The shadow of a murder looms large over the Kadapa Lok Sabha election in Andhra Pradesh. Ruling Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) Lok Sabha candidate Y. S. Avinash Reddy, a cousin of State Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, is an accused in the murder of his uncle late Dr. Y. S. Rajashekhar Reddy's younger brother, Y. S. Vivekananda Reddy.

Taking the battle into the enemy camp, Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) President Y. S. Sharmila Reddy is seeking election from Kadapa Lok Sabha constituency. Polling in the state is scheduled for May 13.

Raising the pitch against her own sibling and state Chief Minister Jagan, who is backing his Lok Sabha Candidate Avinash, Sharmila has turned the Kadapa Lok Sabha election into a prestige contest. Invoking her slain paternal uncle Vivekananda, she said it was his dream to see her contest for Lok Sabha from Kadapa.

The murdered Vivekananda's daughter Y. S. Sunita Reddy has extended her support to her cousin Sharmila. Sunita has also declared that the two shared a common objective, which is the ouster of the Jagan-led YSRCP Government in Andhra Pradesh.

Interestingly, the Telugu Desam Party-Jana Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party combine may end up as the biggest beneficiary of the Congress’ high-voltage campaign as the Congress retrieves its old votebank from the YSRCP.

Sharmila is adopting a step-by-step approach. She has to win back the Congress vote, cadre and leadership, before she can make a determined bid for power in the next election in 2029. The Congress has been drawing a blank both in 2014 and in 2019. Her modest goal presently is to open Congress’ account, both in the state Assembly and Lok Sabha.

A chasm that existed between the brother and sister, Jagan and Sharmila, for over five years, has only widened. During the election, their mother, Y. S. Vijayamma, chose to move to the United States, unable to side with either of her two warring children.

Sharmila was herself the biggest votary of her brother Jagan. She had undertaken a 3,200 km long Padayatra in 2012-13 to help her brother Jagan Reddy to become the Chief Minister in Andhra Pradesh, who eventually succeeded in 2019.

Soon after coming to power on the strength of the work done by his sister Sharmila, Jagan Reddy was quick to distance himself from his sister. Sharmila was not given any assignment, post or responsibility, either in the party or in the state government. She aspired for a nomination to the Rajya Sabha, which too, was denied to her by Jagan.

Now, Sharmila is determined to hit her brother where it hurts him the most, by chipping into the YSRCP votebase, the traditional votebase of the Congress. She is wooing back the Congress cadre that shifted over to the YSRCP in the past 10 years. After the elections, she hopes the senior Congress leaders, too, would return to their parent party.

After an attempt at trying her political fortunes in the neighbouring Telangana, where she launched the YSR Telangana Party, she changed track.

Sensing greater opportunity in Andhra Pradesh, Sharmila decided to merge her party with the Congress and try her political fortunes in her home state, staking claim to YSR’s legacy.

Sharmila was quick to challenge Jagan on his claims to the legacy. Sharmila says that YSR’s dream was to see Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Minister, and that all through his life, YSR opposed the BJP.

Jagan, on the other hand, opposed Rahul Gandhi and the Congress and has been backing the BJP by extending support in all elections, and in the passing of all Bills in Parliament.

After storming to power on the promise to compel the Modi Government to grant Special Category Status to Andhra Pradesh, Jagan not only gave a miss to his pre-poll agenda, but is said to have ended up as “the hatchet man of Prime Minister Modi.”

In her campaign speeches, the APCC President never fails to mention the unfulfilled agenda of the Bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh to carve out Telangana in 2014.

The Congress had unveiled a Special Package in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act, 2014, which has not been implemented either by the TDP from 2014-2019, or by the YSRCP from 2019-2024, with the BJP at the helm in the Centre.

“You have seen them both, give the Congress a chance”, she repeatedly tells her audience. Elsewhere BJP may mean Bharatiya Janata Party, but in Andhra Pradesh it only means Babu-Jagan-Pawan, playing cohorts to Prime Minister Modi,” Sharmila said.

“The Congress-led Government at the Centre alone can implement the Special Package for Andhra Pradesh”, she tells the people.

The Special Package unveiled in the AP Reorganization Act, 2014, includes Special Category Status for Andhra Pradesh with Tax Incentives, which alone can attract investments that can generate employment avenues in the state.

The Capital promised by the Centre was never built, with Chandrababu Naidu only building temporary buildings and Jagan abandoning it completely. The Polavaram Irrigation Project was taken up as a National Project, but it has not been completed in 10 years.

The Centre has not given Special Packages for North Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions. The Railway Zone in Visakhapatnam, Steel Plant in Kadapa and Dugarajapatnam Port were not established. The Vizag-Chennai Industrial Corridor, too, was never started.

Sharmila sparkles in her campaign, even as she seems to be fighting what appears to be a losing electoral battle. When she assumed stewardship of the APCC, she had no illusions and took up the stewardship of the party that has only 1.7 percent vote share. She decided to take the plunge, ready to build the party brick by brick in a state, which was once its bastion.

With patience and age on her side, the 50-year-old Sharmila is ready for a long haul, confident that ultimately her efforts and hard work will be crowned with success.