YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s recorded voice stars in YS Sharmila’s Kadapa campaign

Standing atop an open vehicle adorned with party posters, Sharmila addresses the gatherings, repeating the lyrics of her election song.

ByPTI

Published May 07, 2024 | 5:23 PM Updated May 07, 2024 | 5:29 PM

YS Sharmila.

By Laxmi Devi Aere

In the high-stakes battle for the Kadapa parliamentary constituency, Congress leader YS Sharmila Reddy is leaving no stone unturned to woo voters by invoking the political legacy and popularity of her late father, the iconic YS Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR), the former chief minister of united Andhra Pradesh.

Sharmila, who merged her party into the Congress ahead of elections, is taking on her cousin Avinash Reddy, the YSRCP candidate accused in the murder case of their uncle and the party’s senior leader, YS Vivekananda Reddy.

As Sharmila campaigns in the bylanes and streets of Proddatur, one of the seven Assembly segments under the Kadapa Lok Sabha seat, crowds swell to cheer the state Congress president when they hear the recorded voice of her father, who tragically died in a helicopter crash in September 2009.

“Namaste amma (mother), akka (sister), and paapa (child). Namaste, namaste to all,” the former chief minister’s voice greets the crowds, especially in the Muslim-dominated Jinha Road area. After the recorded voice stops, the party’s election song “O Sharmila, O Sharmila” plays like a Tollywood hit, sending the gathering into a frenzy.

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‘Sword forged in fire’

Standing atop an open vehicle adorned with party posters, Sharmila addresses the gatherings, repeating the lyrics of her election song, suggesting she was introduced to politics like a sword forged in fire. “I am the daughter of Dr Rajasekhara Reddy. Vote for me, make me victorious,” she urges as the crowd in Darga Bazaar cheers.

Sharmila accuses her opponent, Avinash Reddy, of being involved in the murder of her uncle and YSRCP leader Vivekananda Reddy.

“The CBI has named Avinash Reddy as an accused, but he is my opposing candidate. You should decide if you will vote for someone accused of murder or for me, the daughter of Rajasekhara Reddy, who always fought for the rights of the people,” she tells the crowd.

As her vehicle passes through another street of Proddatur, Sharmila occasionally waves and says “Namaste” to a large number of women voters, some burka-clad, while moving through the narrow streets.

At one stop, after her father’s recorded voice greets the crowd, she takes a dig at her brother, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, the incumbent Chief Minister, accusing him of aligning with the BJP and TDP chief and former chief minister Chandrababu Naidu.

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‘Obsessed with Naidu’

Sharmila again takes the mic and says, “This morning, I gifted a mirror to my brother to see his face in it and asked him if he saw himself or TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu, who he has been claiming is funding my election and the campaign. He is obsessed with Naidu.”

“I would like to tell you all that you should vote for Congress as this is the only party that is looking for change. Both Naidu and my brother Jagan are aligned with the BJP, so whoever you vote for will ultimately benefit the BJP. If you want to vote against the BJP, then you should vote for Congress,” she adds.

Again, her father’s voice comes on, a well-thought strategy to re-establish a deep connection with the people who have not yet forgotten their poor and farmer-friendly leader. It’s a voice that was recorded in the 2004 campaign. The iconic leader Rajasekhara Reddy is no more, but his voice lives on.

As dusk falls, Sharmila winds up her campaign appealing to people to bless her and vote for Congress on the 13 May polling day.

Sharmila has already covered all seven constituencies falling under the Kadapa parliamentary segment once.

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The contest in Andhra

The Congress is contesting 23 out of the 25 parliamentary seats in Andhra Pradesh, while its allies, the CPI and CPI(M), are contesting one seat each as part of the India bloc.

For the 175 state assembly elections, the Congress has fielded candidates from 157 constituencies, while the CPI, CPI(M), and CPI (ML) are contesting the remaining seats as part of the India bloc.

Sharmila’s campaign in the high-stakes Kadapa battle is a calculated effort to leverage her father’s enduring popularity and project herself as the rightful custodian of his political legacy.

Her strategy involves capitalising on Reddy’s voice recordings to forge an emotional connection with the people, while simultaneously positioning the BJP, which she accuses her brother and Naidu of aligning with, as the main opponent to rally against.

There are about 17 lakh electors in the Kadapa Lok Sabha segment, dominated by women voters of about 9 lakh. This constituency remained a Congress bastion till YSRCP emerged victorious in 2014.

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