her form the party and let it take shape. There might be YSR goodwill in Telangana, but post bifurcation the dynamics changed,” analyst Ravi said. “She is talking about bringing back YSR rule but it is KCR rule here right now.”