Hyderabad, June 3: Her father died in his prime. Her brother needs her to campaign for him. And she hasn’t said no.
On Thursday, she just went out and hit the road.
No, it wasn’t the dusty battlefield of Amethi but faraway Andhra. And the young woman at the centre of all the attention was the late Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy’s daughter Sharmila.
The 34-year-old has been canvassing for her brother Y.S. Jaganmohan’s party since May 31, hitting the campaign trail four days after a court sent her 39-year-old sibling to judicial remand in an assets case.
Smart and articulate, she introduced herself as “YSR’s daughter” and Jagan’s “younger sister”.
A former Congress minister couldn’t help drawing a comparison with another — though more famous — younger sister, whose father’s life too had been cut short in his prime.
“Sharmila will do a Priyanka for Jagan,” said K. Ramakrishna.
Priyanka Vadra, who is younger than Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, had campaigned for her brother in Amethi and also during the last Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
Sharmila, who has a clean image, didn’t take long to hit it off with the crowds when she campaigned with her mother Vijayalakshmi for the June 12 bypolls to 18 Assembly seats and one parliamentary constituency.
“My brother is innocent and new to politics, attracted by the avenues available to serve the people,” she told a cheering crowd during one of her speeches as she toured West and East Godavari.
That was after she had introduced herself, saying: “I am YSR’s daughter, Jagan’s younger sister. My name is Sharmila.”
After Jagan’s arrest on May 27, Sharmila’s campaign was the first big boost for the YSR Congress.
She didn’t disappoint with the punch lines, too, using the style of her late father who had guided the Congress back to power for a second term in Andhra before his death in an air crash.
“It’s high time we bring back Rajanna rajyam (YSR rule) and make Jagananna the chief minister,” she told the crowd.
When YSR campaigned, his speeches invariably ended with a reference to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. “It’s high time we bring back Sonia rajyam,” he would say.
Former minister and YSR Congress candidate Pilli Subhaschandra Bose said he would like Sharmila to campaign even if Jagan was released on bail. “She has a formidable following among youths and women,” he added.
“If it comes to campaigning, we would rather have more of Sharmila than Jagan,” said a campaign manager at Rajahmundry town.
But Sharmila’s focus was her brother. “My brother will walk out from jail victoriously and fight for you. He will solve all your problems just like my father did,” she said.
When YSR was alive, he always considered Sharmila’s presence a good omen. “Where is my motherly daughter,” he would say.
In a Facebook post, he said his “lovely daughter” filled him with “happiness” by “telling that my victory was not guaranteed by the leaders but by the people who need me most”.
Sharmila is married to evangelist Anil Kumar, who has been accused of misusing government machinery in launching himself as an alternative to another televangelist, K.A. Paul.
A company owned by Kumar is also alleged to have benefited from land grants, which were later cancelled by governments that succeeded YSR’s.