Sharmila's YSR Party Won't Contest Telangana Assembly Polls, Offers Support to Congress

Only a fortnight ago, the YSR Telangana Party had announced that it would contest across the state after its merger talks with Congress broke down.

Hyderabad: The YSR Telangana Party (YSRTP), headed by former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajashekar Reddy’s daughter Y.S. Sharmila, has announced its decision to not contest the upcoming Telangana Assembly elections. The YSRTP’s decision comes close on the heels of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) pulling out of the race.

In a letter to Congress’s top leader Rahul Gandhi, YSRTP has expressed its unconditional support to the Congress party.

Illustration: Pariplab Chakraborty

Sharmila, who had huddled with party leaders earlier on Friday, noted in the letter that the decision was taken to ensure that all like-minded parties put up a joint fight against the “misrule” of chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR). According to Sharmila, since Congress stands a chance of winning, her party’s participation in the upcoming elections would dent the Congress’s vote share.

Sharmila also based her decision not to contest on the ground that she was the true heir to the legacy of her father Rajasekhara Reddy who steered Congress to power in Andhra Pradesh twice in 2004 and 2009. So, she said she did not want to be seen as contributing to the defeat of Congress by splitting the anti-incumbency vote.

The YSRTP party has done a volte-face in withdrawing from the contest as it had threatened to contest in all 119 Assembly constituencies of Telangana only a fortnight ago. Sharmila had then said the party waited long enough expecting a favourable response from Congress to the YSRTP’s merger after personally taking it up with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in Delhi a few months ago. On the suggestion of Gandhis, she had waited enough but there was no response.

The visit to Delhi by Sharmila and her husband Anil was preceded by hectic preparations by the YSR party to contest elections with the sole aim of defeating the ruling KCR’s Bharat Rashtra Samiti. Sharmila said she herself would contest from the Palair constituency in the Khammam district.

Sharmila was not known to be nursing political ambitions until serious differences arose with her brother and Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy three years ago. She organised a public meeting in Khammam in 2021 to announce her plans to enter public life.

On July 2 the same year, the YSR Telangana party was launched in Hyderabad. This was immediately followed by a dinner meeting hosted by her mother Vijayamma for colleagues of her late husband across parties to seek blessings for Sharmila. Since many leaders who worked with Rajasekhara Reddy were in the present ruling party in Telangana and did not want to be identified with her, all notable personalities gave it a slip.

Sharmila shot to fame with her 3,100 km padayatra in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh when Jagan was in jail in a disproportionate assets case in 2012-13. She also campaigned for the YSR Congress party of Jagan in his absence on account of imprisonment in byelections of AP. Jagan’s party then won 15 out of 18 Assembly constituencies and Nellore Lok Sabha constituency that went to polls.

After confining herself to home for five years on Jagan’s release from jail, she again played a role in the victory of the YSR Congress Party in elections to the AP Assembly in 2019 that saw the rout of TDP of Chandrababu Naidu.

It was then that differences arose in the family with Sharmila reportedly demanding her share in the cake after the party formed government in AP.

It was reported that Sharmila decided to be a power centre herself, but in Telangana when she fell out with Jagan. She then undertook a 3,800 km padayatra in Telangana, her second walkathon, for over a year from October 2021.

She received a good response from the public but it was stopped by the government on a couple of occasions on grounds of provocative speeches against the chief minister. She resumed the yatra with conditional permission given by the court but was forced to terminate it once more following her arrest by police in Mahbubabad last year. Ever since, she had voiced her intention to contest from Palair where the Congress has fielded former Khammam MP Ponguleti Srinivas Reddy for the current elections.