Can YS Sharmila-Led Congress Impact Andhra Pradesh's Electoral Outcome? Yes & No

By assuming the responsibility of reviving the AP Congress, she is pitted against her brother YS Jagan Mohan Reddy.

5 min read
Hindi Female

The politics of Andhra Pradesh will see a big churn with YS Sharmila taking charge as the state Congress chief, notwithstanding the possible electoral fallout of this turn of events. By assuming the responsibility of reviving a decimated Congress in Andhra Pradesh, Sharmila is now directly pitted against her brother YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, the president of the ruling YSR Congress and the chief minister of the state.

Sharmila had parted ways with her brother well before she jumped into the Andhra Pradesh political cauldron. She had undertaken a walkathon in support of Jagan when the latter was jailed on corruption charges. Back then, she had described herself as 'Jagan's arrow'.

But owing to family disputes, she deserted the YSR Congress. In 2021, she launched her own outfit in the neighbouring state of Telangana with the blessings of her mother YS Vijayamma, who, by then, had resigned as the YSR Congress' honorary president.

Her return to the state in a face-off with her brother could result in multiple shifts in the political landscape of Andhra Pradesh. Will she be able to revive the Congress in Andhra? Will she join hands with the Opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP)-Jana Sena Party alliance? And how will her entry affect Jagan and his party?


The Telangana Episode & Congress Entry

Despite undertaking a walkathon in Telangana and running a bitter campaign against the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) – without even sparing the Congress and the BJP – Sharmila soon realised that Telangana was not ready to 'accept' her; her YSR Telangana party proved to be a damp squib.

She then chose to merge her party with the Congress in 2023 and sought a role in Telangana politics. But owing to strong resistance from a major section of the party in the state – including now-Chief Minister and state Congress chief Revanth Reddy – Sharmila was compelled to join the Congress by working for Andhra Pradesh.

The party, which was left battered and bruised in Andhra Pradesh for bifurcating the state against the wishes of the people of that region, found new hope in Sharmila. Thus, the 'marriage of convenience' between Sharmila and the Congress was a win-win situation for both.

The Congress' vote share was below the votes fetched by NOTA in both the 2014 and 2019 elections in AP, as the people of the state were not ready to forget and forgive the party, especially for the manner in which the state was bifurcated. Many Congress leaders had defected to the YSR Congress led by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, who was, by then, riding on a sympathy wave due to the tragic and untimely death of his father and popular chief minister YS Rajashekhara Reddy.

Jagan's revolt and the woes of bifurcation proved to be a double whammy for the grand old party, which could be in power at the Centre twice primarily with the support of MPs elected from this region.


Can Congress Make a Comeback? 

However, Sharmila is unlikely to affect a sudden and spectacular reversal of electoral fortunes for the Congress for a host of reasons.

  • Neither the Congress nor Sharmila has any compelling political narrative to capture the imagination of the Andhra Pradesh electorate. Her political flip-flop of launching a party in Telangana by projecting herself as being committed to that region may have made things worse for her.

  • The Congress is too anaemic to be energised by even Sharmila, especially in such a short period of time, as the state goes to polls in the next couple of months.

  • The politics of Andhra Pradesh is extremely polarised between the YSR Congress and the TDP-Jana Sena combine. The latter is wooing the BJP into its fold, too. Such a polarisation would shrink the space for any other party.

  • Sharmila-led Congress is caught in a Hamletian dilemma of to be or not to be a part of the TDP-led Opposition bandwagon. The first hurdle, of course, is the lack of clarity over the BJP. The saffron party is still not clear on taking a call on the TDP-Jana Sena invite to join the Opposition combine. Both Chandrababu Naidu and Pawan Kalyan are keen on roping in the BJP rather than the Congress into their alliance as they hope to fight Jagan with the support of Narendra Modi.

  • Sharmila will have to claim her father's political legacy as her campaign will be centred around the narrative 'Bless Rajanna Bidda'. But Jagan is fully entrenched in giving little or no space to his sister when it comes to the YSR legacy. It is still not clear what stand their mother YS Vijayamma will take in Andhra Pradesh, though she was fully with Sharmila in Telangana.

  • With YSR's legacy as her electoral plank, she will find it difficult to join the TDP in any electoral alliance, as both Chandrababu Naidu and Rajashekhara Reddy were archrivals. In fact, she already faces a tough situation to undo her own campaign during her innings in the YSR Congress. She had then alleged that the Congress had tried to obliterate her father's legacy and had abandoned the YSR family despite the fact that the late leader was instrumental in catapulting the Congress-led UPA regime in Delhi.


On the Flipside...

Even so, Sharmila still poses a big challenge to her brother and is expected to make a discernible impact on the electoral outcome of Andhra Pradesh.

Ground reports suggest that Jagan is unlikely to retain the overwhelming electoral support that he enjoyed in 2019 when he won 151 out of 175 seats in the state Assembly. The contest became much more challenging with the greater index of Opposition unity as the TDP and the Jana Sena forged a formidable alliance.

In a frantic bid to overcome the anti-incumbency, Jagan undertook a mission to replace a sizable number of sitting legislators. Jagan was, perhaps, taking a leaf out of the bitter experience of his friend and BRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao. But such a massive exercise is resulting in the exit of several party MLAs and MPs.

The process is still on. A section of such leaders are expected to see hope in Sharmila. The TDP-Jana Sena combine cannot accommodate YSR Congress dissidents as there is intense competition for seats within the alliance.

Thus, YSR Congress dissidents are expected to resurface as Congress nominees in the ensuing polls. As Sharmila leads the Congress, these leaders find it politically compatible to join the grand old party as true followers of YS Rajashekhara Reddy.


With the spectacular victories in neighbouring Telangana and Karnataka, the Congress hopes to perform relatively better in the ensuing elections to both the state Assembly and the Lok Sabha. In fact, the Congress will, perhaps, perform better (at least in terms of vote share) in the Lok Sabha elections, though both are held simultaneously.

Meanwhile, both the YSR Congress and the TDP failed to fight the Narendra Modi-led BJP regime for the non-implementation of promises made to the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh at the time of bifurcation. In fact, Congress was the author of assurances made in the Bifurcation Act and promises therein including a Special Category Status to the beleaguered state post bifurcation. Sharmila-led Congress could capitalise on this narrative.

Given the acute polarisation, any small shift away from the YSR Congress to Sharmila can do significant damage to Jagan. However, the only hope for the YSR Congress is that it would prove to be a beneficiary if the Sharmila-led Congress makes a dent in the Opposition (TDP-Jana Sena) vote share.

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