Telangana sentiment or YSR legacy? Sharmila will have to choose 

Y.S. Sharmila, sister of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, is gearing up for the launch of her new political party in Telangana on July 8, coinciding with the birth anniversary of her father, late Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, former chief minister of combined Andhra Pradesh.

She has named her party — YSR Telangana Party, ostensibly to cash in on the image and goodwill of YSR, who left an indelible mark on the people of both the Telugu states with his welfare schemes.

Needless to say, Sharmila is following the footsteps of her brother in claiming the legacy of YSR. Jagan floated YSR Congress party in March 2011 and rode to power in Andhra Pradesh eight years later. Now, Sharmila hopes to repeat the show in Telangana.

On record, Sharmila’s new outfit would be called Yuva Sakthi Rythurajyam Telangana Party (YSRTP), which sounds similar to Jagan’s Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP). The party colours of YSRTP are also similar to that of YSRCP with tinges of blue, white and light green.

Sharmila would formally launch the party at a meeting of 1,000 delegates to be held at JRC Convention Centre at Film Nagar in Hyderabad. Arrangements are being made to enable another lakh of people from all the districts of Telangana to witness the event virtually. However, it is a matter of concern about how so many people will be part of the event in the middle of a pandemic and an impending threat of the 3rd wave. 

It is pertinent to note that political strategist Prashant Kishor was the man behind the success of Jagan Mohan Reddy. Now, it is learnt that Prashant’s close aide Priya Rajendran, daughter of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MLA R. Rajendran, is going to be the political strategist for Sharmila, guiding the latter in her political journey.

On February 8, when Sharmila first announced her intentions to launch a new political party, she declared that she would herald a Rajanna Rajyam in Telangana, a welfare state envisaged by her late father Rajasekhar Reddy, who was fondly called Rajanna.

Thereafter, she invoked her father’s name at every public talk or statement, recalling the schemes launched by him like ArogyaSri, fee reimbursement scheme, free power to agriculture and taking up irrigation projects in the name of Jalayagnam etc.

However, Sharmila soon began to feel the heat of Telangana politics. She has realised that it is not so simple to attract the voters of the state by invoking YSR’s name and his welfare schemes, but she has to raise her voice to protect the interests of Telangana.

Reason is simple: Telangana sentiment is much stronger than YSR’s image and nobody knows it better than Telangana Rashtra Samithi president and chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, who exploited it to the hilt to come to power.

Whenever there are elections in the state, KCR widely uses “Telangana sentiment” as his weapon to decimate the political rivals. Even the Congress, which should have got the credit for granting separate statehood to Telangana in 2014 has not been able to cash in on the Telangana sentiment as much as KCR has done.

On the other hand, one cannot ignore the fact that Y.S. Sharmila hails from Kadapa district in Rayalaseema (Andhra Pradesh). Though she claims to be the daughter-in-law of Telangana, her roots are in Andhra Pradesh as she was born and brought up there. 

Her father YSR was a strong opponent of formation of Telangana state and while her brother Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP, of which she was a part till a couple of years ago, had taken a firm stand against bifurcation of combined state in 2014. 

Adding to things working against her is the Krishna water dispute that is causing a bitter fight between both the Telugu states. But, what keeps her confused and indecisive is that on one hand, her brother is the CM of AP who is fighting the Telangana government on the water-sharing issue and on the other hand, she is yet to launch a party in the same state. 

So, unless Sharmila comes up with a clear stand on what she wants to do in Telangana, her relevance in the state still remains a question mark for voters who may not really pay heed to her promises. 

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Tejaswini Pagadala

Communications Consultant: TEJASWINI PAGADALA is an independent communications consultant. She has previously worked with the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister’s Office as the Communications Officer where she has written English speeches for the CM, managed English media communication from the CMO and handled social media accounts of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and the Government.
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