While sexism isn’t new to the Telugu political landscape, it has adopted a new shade in Andhra politics with several YSRCP followers insisting that YS Sharmila, daughter of now deceased CM YS Rajasekhara Reddy and sister of the current Andhra CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, isn’t the rightful heir of her father’s political legacy. Social media platform ‘X’ has been flooded with the hashtag #MorusupalliSharmila, wherein Morusupalli refers to the surname of Sharmila’s husband Anil Kumar. While the YSR family belongs to the Reddy community and follows the Christian faith, Anil Kumar is a well-known Christian evangelist born into a Brahmin household. In an attempt to establish that Sharmila now ‘belongs’ to the Morusupalli family, leaving only Jagan to retain heirship to their father YSR, the hashtag has been liked and retweeted several times since she was announced chief of the Andhra Congress on January 21.
Several in the YSRCP have claimed that Sharmila, who will be taking on CM Jagan in the upcoming Assembly polls on behalf of the Andhra Pradesh Congress, has sullied the name of their father. At a public meeting in Vijayawada, Anil Kumar Yadav, a YSRCP MLA from the Nellore (city) constituency, remarked that Sharmila has become a pawn of the Opposition, namely the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). “As someone who has spoken about being YSR’s daughter time and again, we all need to question her. Don’t you think by joining Congress, you (Sharmila) will end up favouring TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu, YSR’s enemy?” he asked.
Many such statements by YSRCP leaders evidently hint at Sharmila’s apparent ‘lack of loyalty’ to her father’s legacy. The motive is to pit her against CM Jagan and claim that he is the rightful heir to YSR’s surname and political legacy.
YSRCP general secretary and Jagan’s advisor Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy also attacked Sharmila’s association with her father’s legacy at a press conference in Hyderabad. “The Congress party included YSR’s name in chargesheets relating to the disproportionate assets cases. Sharmila’s accusations against the Congress are still fresh in people’s memory,” he said. He further added that Sharmila might have received love as YSR’s daughter, but by moving away from Jagan and supporting the Congress, “the very party which destroyed Andhra Pradesh by permitting the bifurcation of the Telugu states”, she has no standing either as a politician or as YSR’s daughter.
Speaking to CM Jagan-owned Sakshi TV, YSRCP leader Roja said, “After ‘Rajanna (referring to YS Rajasekhara Reddy) died, Jagan brought back Rajanna Rajyam (rule) and continues to be the sole leader aiding the poor in Andhra Pradesh. Attempts by anyone else to stake claim will result in futility.”
Simply put, Sharmila has been criticised on three counts: for allegedly dishonouring her father’s legacy by siding with the Congress and inadvertently aiding the TDP, for criticising her brother, and for leading the Congress, the party which the Andhra electorate deems responsible for the bifurcation of the state. While the latter criticism has underlying political antecedents independent of the brother-sister tussle, it is worth noting that the first two claims rely heavily on patriarchal codes of conduct.
Jagan is the carrier of Rajanna’s legacy and Sharmila, as his sister, is expected to support him. Sharmila had also supported Jagan while he was jailed on embezzlement charges and campaigned for him until the 2019 Assembly polls.
Her decision to promote her father’s legacy as a political leader in her own right by heading the Congress party in Andhra that he once headed, is viewed as a ‘betrayal’. Interestingly enough, there was little to no critique against CM Jagan for allegedly sidelining his sister from Andhra politics despite several rumours hinting that Sharmila formed the YSRTP (a Telangana-based political party named after her father) in 2021, owing to Jagan’s lack of support in Andhra politics.
After founding YSRTP, Sharmila continued to bank on her father’s political legacy in Telangana too. At the start of her ‘Praja Prasthanam’ padayatra named after YSR’s yatra which catapulted him to success in 2003, Sharmila claimed that she would bring ‘Rajanna Rajyam’ to Telangana. In her time as a leader in Telangana since 2021, Sharmila was a vocal critic of the previous Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) led government, pulling them up for their use of excessive police force and criticising them repeatedly for their alleged corruption.
Sharmila merged her YSRTP with the Andhra Pradesh wing of the Congress and took over as the state’s Congress chief on January 21. Since then, YSRCP’s UK convenor, Dr Pradeep Reddy Chinta and several others from the party have criticised Sharmila on social media platform X with the hashtag #MorusupalliSharmila. The very use of the name ‘Morusupalli’ is gendered as it implies that with her marriage, she has departed from the YSR surname.
The criticism against Sharmila also alternates between her either being a ‘pawn’, a ‘betrayer’, a ‘homewrecker’ or a ‘dishonourable daughter’: all of which are supposed to be qualifiers of a woman who is not worthy of respect or political power.
The ‘fracture’ of the Reddy clan is further represented by Dr Sunitha Narreddy, daughter of deceased Kadapa MP YS Vivekananda Reddy joining Sharmila on Monday, January 29, as they visited YSR’s samadhi (resting place). It is worth recollecting that Sunitha has been fighting for justice since her father’s murder in 2019. The CBI has accused her cousin and Kadapa MP YS Avinash, and Avinash’s father YS Bhaskar Reddy, in the murder case. The opposition including TDP has accused Jagan of shielding them during the probe. With half the Reddy ilk on one side, Sunitha Narreddy visiting YSR’s samadhi with Sharmila further highlights the differences within the family.
Alternatively, with Jagan not outwardly critiquing his sister, the YSRCP is also painting the CM as a benevolent family man, a doting brother in comparison to Sharmila’s ‘so-called villainy’. YSRCP followers shared an old video of CM Jagan on ‘X’ where he refers to Sharmila as ‘not just his sister but his elder daughter’. The fact that Sharmila, in several of her public meetings for the Congress, has addressed Jagan as ‘Jagan Reddy’, the mocking moniker given by Telugu Desam, has also not been received well.
So far, Sharmila has criticised Jagan for breaking up the YSR clan and for not developing Andhra Pradesh. “God was the direct witness to the family breaking up. Another witness to it is our mother YS Vijayamma. Our entire family also witnessed it,” she had remarked. “Coming to Andhra, TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu is responsible for the first five years of misgovernance since the bifurcation and Jagan anna is responsible for underdevelopment since 2019,” she added at a meeting in Kadapa on Thursday, January 25.
“I am YSR’s blood. I am YS Sharmila Reddy and my son is YS Raja Reddy. I was born in the same hospital as CM Jagan in Jammalamadugu in the Kadapa district. The same blood which courses through his veins flows through mine too. But he changed after becoming the CM and sidelined the 18 Congress MLAs who stood by him,” she said.
“I intend to carry on the legacy of my father in his own party,” Sharmila added.