Ahead of the Telangana election all eyes are on the Congress as it bids to consolidate votes against the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi by reaching out to opposition leader YS Sharmila. The YSR Telangana party leader met the Congress‘ Sonia and Rahul Gandhi in Delhi but she has since then neither confirmed nor denied speculation of a merger.
Also, despite repeatedly saying her focus is on Telangana, there is buzz that Ms Sharmila – who is Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s sister – may cross family lines next year, when her brother’s state votes.
“Met Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi… constructive discussions took place. The daughter of YS Rajasekhar Reddy will work relentlessly towards benefitting the people of Telangana,” she told reporters after talks with the Congress leaders, declaring, “I can say one thing… countdown for KCR (Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao) has begun.”
Ms Sharmila stressed her “one-point agenda is to end KCR’s rule in Telangana”.
The daughter of a former Congress chief minister, YS Rajasekhar Reddy, Ms Sharmila started the YSRTP in July 2021 with a promise to bring the YSR family, or ‘”Rajanna Rajyam” to the state – one in which both she and her party are electorally untested. As part of efforts to fulfill that vow, she went on a 3,800-km march through Telangana to target the ruling party.
“All my efforts are for Telangana. I am doing everything to improve the condition of the people.. so they benefit from the formation of Telangana,” she said after the Delhi trip.
“No Idea”, Says YSRTP
Interestingly, when contacted, YSRTP spokesperson Konda Raghava Reddy said the party’s senior leaders were unaware of Ms Sharmila meeting the Gandhi family in Delhi.
The YSRTP boss has, in the recent past, met other Congress leaders, including now-Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar and General Secretary KC Venugopal. The talk then was around securing a Rajya Sabha seat or help in taking on her brother in Andhra Pradesh.
Mr Reddy has distanced himself from his sister’s political activities. After his father’s death he had broken away from the Congress to launch the YSR Congress Party in September 2009 and he did not attend his sister’s party’s launch.
How Would YSRTP + Congress Work?
If Ms Sharmila does, in fact, merge with the Congress, it could help consolidate anti-BRS votes in pockets where she has emotional appeal, especially among YSR loyalists. She may want to contest from Palair in Khammam, where the Congress has some influence but may need to a profile boost. Alternatively, she may also run from Secunderabad.