Interview | 'Modi controlling CM Jagan': Sharmila reveals Congress plans to defeat cousin Avinash Reddy in Kadapa

Sharmila has been spearheading the Congress flag in AP where the party bagged less than 2 per cent of vote share in the last elections

By Sri Lakshmi Muttevi  Published on  6 May 2024 12:55 PM GMT
Interview | Modi controlling CM Jagan: Sharmila reveals Congress plans to defeat cousin Avinash Reddy in Kadapa

Kadapa: Sticking her head out YS Sharmila, the president of the Congress party in Andhra Pradesh, has put herself in one of the boldest yet risky election battles against her cousin brother and three-time YSRCP MP YS Avinash Reddy in Kadapa Parliamentary constituency.

Sharmila has been spearheading the Congress flag in AP where the party bagged less than 2 per cent of vote share in the last elections. Ever since she announced her candidature, Kadapa has turned out to be a seat to watch out for.

Unlike other constituencies, where the battle is political, here in Kadapa it is personal as well. During a visit to Kadapa, NewsMeter found pamphlets with the face of late YS Vivekananda Reddy (a picture of his body) were being circulated as part of Sharmila’s election campaign. Sunitha Reddy, the daughter of Vivekananda Reddy, was at times seen accompanying Sharmila in her campaign.

In a conversation with NewsMeter on her campaign trail for the Lok Sabha polls in Jammalamadugu, Kadapa, where she was born, Sharmila spoke about her reasons for contesting this seat, her campaign and how she plans to revive the Congress party in Andhra Pradesh and about the state (United Andhra Pradesh) who elected her father late YS Rajasekhara Reddy as chief minister twice.

NM: What made you contest from Kadapa?

Sharmila: I belong here and I was born here. Considering all the natural reasons, Kadapa is the seat for me. However, initially, I was not very keen on Kadapa. But it was the wish of my late uncle YS Vivekananda Reddy, five years ago, that I should contest from here.

In fact, just a few weeks before he was (allegedly) murdered in Pulivendula, he had come to me and insisted that I contest from Kadapa. He was quite aggressive about it. I should say I was never ambitious so but now it has come to this point where it’s become important that I contest from Kadapa. It’s been five years since my uncle was 'murdered' and the CBI named Avinash Reddy as the main accused. I do not think it is right on the part of my brother and chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy to be protecting him for the past five years.

When the CBI went to arrest Avinash Reddy in Kurnool, the government deployed its own police officers and their gundas and there was a kind of a law and order situation. For three days, the CBI was trying to arrest him but returned empty-handed. That’s the kind of power that my brother is using or abusing.

I am pained by the fact that Mr Avinash Reddy was given the ticket. Again, I do not think that people involved in the murder of my own uncle should be pitted for the MP. So, I strongly oppose this.

NM: In a recent interview with the national media, the chief minister said that he’s sad because you’re likely to lose your deposits. He claimed that you’re being 'remote controlled' by the TDP indirectly. Your thoughts?

Sharmila: That’s quite offensive. When Jagan Mohan Reddy is saying he is so pained that his own sister is going to lose her deposit, then my suggestion is, why field a murderer? Might as well let your sister win. If your pain is genuine, that is, which I believe is not.

I believe it is not because my own cousin, Avinash Reddy, his father and his uncle defeated my uncle Vivekananda Reddy in the MLC election in 2017. I do not think that’s the reason for it. Mr Jagan is just pained by the fact that I am opposing him for natural reasons because he doesn’t like anybody to raise a voice against him. Regarding me being 'remote controlled' or the Congress being remote controlled by Mr Chandrababu Naidu, there is no need for that because Congress is a national party and it was Mr Jagan who tried to persuade the Congress to not invite me. He even offered his help after the elections.

He actually made an offer saying that if you do not take Sharmila Reddy into Congress then you stand the chance of getting YSRCP’s support post-election. This was what Mr Rahul Gandhi very sternly refused. So, we are not the ones who are being 'remote controlled' by Chandrababu or anybody else for that matter. It is in fact, Mr Jagan who is being controlled by the BJP party, by Modi himself, I should say.

Because in the past five years, you see how Mr Jagan has acted at the behest of Mr Modi at every given point in time. Take any given point in time. Take any instance; there is a Gangavaram port in Andhra that was given to Adani at the behest of Mr Modi.

There was the Rajya Sabha MP given to Mr Ambani’s aide at the behest of Mr Modi and for every bill in the Parliament. Jagan Mohan Reddy has unconditionally supported the BJP including the one on the Manipur issue even though it was the one against Christians where a woman was paraded naked and many were murdered brutally. Even there, Mr Jagan Mohan Reddy unconditionally gave support to the BJP. So, in the past five years, we have seen Mr Jagan’s political career is controlled by Mr Modi.

NM: In the last elections Congress consolidated close to two per cent of vote share. What is your strategy to build up this vote base?

Sharmila: I’m doing my best, I should say, to increase the vote share to a double digit and we have not spared any effort since the time I took charge two months ago.

We have tirelessly worked at every level, the district level, the constituency level, even some villages we touched and I think Congress is picking up. However, I should admit that it will take time. But this time we are going to increase to a double digit and we are surely winning Kadapa and a few other Assembly seats.

NM: What are your promises for Kadapa?

Sharmila: I am very confident that Congress is going to come to power in New Delhi and that Andhra Pradesh is going to get the special status it craved for 10 years.

So, my promise is that Congress will come to power and I will be at the helm of affairs bringing the capital funds for the capital and the special status. But God forbid if that also doesn’t happen then I’m going to raise my voice in the Parliament and I’m going to continue to fight for the people of Andhra, not only here, but even in the centre and even in the Parliament.

I’m going to raise my voice for the special status, for the capital, for Polavaram, for the Kadapa steel plant especially. So, I’m going to represent my people faithfully. And I promise to stay here, be available to them, move party base here and work for them diligently as my father YS Rajasekhara Reddy did.

NM: In Karnataka, the Congress has offered free bus travel for the women. So has Telangana. The TDP-Jana Sena alliance here have also promised the same thing. Do you think in a way they have picked it from the Congress manifesto in Telangana?

Sharmila: Have they copied the manifesto? I think so because it’s very evident that women should feel more secure in a public space. A bus is something open to all and the front section is reserved for the women. So, the women are more comfortable in buses now. Yeah, I think this scheme was picked up from Karnataka.

NM: The BJP has its eye on the 129 seats South India has. How many seats do you think the BJP is likely to bag in the South?

Sharmila: I think the South is a major problem for the BJP. I think this time even the North is going to show a massive difference to the BJP. I don’t think the BJP will not get more than 250 seats or a little more than that.

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