Y S Sharmila (centre)
Y S Sharmila (centre)

Anything can happen in cricket and politics in India. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said so during the Maharashtra state assembly polls of 2019 and the events that followed. On February 9, something very unpredictable happened in Hyderabad at the Lotus Pond residence of Andhra Pradesh CM YS Jaganmohan Reddy. When he was in jail, Jagan’s youngest sister and star campaigner Sharmila had declared in the presence of the followers of her late father and former AP CM YS Rajasekhara Reddy that she would launch a political party in Telangana and said she would soon disclose the details. Though there was speculation in a section of the local media, no one was sure whether Sharmila would launch a political party. But why should she launch a political party, that too in Telangana?

There are many theories going around. The first is that Sharmila is upset that her brother did not give her any important position in Andhra. If this theory is correct, why would she launch a party in Telangana but not in Andhra? The fact that she announced her political party from the Lotus Pond residence of Jagan, proves this theory is baseless. The second explanation is that Telangana CM and TRS supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) himself asked Jagan to launch a political party through Sharmila. Consider this theory, purely for academic discussion.

Reddy votes

What benefit would KCR get were Sharmila to launch a political party in Telangana? The argument is that Sharmila would attract the votes of the Reddy community, a formidable political force in Telangana and other sections, which are unhappy with KCR. By diverting the votes that may be polled against the TRS, Sharmila’s party would help divide the anti-incumbency votes in the state. This also has some flawed logic. Why would KCR unnecessarily adopt the dangerous strategy of helping the rise of another political outfit, which may or may not deliver the electoral goods the way he wants? Moreover, the danger looms large that Sharmila’s proposed party may well eat into the TRS votes, predominantly between the Reddys and Christians.

The third theory, that the BJP is sponsoring the entire Sharmila episode, has some deductive logic. In the recent Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) polls and earlier, in the assembly bypoll in Dubbaka constituency, the BJP did exceedingly well by winning the Dubbaka assembly segment and an impressive number of seats in the GHMC. This amply proves that wherever there is discontent against the TRS and wherever people have seen the BJP as an alternative, they have voted for it. Since the local Congress has failed to show itself as an alternative to the TRS, the BJP has been able to make inroads.

YSR Telangana Party

Now that there are signs of regrouping among the powerful Reddy community leaders who are traditionally Congress supporters, it is important for the BJP that the Congress should not gain but commit political suicide. By making Sharmila launch a political party, the erstwhile CM YSR followers, especially from the Reddy community, will throw their weight behind Sharmila’s party. It will have a dual impact. The anti-TRS Reddy community leaders, followers and their supporters will ditch the Congress and rally behind Sharmila’s party. The second advantage is that the Christian community in Telangana will solidly support Sharmila’s party.

To the uninitiated, YS Rajasekhar Reddy’s family have converted to Christianity. Sharmila’s husband, who now calls himself Brother Anil and is a popular Christian missionary, was born a Brahmin. He runs a Gospel Mission with considerable following in both Telangana and Andhra. Thus, Sharmila’s party will not only help make a Congress-mukt Telangana, but will also have a detrimental affect on TRS. This will mean Advantage BJP in Telangana. In the 2023 assembly polls, they may prove to be an alternative to the TRS. This theory appears to be plausible. Moreover, there were reports that BJP might use the services of Brother Anil to make Christians rally behind him in the Southern states, where there is a considerable Christian population.

Sources close to Sharmila say that she may formally launch the party, YSR Telangana Party, on May 14, the date when her father was sworn in as the CM of the then united Andhra Pradesh in 2004. Sharmila is also expected to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

Telugus rediscovering Gurajada Appa Rao, thanks to Modi

Gurajada Venkata Appa Rao was a noted Telugu and English playwright, dramatist, poet, and a writer known for his works in Telugu theatre. Rao wrote the play Kanyasulkam in 1892, which is considered the greatest play in the Telugu language till date. In 1910, Rao scripted the widely known Telugu patriotic song, ‘‘Desamunu Preminchumanna’’ (Love your country), and it was published in a collection of poems titled Mutyalu Saraalu. From this collection, Prime Minister Narendra Modi quoted a piece while giving a speech on the Covid vaccine rollout in January. His speech quoting Mahakavi Gurajada became an instant hit with Telugus all over the world, nationwide and in the two Telugu states. After PM Modi’s reference to Gurajada, a majority of Telugu people, especially the Internet-savvy younger generation, have been googling Gurajada and his poems.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Hyderabad.

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