'No Vote Split': Decoding Sharmila's Potential Alliance With Telangana Congress

Will Sharmila help increase Congress' chances against the ruling BRS and the BJP in the upcoming Assembly polls?

Hindi Female

Ahead of the Telangana Assembly elections later this year, the Congress party is looking to join hands with YS Sharmila, the president of the YSR Telangana Party (YSRTP) and the daughter of the late Congress leader and chief minister of united Andhra Pradesh, YS Rajasekhara Reddy.

While rumours abound that Sharmila would either disband her party – which she had floated in 2021 – and join the Congress or merge it with the party, YSRTP sources told The Quint that she is hoping for an alliance.

"She [Sharmila] doesn't want to merge YSRTP or join the Congress, she wants an alliance. But discussions are still underway," a senior YSRTP leader told The Quint.

Sharmila met top Congress leaders, including party general secretary KC Venugopal, recently, after which she reportedly held a meeting with senior YSRTP leaders to discuss the 'alliance'.

The YSRTP leader also said a meeting with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is on the cards – and a decision regarding the 'alliance' is likely in the next two days.

What will this mean for both parties in the upcoming Assembly elections? Will Sharmila help increase Congress' chances against the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)?


BRS & Telangana Sentiment

Forty-nine-year-old Sharmila, who is also the sister of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy, has been making her presence known in Telangana through her 3,800-km Praja Prasthanam Padayatra across the state – a feat that made it to the India Book of Records recently.

For the ruling BRS, however, Sharmila has been a rabble-rouser, who has been arrested or placed under house arrest multiple times over the past two years. But at the same time, her party is perceived by the BRS as "inconsequential" owing to her Andhra roots.

Will Sharmila help increase Congress' chances against the ruling BRS and the BJP in the upcoming Assembly polls?

Sharmila was placed under house arrest and stopped from visiting Gajwel constituency last week.

(Photo: X)

A BRS leader had previously told The Quint on the condition of anonymity that Sharmila, being of "Andhra origin," would "stir the Telangana regional sentiment and that it could help the BRS."

It is precisely due to this that some leaders in the Congress fold are apprehensive about joining hands with Sharmila.

Speaking to The Quint, Congress' Telangana Campaign Committee head Madhu Yashki Goud said that some Telangana Congress leaders are worried that BRS chief and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao "would use the Telangana sentiment to say that an Andhra leader cannot rule the state again."

They fear that this narrative would affect the party's prospects, Goud said.


But Goud tols The Quint several other Congress leaders believe that it is unlikely that the Telangana sentiment would move voters this time.

"KCR himself has renamed his party as Bharat Rashtra Samithi. He is actively campaigning in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. He is no longer the champion of the Telangana cause."
Madhu Yashki Goud, Congress leader

Alliance or Merger?

It is, however, unclear whether the Congress is expecting her to join the fold, merge her party with it, or opt for an alliance.

"If Sharmila becomes a part of the Congress, she is part of a national party. We would need her not just in Telangana, but Andhra Pradesh as well – because YSR has a base in both Telugu states and even Karnataka," a Congress leader, on the condition of anonymity, said.

The YSRTP leader said, "She's not interested in AP. She formed the party in Telangana. If she had any interest in AP, then why would she do that?"

Moreover, fighting for the Congress in AP would mean that Sharmila may have to take on her own brother and AP CM Jagan Mohan Reddy and the ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP).

Will Sharmila help increase Congress' chances against the ruling BRS and the BJP in the upcoming Assembly polls?

Sharmila in Paleru constituency on the occasion of her father's birth anniversary on 8 July.

(Photo: X)


YSR Fanbase

With Sharmila's help, the Congress aims to tap into the strong YSR fanbase in Telangana.

YSR was known for winning united Andhra Pradesh back from the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) for the Congress in 2004. His popular welfare measures, which still hold a benchmark in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, won him a second term in the CM's office in 2009.

"YSR is a hardcore Congressman, one of the tallest leaders the party has ever seen. Sharmila herself grew up in a Congress atmosphere. She has said in the past that it was her father's dream to see Rahul Gandhi as the prime minister," Goud said.

Will Sharmila help increase Congress' chances against the ruling BRS and the BJP in the upcoming Assembly polls?

YS Rajasekhara Reddy with Rajiv Gandhi.

(Photo: X)

However, in the previous elections, the YSR loyalists in Telangana backed the BRS (then Telangana Rashtra Samithi) owing to the Congress' poll-alliance with the rival Telugu Desham Party (TDP).

The YSRTP leader said that Sharmila now enjoys the support of these YSR loyalists in Telangana.

"As per our survey, she has support in 43 constituencies. In the last two years, YSRTP has grown. YSR died nearly 13 ago, but even after the Telangana movement, people have not forgotten him and his policies."

'Want To Avoid Vote-Splitting'

A few months ago, Sharmila said the YSRTP would contest the Telangana elections alone. So, why did she change tack?

"If we contest the polls alone, we expect to get 5-10 percent of votes. But that will only benefit the BRS. From the beginning, we have fought against the government and the government policies. Why will we help them indirectly now?"
YSRTP leader

In addition to her father's voter base, Sharmila, being a Christian, enjoys some support from the community, which accounts for 1.37 percent of Telangana's population, as per the 2011 census.

Her husband, Anil Kumar, is a pastor in Telangana.

Speaking to The Quint previously, a senior Congress leader, on the condition of anonymity, said:

"Sharmila is a Christian and she has the backing of her husband. Her calculation is that she would attract Christian votes in the state. These votes, which would not have gone to the BJP anyway, were the Congress' votes."

Moreover, Sharmila is expected to win the support of Dalit Christians, who are traditionally Congress voters in the state. "A large percentage of Christians in Telangana are Scheduled Castes. The Dalit Christian votes could swing her way even if it's by a small percentage," a Congress leader had told The Quint earlier.

In other words, Sharmila contesting alone would do more harm to the Congres than the BRS or BJP.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from south-india

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More