In a no-holds-barred interview with TNM, YS Sharmila speaks about the plans for her party, and factors that influenced her decision to debut in Telangana.

YS Sharmila, dressed in a red sari, amidst a crowd By arrangement
news Interview Wednesday, March 10, 2021 - 19:04

Ever since YS Sharmila began meeting representatives from across Telangana, her office in Lotus Pond has been buzzing with activity. YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s daughter, who has maintained a low profile away from politics for seven years, is now preparing to take the plunge.

For 16 long months, between May 2012 and September 2013, while her brother Jagan Mohan Reddy was in jail in the disproportionate assets case, Sharmila was at the helm of affairs making up for her brother’s absence. When he contested elections in 2019 making a bid to wrest power away from Chandrababu Naidu, Sharmila, her mother YS Vijayamma and Jagan’s wife YS Bharathi were among YSRCP’s lead campaigners.

In her interaction with TNM, YS Sharmila opened up about her decisions in the run-up to the launch of her party in Telangana.

Once we were inside, YS Sharmila got up to greet us with a namaste and a bright smile. A huge map of Telangana was laid out on her table, which she pointed to often while speaking about the various districts in the state— and recollecting how her father’s initiatives brought development in those areas. Here are excerpts from the interaction.

What are your plans for your party and have you decided your strategy?

As of now, nothing much has been planned, we’re just taking it one day at a time. The whole agenda is going to be YSR’s welfare and development. I see a lot of anger among the youth.

How do you see the states of Andhra and Telangana in terms of welfare and development?

Andhra is doing alright. I don’t think welfare alone is enough, but for any major development, they don’t have the money and that’s again a big issue. The opposition is at least working in Andhra and that is good. As long as the opposition is working, the government will do its work. If the opposition doesn’t voice itself then the government is bound to sleep. This is what has happened here in Telangana. Telangana is a classic example of a failed opposition. KCR shouldn’t have killed Congress. In a democracy, it is important to let the opposition live.

Who are you looking to make a part of your party?

I would like to take a lot of youngsters as well as a lot of women. I also want a lot of people from the backward castes to be a part of the party. I think we need to change the whole system. We need to show the people that not all politicians and not all parties are bad.

When did you decide that it was time to take the political plunge in Telangana?

It has been on my mind since the COVID-19 pandemic started. The way it was handled was what triggered me. Nobody cared, and that’s how a pandemic was handled. During a pandemic, you have to assure the people you are with them and that you understand the public. As a Chief Minister you can’t shut your doors and sit inside your farmhouse. KCR was not even willing to test people to see how many are actually infected. You just shut down the testing system itself to show that not many are infected in the state. During the pandemic, the floods happened and that’s when I started making my enquiries about what people are feeling. That’s when I felt it’s the right time.

How did your family and those close to you react when you told them about your decision?

A lot of people advised me and told me that it's too bold a move and that I can’t do it. My own brother was one among them. My mother said she would support me in whatever I do.

Do you plan to remain only in Telangana or do you also eventually plan to move to Andhra as well?

Yes, I want to only be in Telangana. Jagan is doing a better job than Chandrababu Naidu. Except that I wish there was more development, I wish Andhra got special status, I wish they had fought more for the special status but that’s not under my control.

A lot of people claim that your party is BJP’s trump card. How do you react to such allegations?

Eventually I am going to condemn the TRS, I will condemn the BJP and I will also condemn the Congress and people will know that I am not with any of them. This is bound to happen. My priority is the people of Telangana. My father loved the people of Telangana. In his mind there was no Telangana, there was no Andhra and no Rayalaseema. He was like a father to all Telugu people. In his mind there was no split, the split happened after. My dad’s soul loves these people as much as he loves the people of Andhra. My concentration is Telangana. I believe that if the intention is right, god will work all things out.

What is your understanding of Telangana especially after the bifurcation?

The state got what they wanted, there is no going back now. Telangana is like a baby which is seven years old now. How you brought this baby up the last seven years — there is not much to say. Except for the pensions, I don’t see the people of the other sectors very happy. The seven-year-old baby you have in hand can grow up into a really healthy developed one. Going by what is happening now, I see a malnourished baby.  We are not seeing any welfare. Kaleshwaram project and Mission Bhagiratha are classic cases of corruption and the opposition is not even questioning it. 

The media speculated about a rift between you and your brother Jagan Mohan Reddy. Is there any truth in these reports?

Every family has differences. I think it's not something people should talk about. Politically speaking, his interest is in Andhra and mine is in Telangana. They have stated that they don’t want to affiliate with me, which is their choice.

Did you expect that the YSRCP would dissociate themselves from you?

No, it came as a surprise. There is so much I did for my brother. I mean of course there is no hard and fast rule that people should reciprocate, so it's fine. It’s their choice. But I did my best. I would like to be at peace with people. I would like to do good for people as much as I can. At the end of the day, that’s what matters. My dad was a very emotional person and I think it comes from there.

Will your husband have a role to play in your party?

Anil is not a political person. He prefers to be behind. He is an evangelist. But he is very supportive.

How do you respond to people who say that Rajashekhara Reddy did not allow the dream of Telangana's people to be fulfilled?

Rajashekhara Reddy was never against Telangana. In 1994 he had given a statement in the Assembly to the people who were for it. What he said was that united we stand a better chance as the largest state in South India. United, it would help get any benefits from the Centre. As a larger state, it was a bigger force he believed. YSRCP also never said they are against Telangana. YSRCP only asked the centre to fairly divide the state. We knew we had a huge following in Telangana and we cannot take a stand disowning them as these people were as important to us. Apart from loose talk, no one has any valid proof to say that I was against Telangana and this is because we were never against Telangana.

Your use of the phrase ‘Rajanna Rajyam’ created quite a ripple in the state. Did you expect such a response?

The first day I said Rajanna Rajyam, I said it with the right intention but a lot of people misunderstood me. I said it because in Rajanna Rajyam there was both welfare and development of the people. People misunderstood and made it look like I want to reign or I want to rule the kingdom.

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