Yedugiri Sandinti Sharmila Reddy, popularly known as Y. S. Sharmila has emerged as the X Factor, in the ongoing simultaneous State Assembly and Parliamentary elections in Andhra Pradesh, slated for May 13. The surging crowds at her rallies, besides in her spectacular roadshows and impromptu street-corner meetings, are sending shock-waves in the ruling Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP).

In the state, the contest is seen to be largely between YSRCP Supremo and State Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy and Bharatiya Janata Party-Jana Sena Party-Telugu Desam Party combine, led by N. Chandra Babu Naidu. However, Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) President Sharmila has now emerged as the third pole.

This new situation can drastically alter the dynamics of the ongoing elections, shaping the electoral outcome. By default, Sharmila’s efforts are bound to boost the electoral prospects of TDP leader N. Chandra Babu Naidu to storm back to power in Andhra Pradesh.

This is wholly unintended. Primarily, Sharmila is aiming for the Congress’ revival in Andhra Pradesh. Sharmila is also positioning herself as the alternative in the next General Election, due in 2029.

As the daughter of Dr Y. S. Rajashekhar Reddy, Sharmila challenges the claims of her brother and CM Jagan Mohan Reddy to their father’s legacy. Jagan has gone against his father’s fundamental ideology and secular outlook, by aligning with the BJP. Dr Rajashekhar Reddy was a Congressman to the core and never acted against the party policy and programme.

In her meetings, Sharmila reminds the people that it was the desire of her late father YSR to see Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Minister of India, since 2009. Her mission now is to “actualise her father's dream to see Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Minister”, Sharmila tells the enthusiastic and responsive crowds.

She never misses an opportunity to point out that Jagan Mohan is working contrary to YSR dream by aligning with the BJP.

Sharmila, who just turned 50, has a tough and unenviable task on her hands. The Congress has drawn a blank in the 2014 and 2019 elections, owing to the backlash following the Bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, when Telangana was carved out by the Congress-led UPA Government on June 2, 2014.

Sharmila’s task is two-fold. On the one-hand, she has to break the electoral jinx to help the Congress open its account in the ongoing simultaneous Assembly and Parliamentary elections in the State. Her other task is to electorally decimate the ruling YSRCP of Jagan Mohan, who aligned with the BJP, the party YSR fought all along.

Jagan Mohan built up his YSRCP, after hijacking the Congress leaders, cadre and the party voter base. In order to revive the Congress in Andhra Pradesh, Sharmila has to win back its leaders and cadres, and reclaim the party's traditional votebase.

It is for this reason that she is trying hard to reclaim the legacy of her father YSR, for the Congress. Sharmila is sharpening her attack on Jagan Reddy.

The YSRCP sitting MP Avinash Reddy is an accused in the murder of YSR’s younger brother Y. S. Vivekananda Reddy. The YSRCP is fielding Avinash again from Kadapa Lok Sabha seat, where Sharmila is making her electoral debut.

Vivekananda Reddy's daughter has been relentlessly seeking justice for her father's murder. "Jagan is shielding the accused and rewarding them with powerful political posts, which cannot be tolerated," Sharmila thundered at a rally.

Kadapa is the family bastion. YSR was an MP from Kadapa. Winning Kadapa is pivotal for Sharmila in emerging as heiress of YSR’s legacy. Linked to it is the larger plan of Congress’ revival in Andhra Pradesh. YSR talked of bringing back ‘Indira Amma Rajyam’, or Indira Gandhi Rule in Andhra Pradesh.

He wanted to see Rahul Gandhi becoming PM, on which rests the hopes of Andhra Pradesh getting Special Category Status. Rahul Gandhi has promised to implement Special Category Status for Andhra Pradesh, as BJP, YSRCP, Jana Sena Party and TDP have, in the last 10 years, failed to implement the assurance made on the floor of Parliament to grant Special Category Status for Andhra Pradesh.

Sharmila reminds the people that they have already seen what the TDP and the YSRCP can do. Andhra Pradesh has not been given Special Category Status. Polavaram Irrigation Project, declared a National Project, has not been completed.

Jagan Reddy did nothing to oppose Modi Government moves to privatise the Steel Plant in Visakhapatnam, Sharmila said. No efforts were made to secure the new Steel Plant in Kadapa or the new Railway Zone in Visakhapatnam. Capital City development has not been taken up in a big way, even 10 years after the Bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.

In her public meetings, Sharmila constantly goads the people to “open their eyes to reality”. She exhorts them saying their vote is a powerful weapon, as it can help change their future.

If leaders of different parties come and offer money, Sharmila asks the people to accept it, as it is their money, but tells them to use their discretion, while exercising their voting right.

The Congress Election Manifesto commits itself to implement Special Category Status for Andhra Pradesh. Besides, the Congress stands by its resolve to implement the package mentioned in Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act, 2014.

The argument is that as a State with Special Category Status, Andhra Pradesh would receive benefits such as Special Central Assistance grants, better financing terms for externally-aided projects, excise duty concessions and tax breaks to help attract investment. On this count, Sharmila holds the Modi Government, the TDP and YSRCP responsible for the great betrayal of Andhra Pradesh.