The plans by former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s daughter Y.S. Sharmila to enter Telangana politics came as a surprise, leaving all major players in the state guessing on what impact it may have on their prospects in 2023 Assembly elections.
Sharmila, sister of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, is the first leader from Andhra Pradesh after Telugu Desam Party (TDP) President N. Chandrababu Naidu to dabble in Telangana politics since its formation as a separate state in 2014.
Aiming to bring back “Rajanna Rajyam”, a reference to the ‘golden rule’ of her late father, Sharmila is planning to float a new party to make foray in Telangana politics.
Her intention has puzzled all as both the YSR Congress Party, led by her brother, and the TDP have become almost inactive in Telangana as they are seen outsiders in the new dynamics of state politics which revolve around regional identity and aspirations.
As the YSRCP itself has distanced itself from Sharmila’s move, political observers say it will be a herculean task for her to float and sustain a new party.
Sharmila, who began consultations with loyalists of her late father on Tuesday, believes that there is scope for a new player in Telangana politics. “There is no Rajanna Rajyam in Telangana. I want to bring it,” she said and claimed to have received positive feedback during the first meeting with YSR loyalists from Nalgonda district.
She plans to hold similar meetings with YSR loyalists from other districts to know ground realities and understand the situation before announcing her next course of action.
Political analysts say Sharmila may not find many takers for ‘Rajanna Rajyam’ in the new political realities of Telangana as the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) claims to be spending a whopping Rs 40,000 crore every year on welfare schemes.
Many of these schemes including free electricity to farmers, scholarships and Rajiv Arogyasri or health insurance for poor were launched by Rajasekhara Reddy, popularly known as YSR, who was Chief Minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh between 2004 and 2009.
Several leaders cutting across party lines have already reacted to the development to say that there is no role for an “outsider” in Telangana.
Analyst P. Raghava Reddy pointed out many in Telangana still believe that YSR was the hurdle in the formation of a separate state. “They think though (Congress President) Sonia Gandhi and Congress high command was in favour of bifurcation, it was YSR who halted the process when he was the Chief Minister,” he said.
The agitation for Telangana picked momentum after YSR’s death in a helicopter crash in 2009.
“Much has happened since 2009, and political dynamics in Telugu states have changed drastically. So, Sharmila starting a political party in Telangana might not yield great results now,” he said.
What is more baffling is that Sharmila initiated steps to foray in Telangana politics despite her brother advising her against it.
Andhra Pradesh government advisor and key leader of YSR Congress, Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy, admitted that there is difference of opinion between Jagan and Sharmila.
The YSRCP could win just three Assembly and one Lok Sabha seats in Telangana in 2014 and since then Jagan’s only priority was Andhra Pradesh.
All YSRCP leaders and workers in Telangana have since joined the TRS or the BJP.
The YSRCP leadership gave up the idea of reviving the party in Telangana in view of ground realities including the dispute between two Telugu states over irrigation projects on Krishna and Godavari rivers.
It is not clear what stand Sharmila will take on the contentious projects.
The timing of Sharmila’s move also sparked intense speculations in political circles. Opposition BJP and Congress took no time to blame Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao while the ruling party maintained that there is no alternative to it.
It triggered debate as to who will benefit from the proposed outfit or whose prospects will be hurt in 2023 elections.
A resurgent BJP, which has gone aggressive after its recent victory in Dubbak Assembly by-election and impressive performance in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation polls, sees KCR behind Sharmila’s move to split anti-incumbency votes.
BJP’s Telangana unit Vice President N.V.S.S. Prabhakar alleged that KCR is formulating new political equations in the state due to his falling popularity and to ensure that he returns to power.
He claimed that senior Congress leader K.V.P. Ramchandra Rao has come to KCR’s rescue and is behind Sharmila’s decision to form a party.
“There’s a clear possibility that both KCR and Jagan have sponsored this new party with pre-emptive political designs. However, the BJP is confident that people of Telangana State have already decided to vote against KCR’s misgovernance and no such political gimmickry will save the TRS from losing power in the next assembly elections,” said BJP spokesman K.Krishna Saagar Rao
Congress too blamed the TRS chief. Telangana Congress Working President and MP A. Revanth Reddy called it “an arrow from the armoury of KCR”. He believes that this was done to damage the prospects of the Congress.
Political analyst Raghava Reddy too feels that Sharmila’s new party could be an attempt to attract powerful Reddy community towards her and in the process, split the pro-Congress vote.
“Both the TRS and the BJP would be wary of Congress which has a strong traditional vote bank. The TRS and the BJP might think that anti-incumbency vote will go in favour of the Congress party, and they need an alternate factor to hurt prospects of the grand old party,” he said.
He believes that Sharmila’s party may also influence other traditional Congress voters like Scheduled Castes and Christians.
The TRS, however, claims it faces no rival. Backward Classes Welfare Minister Gangula Kamalakar said there is no alternative as long as KCR is around. “People of Telangana are happy with the TRS and KCR. Why will they accept others who will be bringing factionalism and other problems to the state,” he asked.