Y.S. Sharmila set to join Congress, YSR Telangana to merge with INC

YS Sharmila, the estranged sister of Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, is poised to join the Congress ahead of the state elections

Y.S. Sharmila's political party, the YSR Telangana Party, launched in 2021, will merge with the Congress (photo: IANS)
Y.S. Sharmila's political party, the YSR Telangana Party, launched in 2021, will merge with the Congress (photo: IANS)

Suresh Dharur

In a significant development in poll-bound Andhra Pradesh, the YSR Telangana Party is all set to join the Indian National Congress tomorrow, 4 January.

The party is named after Y.S. Sharmila, the estranged younger sister of chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy. Sharmila, who is the daughter of the former Congress chief minister of combined Andhra Pradesh, the late Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, is leaving for New Delhi this evening (3 January) to hold discussions with the Congress high command on her future role in the party.

The YSR Telangana Party, which she launched in neighbouring Telangana in 2021, will be merged with the Congress. “The formal announcement of the merger will be made tomorrow in the presence of the party’s central leaders,” party sources said.

Sharmila, who had a bitter fallout with her brother soon after his Y.S.R. Congress Party (YSRCP) stormed to power in Andhra Pradesh in 2019, is likely to be entrusted with a key position in the Congress to lead the Assembly election campaign in Andhra, where simultaneous elections to the assembly and the Lok Sabha will be held in April–May.

Sharmila’s induction is expected to give a big boost to the Congress, which faced back-to-back poll debacles in 2014 and 2019. The Grand Old Party had to face the wrath of Andhra voters at the hustings for granting separate statehood to Telangana.

However, the resounding electoral victories in Karnataka and Telangana have boosted the morale of the Congress and raised the party’s hopes of a revival in Andhra Pradesh. The entry of 50-year-old Sharmila, who has a considerable mass following, may well be the game changer the party needs. There is a buzz in Congress circles that she could be appointed the state party chief to lead the poll campaign too.

This would pit her against her brother, whose government is already battling a strong anti-incumbency and growing dissidence in the party following his decision to replace several sitting MLAs in the coming polls.

“Sharmila is likely to emerge as a rallying point for the YSRCP rebels. Already, there are signs of some of them leaving the party,” senior political analyst S Ramakrishna said.

Battle for YSR’s legacy

In this event, the state is set to witness a sibling war to claim YSR’s political legacy. The friction within YSR’s family, which led to Jagan and Sharmila parting ways, is bound to become a talking point in the run-up to the polls.

Sharmila has been nursing a strained relationship with her brother ever since he denied her any role in his party fearing that she might emerge as a parallel power centre. The YSRCP came to power in Andhra Pradesh in the 2019 elections. The tussle within the family had forced Sharmila to move to neighbouring Telangana and launch her own party.

Good old times

There was a time when Sharmila played a key supportive role when Jagan was jailed in 2012 in connection with the alleged illegal assets case. As general secretary of the fledgling YSRCP, she carried out extensive campaigning on behalf of her brother for the by-elections held that year.

In October 2012, she undertook a 3,000 km padayatra from her village Idupulapaya in Kadapa district to Ichachapuram in Srikakulam. Ahead of the 2019 elections, she went on a 11-day bus yatra through Andhra Pradesh in support of her brother.

However, the differences cropped up after 2019, when her supporters demanded a ‘respectable position’ for her in the party. However, Jagan was said to be averse to his sister coming into active politics.

Support for Congress in Telangana

Staying away from contesting the Telangana assembly polls, held on 30 November, Sharmila’s party extended support to the Congress to avoid a split in the opposition votes.

Last month, at a meeting with the party president Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi and other seniors in New Delhi, an overwhelming number of leaders from Andhra Pradesh favoured Sharmila’s induction, saying it would help rejuvenate the party ahead of elections.

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