Telangana, Andhra Congress lukewarm to union with YS Sharmila’s party
While a few see her Andhra origins as a problem in Telangana, Andhra Congress fears that Sharmila’s entry may at best damage TDP and benefit YS Jagan rather than strengthen the Andhra Congress | File photo

Telangana, Andhra Congress lukewarm to union with YS Sharmila’s party

At a time when even a petty leader’s entry is celebrated, news of the Sharmila-Sonia meet has not caused any joy in the Congress in Telangana or Andhra Pradesh

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YS Sharmila, daughter of the late YS Rajasekhar Reddy (YSR), may have decided to merge her two-year-old YSR Telangana Party (YSRTP) with the Congress. But call it an irony, most people in the Congress in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are not enthused by the development.

Sharmila, along with her evangelist husband Anil Kumar, called on Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi on Thursday, reportedly to finalize the modalities of the merger.

A lot is being said about the deal. There is talk that Sharmila would be nominated to the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka. According to media reports, she could get more than a dozen seats for her supporters in Assembly elections in Telangana. Some say she would be appointed an AICC general secretary with a mandate to campaign in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

But Telangana and Andhra Congress committees are not going overboard about the news of YSR’s daughter coming back into the fold of the Congress after nearly 12 years. The Congress and the YSR family fell apart when the former refused to name incumbent YS Jaganmohan Reddy as YSR’s successor chief minister after the latter’s death in a helicopter crash in September 2009.

No enthusiasm

At a time when even a petty leader’s jump into the party is celebrated, the news of the Sharmila-Sonia meeting has not created any joy in the party either in Telangana or Andhra Pradesh.

Though renowned social scientist Prof. Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd saw in Sharmila the courage of Kakatiya queen Rudram Devi (1262-89), folk goddesses Sammakka and Sarakka, the opinion in the party in Telangana and Andhra over the much-talked-about merger is divided.

Not many in the party are enthusiastic about a Congress-YSRTP merger. While a few see her Andhra origins as a problem in Telangana, Andhra Congress fears that Sharmila’s entry may at best damage TDP and benefit YS Jagan rather than strengthen the Andhra Congress.

“In Telangana, the regional sentiment is still an issue. The BRS may invoke her Andhra origins and the anti-Telangana history of the YSR family to brand the Telangana Congress as a party led by an Andhra leader. Chief minister KCR did it in the 2018 election when the Congress and TDP were in alliance. Now, there is an all-around acknowledgment that the Congress is poised to come to power in the state. We cannot let any force play spoilsport,” said a TPCC leader and added that this had been conveyed to the party unambiguously.

Congress stirrings

That Sharmila is not welcome in the Telangana party was amply made clear by PCC chief Revanth Reddy. Knowing well that she is interested in contesting from Palair constituency in Khammam district, Revanth has invited Khammam’s BRS rebel Tummala Nageswar Rao to the Congress.

Denied a BRS ticket, Tummala wants to enter the fray as an independent in Palair. By inviting Tummala, a Palair MLA, Revanth’s plan is to foreclose Sharmila’s chance to contest from the constituency as a Congress candidate.

Sharmila took everyone by surprise when she announced her entry into Telangana politics in 2021 by floating the YSR Telangana Party. Many thought she was deployed by her brother and Andhra Pradesh chief minister Jaganmohan Reddy to split the anti-establishment vote in favour of chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao while a few others saw the BJP behind her.

Very few thought that the denial of share in property and power by Jagan forced her to try out her luck in Telangana by glorifying YS Rajasekhar Reddy's rule between 2004 and 2009.

She took a virulent anti-KCR stand which drew enough public attention. But after the Karnataka Assembly election, she seemed to have realized that the Congress was the right platform and she could become its leader by merging her party with it.

Shivakumar’s help

She is said to have taken the help of DK Shivakumar, deputy chief minister of Karnataka, to gain the confidence of Rahul and Sonia Gandhi. Negotiations for the merger began after the Congress assumed office in Karnataka. The result is Sharmila’s meeting with Sonia Gandhi on Thursday.

A statement on the merger is expected after the September 2 death anniversary of YS Rajasekhar Reddy or YSR, who was the most powerful chief minister united Andhra Pradesh had before its break-up.

A section of Congress leaders fears that Sharmila’s entry into Telangana Congress is bound to create a new power centre against PCC president Revanth and she would become a rallying point for anti-Revanth forces in the party.

Similarly, a senior Andhra Congress leader said her campaign in the state may not bring much mileage to the party. “Andhra Pradesh is polarized between YSRC and TDP supporters. And Congress is not a force. If Sharmila were to campaign against Jagan, who would it benefit? She would split TDP votes and unwittingly help her own brother,” he said.

The leader is of the opinion that Jagan’s return to power in 2024 may not help the revival of the party by any force let alone YSR’s daughter. “The Congress could gain some breathing space in Andhra only when the TDP is in power. The Congress party cannot be revived as long as Jagan is in power,” he said.

Family feud

Only a small section of the Congress in the two Telugu states is, however, happy to see Sharmila back in the party.

How long can Sharmila sustain a hostile stand against Jagan?

“There appears to be differences in the family over sharing of property and power with Sharmila. This is reason enough for her to take on Jagan with a vengeance. But a possibility for a rapprochement cannot be ruled out,” said Yanamala Nagireddy, a senior journalist from Kadapa.

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