YS Jagan Mohan Reddy's sister Sharmila Reddy takes over
Clad in a salwar kameez and a pair of sneakers, Sharmila has already covered over 430 km out of targeted 3,000-km padayatra.
Reddy, Kadapa MP and son of late Congress iron man YS Rajasekhara Reddy, is in jail for the last 175 days, after he was arrested by CBI on May 27, for alleged disproportionate assets. Added to frequent defections of MLAs from Congress, TDP and TRS into YSR Congress, the long-term political ally All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) recently served a blow to Congress by withdrawing support to government.
An MP, who did not want to be named, said the senior Congress leaders at the Centre and state were acutely worried after seeing the massive crowds that Sharmila Reddy was drawing over the last month or so.
Clad in a salwar kameez and a pair of sneakers, YSR's daughter Sharmila has already covered over 430 km out of targeted 3,000-km padayatra in the last 32 days, helping the party consolidate its base.
K Nageshwar, an independent member of legislative council, said: "Since YSR Congress is the legacy of the late YSR, it now hardly matters whether Jagan is in jail or outside jail. It also hardly matters whether it is Sharmila or Vijayamma (widow of YSR). As long as the legacy has hold over the people, YSR Congress will continue to draw crowds. Of course, there should be a leader who capitalises on the legacy and translates it into votes. This was not there for the YSR Congress since it had no organisation and rank and file. Jagan was its sole leader. Now it has several leaders, defected from other parties, at various levels."
Jagan's aide and party leader Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy gives a large part of the credit on YSR Congress' gaining strength to Congress' scheme to pester Reddy.
"The more Congress harasses Jagan, the more YSR Congress consolidates in the state since majority people have accepted Jagan as YSR's political heir and believe only Jagan can deliver on both welfare and development fronts. Almost every family in the state was benefited by YSR's welfare and development schemes and they are hurt as most of the schemes were discontinued by the state government."
Reddy is slowly attracting leaders from Congress, TDP and TRS, helping the party strengthen the organization with rank and file across three regions of the state.
As Sharmila's padayatra continues, several more MLAs from Congress, TDP and TRS, who had already met Jagan in jail over the last few months, have announced their decision to join YSR Congress.
A sizeable part of the success of Sharmila's padayatra also goes to leaders and cadres defecting into YSR Congress from the ruling and opposition parties, admits a party leader.
Congress' attempts to appropriate the YSR legacy proved a dampener owing to weak leadership and the key opposition TDP also failed in capitalising on the situation and regaining image.