Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy's sister Y S Sharmila's decision to go on a statewide tour, days after she was appointed as the Congress president for the state unit has drawn a lot of attention.
Sharmila plans to visit all districts over a period of nine days, starting from Ichchapuram in Srikakulam district, that borders Odisha.
While this is not her first statewide tour in Andhra, (she has done it before for Jagan), this time it is different as she is part of the Congress, a party that locals are still believed to harbour discontent towards for its role in the formation of Telangana.
Sharmila is a well-known face but an important question on people's minds is whether she will be able to get Congress back as a pillar of Andhra politics. At the moment, it is not known where she will contest from in the Assembly elections that will likely be held along with the Lok Sabha polls.
Garnering support shouldn't be difficult for Sharmila as most people who admired her father, former chief minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy (YSR) but are unhappy with Jagan or his party, could join her.
One such person is Alla Ramakrishna Reddy, the YSRCP MLA from Mangalagiri, who recently joined the Congress and said that while he had a bitter experience in the YSRCP, he was a devotee and an ardent fan of YSR.
The fact is that there is considerable unhappiness in the YSRCP, especially with Jagan's move to change candidates through the appointment of district coordinators and in-charges for Lok Sabha seats and Assembly constituencies. Three MPs have resigned from the party since 10 January.
The other areas from which she could potentially draw some support are women voters and a section of Christians. Her husband, Anil Kumar is an evangelist.
However, the challenges ahead are considerable too. First, she may not bring anything different to the table compared to her brother, except for the support to make Amaravati as the only state capital.
The Congress is likely to come up with a welfare-model similar to what they offered in Karnataka and Telangana. Jagan's government is already known for having a plethora of such schemes.
Second, one of the reasons Jagan got massive support in the state was because he was seen to have rebelled against Sonia Gandhi for not making him the chief minister after the death of his father. Sharmila going back to Sonia may thus not be received well by the public.
While we do not know how exactly the political landscape will pan out in the next few months, the curve ahead for the Congress turns only upwards. It has nothing to lose but everything to gain because it currently does not have a single MP or MLA in the state.
S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.
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