Can Sharmila’s decision to contest independently impact Telangana polls? – Hindustan Times

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As the upcoming elections to Telangana assembly on November 30 are all set to witness a tough battle among the three main contenders – the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the impact of fringe parties like YSR Telangana Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BJSP) on the prospects of the principal contenders is being keenly watched.
On Thursday, YSR Telangana Party headed by Y S Sharmila, daughter of former chief minister of combined Andhra Pradesh Dr Y S Rajasekhar Reddy and sister of present Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, decided to contest all the 119 assembly seats in the state.
For the last four months, Sharmila had been holding hectic parleys with the Congress leadership with a proposal to merge her party with the grand old party.
Since Sharmila established her party on July 8, 2021 on the occasion of her father’s birth anniversary, no leaders worth mentioning, let alone former MLAs or MPs or even known personalities at the district level, joined her party. Even the small-time leaders who joined hands with her initially hoping that she would make some impact on the Telangana politics, made a silent exit from the party.
Yet, Sharmila carried on with her efforts to establish the party all over the state by undertaking a 3,800-km-long padayatra, albeit with a couple of breaks for a few months, hoping that she would emerge as a key player in the Telangana politics.
She even tried to hog media limelight by making controversial comments against the BRS leaders, particularly chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and his son K T Rama Rao, besides local MLAs, wherever she went. She even braved arrest by the police a few times, undertook intermittent hunger strikes; and the way the police toed away her vehicle with Sharmila inside even attracted the attention of national BJP leadership including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Yet, Sharmila did not get much traction among the people, as she had no leadership at the field level. Her only hope was that the people who had benefited from the welfare schemes of her father Y S Rajasekhar Reddy between 2004 and 2009 would form a solid vote bank for her.
In an interview to HT during her marathon padayatra in November 2022, Sharmila admitted that she was fighting with big mountains. “I know these are national, established and cadre-based parties and I am a small player. There is a long way to go. But I am here to stay and I am here to build my organisation, as I go deeper into the people,” she said.
However, as the elections to the Telangana assembly started approaching, Sharmila realised that she had no potential to fight the elections on her own. At the same time, she cannot withdraw from the contest, as it is a question of credibility.
Since her primary target was the BRS, she thought if she could join hands with the Congress by merging her party with it, she would be able to sustain in politics in the coming years. Soon after the Karnataka assembly elections in May this year, she revived her old contacts with senior leader and deputy chief minister D K Shiv Kumar and through him, she got in touch with the top Congress leadership in Delhi.
She held a series of negotiations with AICC general secretary K C Venugopal and even met Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi on August 31 and put forth her proposal to merge the YSRTP with the Congress. She even offered to keep away from Telangana assembly elections for now, if necessary, but she wanted a few seats for her followers.
“The high command acknowledged her interest in joining the Congress. No doubt, she carries the legacy of her father late YSR, who was a tall leader and an asset of the Congress from the day he emerged in politics, but the party wanted her services in Andhra Pradesh,” said Telangana Congress spokesman and senior vice-president Chamala Kiran Kumar Reddy.
He said in the last few months of discussions, the Congress high command offered her different positions at the national level and requested her to work in AP. “But her interest is in Telangana, where the Congress is strong and there is no space to accommodate her,” Reddy said.
Apparently, Sharmila’s plans to enter Telangana politics faced stiff resistance from the Telangana Congress leaders, particularly the party’s state chief A Revanth Reddy, who felt that it would be counterproductive to the party, as the BRS would immediately exploit the Telangana sentiment to their favour.
“No doubt, the Congress is indebted to YSR for his contribution to the party. But he was the one who strongly opposed the formation of Telangana state. During 2009 elections, he even went to the extent of instigating the Andhra people saying they might have to take Visas to enter Telangana, if a separate state was formed. How can we use YSR’s name in the Telangana elections now?” Reddy asked.
However, Sharmila flatly refused to go to Andhra Pradesh to fight against her own brother Jagan Mohan Reddy. “Secondly, the Congress is a virtual non-entity in Andhra Pradesh, as it had not won even a single assembly or Lok Sabha seat in the last two terms and its vote share was just 1.29%, which was less than the vote share of 1.5% of NOTA. She won’t be able to do anything in Andhra,” a party functionary said.
Moreover, Sharmila had floated the party in the name of Telangana and if she runs away from the battle field and moves to Andhra, she will lose her credibility. “For good or bad, she has decided to confine herself to Telangana and test the waters,” the party functionary said.
According to political analyst and author Sriram Karri, there might not be much impact of Sharmila’s decision to contest all the assembly seats in the state. “At the same time, it cannot be ruled out completely, especially in the constituencies where there is a keen contest and the victory margin of the candidates will be a few hundred votes,” he said.
For that to happen, Sharmila has to field potential candidates in the elections. She has invited applications from ticket aspirants for all the 119 seats, but going by the lack of the party’s organisational network, it is unlikely that she might get any good candidates to fight the polls.
Another important point is that YSRTP is only a registered party but not a recognised party by the EC; so, it is doubtful whether her party will get a common symbol to fight the polls.
While she has announced that she would contest from Palair assembly constituency, where there is a good number of Andhra settlers, she could not name any candidates in other constituencies. “If necessary, my mother Vijayamma will also contest the elections,” she said.
Another political analyst and former Osmania University professor K Nageshwar said Sharmila should not have wasted four months of precious time before the elections in the name of holding negotiations with the Congress. “After undertaking an arduous padayatra for over a year, she had wasted an opportunity to project herself a serious contender,” he said.
Having failed in her attempts, Sharmila would now not be able to make any impact on the elections. “She has not got the traction from the people even after such padayatra,” Nageshwar said.
Karri said Sharmila’s experiment in Telangana would be as good as the contest by Jana Sena Party headed by actor Pawan Kalyan in Telangana. “Both of them have no political ground in the state,” he added.
Srinivasa Rao is Senior Assistant Editor based out of Hyderabad covering developments in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana . He has over three decades of reporting experience.


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