YSR Congress president Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s younger sister Y.S. Sharmila hereafter will play an active role in the campaign and political activities in the run-up to the next general elections two years away, as per the suggestions of poll strategist Prashant Kishor (PK), who has been roped in to assist the party come to power in Andhra Pradesh. Jagan’s mother, party honorary president and former MLA Y.S. Vijayamma, too, will appear in party election meetings. Not just that, even PK, too, will play a visible role in  internal meetings where he will interact with senior leaders, unlike in his past. Earlier, the strategist in his assignments with BJP, JDU and Congress in Lok Sabha and Assembly elections played a behind-the-scenes role.

Active roles for Sharmila and Vijayamma and the proposal for a six-month long “Padayatra” (walkathon), covering 3,000 km in all 13 districts are the major contributions of PK’s strategy to bring Jagan to power in the 2019 Assembly elections. Jagan’s father late YSR, too, held a 1,500 km long “Padayatra” before he came to power in 2004. Jagan’s “Padayatra” will commence on 27 October.

PK, who has taken up the task of offering election strategy for YSR Congress, the main opposition party in Andhra Pradesh—his first such assignment in south India—also came out in the open on the last day of the party’s two-day plenary at Amaravati on 9 July and was introduced to the vast gathering by Jagan. On the first day, Jagan introduced PK to all his senior leaders.

Jagan lauded PK as someone who helped Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Ministers Nitish Kumar and Captain Amarinder Singh “come to power”. However, PK could not help Congress win more seats in UP due to the party’s organisational weakness, Jagan explained. PK thanked Jagan for introducing him to the party leaders and cadre and promised to do his job.

Sources in YSR Congress who spoke to The Sunday Guardian in Hyderabad this week explained the major strategy points suggested by PK to the party. “Now nothing moves independently without being informed to and consulted with PK and his team,” said a party functionary, who is coordinating between PK’s team and the party leadership.

Bringing Sharmila and Vijayamma on to the centerstage is part of a suggestion made by PK, who made a similar proposal to Congress that it should assign a major role to Priyanka Gandhi in the UP elections. Of course, the party was wary of following his suggestion, given the organisational weakness in the northern state.

Sharmila, the 43-year-old daughter of the late CM Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, played an active role when Jagan went to jail in 2012. She along with her mother Vijayamma addressed dozens of rallies across Andhra Pradesh continuing her brother’s unfinished “Odarpu Yatra” (consoling families whose kin died of shock after YSR’s death in 2009).

However, Sharmila disappeared from the public scene once Jagan was released on bail and fought the 2014 elections to become the opposition leader. Vijayamma cut her public appearances in the party meetings, though she is its honorary president. Both the women clarified that they prefer Jagan to lead the party.

But sources said that PK wanted to rope in both Sharmila and Vijayamma to the centre stage again so that people can recollect how the family was persecuted by the then Congress-led UPA after the untimely demise of YSR in a chopper crash on 1 September 2009. Moreover, Sharmila’s presence in campaign will help win over women votes as she proved to be an effective orator.

Unlike the Congress leadership, Jagan accepted PK’s suggestion to bring Sharmila and his mother in the party campaign now on. Jagan also prepared a nine-point poll plank, based on consultations with PK and his team. The plank includes: 1. One- time dole-out of Rs 50,000 to all farmers who hold below five acres land on the first year and Rs 12,500 per year for the next four years. 2. Around 89 lakh women in self-help groups would be offered a loan waiver on outstanding amounts and interest free loans for the next five years thereafter. Jagan promised to write off total loans worth Rs 15,000 crore to women’s groups. 3. All old age and disabled persons would get their monthly pension enhancement from the existing Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000. 4. Every child will get a monthly scholarship of Rs 1,000 from Class 1 to Class 5; Rs 1,500 from Classes 6 to 10; and Rs 2,000 for plus two level and this is expected to benefit 40 lakh children in AP. 5. Free houses for 25 lakh families. 6. Improved healthcare scheme for 1.38 crore poor. 7. More funds for reimbursement of fees to 15.80 lakh students. 8. Completion of irrigation projects. 9. Phased prohibition.

YSR Congress leaders are ecstatic over the impact of PK on the party.

“He is a successful strategist and we will certainly benefit out of his suggestions,” YSR Congress senior leader and MLC Ummareddy Venkateswarlu told this newspaper. He said that the success of the plenary had filled confidence in the cadre that the party would come to power soon.

However, Andhra Pradesh Finance Minister and TDP politburo member Y. Ramakrishnudu dismissed PK’s impact as suggesting a lack of confidence on the part of Jagan in winning the next elections. “By roping in Prashant Kishor, the opposition leader has displayed his nervousness and anxiety in winning elections. We will repeat UP in AP (in proving PK wrong),” he said.


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