Sharmila, the new star of AP politics
The 38-year-old, forced to take the plunge due to circumstances, has donned the new role with aplomb.
With her elder brother and president of YSR Congress Party Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy being jailed in the illegal assets case, the mantle of carrying forward the fledgling party fell on her.
She is now on a 3000-km long walkathon across the state. The mass contact programme has been drawing huge crowds, making Sharmila a household name in the state.
Clad in salwar kameez and sporting sneakers, Sharmila walks breezily, covering 15-20 km a day, interacting with villagers en route and addressing meetings in towns. Adopting the mannerism and oratory style of her charismatic father, she has successfully struck an emotional chord with the people and her speeches focus on how the present Congress government was trying to erase the memory of her father, who was killed in a helicopter crash in 2009, defame his family and block the political career of Jagan by framing false charges against him.
Sharmila introduces herself as daughter of YSR and sister of Jagan. She goes on to talk about her mission to expose the misdeeds of the Congress and its nexus with the main opposition Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu to neutralise Jagan.
Sharmila made it clear that she was just filling in for her jailed brother. “I am doing it for my father, my brother and the people who had faith in them,” says Sharmila while admitting that politics was not her cup of tea. However, she said she was touched by the love and affection showered on her by the people during the walkathon, called “Maro Praja Prasthanam” (another journey to the people).
Her public speeches, highlighting the failures of both the present Congress government and the Naidu regime in the past, appear to be well orchestrated with a fair sprinkle of jibes at Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy.