Roadblock for Chandrababu in yatra war - The New Indian Express

Roadblock for Chandrababu in yatra war

Published: 28th Oct 2012 11:40:01 AM

Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu, who hopes his 2,200-km padayatra through Andhra Pradesh will be the route to power has hit a new roadblock. The veteran politician with a knack for aggressive rhetoric seems stymied by Sharmila — the young and sprightly sister of YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, who is after Naidu with an even more ambitious padayatra of over 3,000 km to demolish the TDP chief’s political goodwill. Being an unknown quantity, and a young woman whose popularity seems to be going north rapidly, he is at a loss for words how to attack her. “Why is she doing padayatra? What else is left in the state for Jagan to plunder?” is the only feeble question he can ask.

After declaring that she is an arrow released by her brother, Sharmila is proving to be good in the walkathon game; there is a spring in her step. She is comfortable with people of all age groups: she listens to the older women with affection; shakes hand with the younger ones; kisses children; and assures engineering students that better days are ahead when they complain that college fee is not being reimbursed by the government.

Though Sharmila’s padayatra organisers and even her mother said that the purpose of the padayatra was to focus on how late YSR’s welfare schemes were being watered down under the Congress dispensation, 38-year-old Sharmila appears to be keen on tearing Naidu apart since the YSR Congress considers him as its principal political adversary and not the Indian National Congress. When Sharmila took her first big step at Idupulapaya on October 18, a huge crowd collected at YSR’s family estate. A leader of the YSR Congress, in Freudian slip, said: “Sharmila is going to make Chandrababu Naidu’s yatra irrelevant.” He was unwittingly making public the intention of her yatra. However, analysts feel that if Naidu can improve TDP’s vote percentage, even by about say four percent, it would play havoc with Jagan’s prospect to capture power.

During his padayatra, Naidu was enthused by the response from people, but his enthusiasm appeared deflated when Sharmila announced that she would hit the roads as well. When she finally did on October 18 with a big bang, Naidu knew that he was the target and Sharmila was trying to ensure that there would be no roadblocks for her brother to come to power in 2014 elections. Naidu was quick to retaliate: The TDP said that people at Sharmila’s meetings in Kadapa district were Jagan supporters. But that she even drew crowd in Anantapur district has made the TDP worried. “I admit she is drawing crowds. We are examining it carefully. How much of this would contribute to her political benefit remains to be seen,” said one TDP leader who didn’t want to be named, though claiming Naidu too was drawing crowds and people are talking about him once again. “I heard people talking about Naidu developing muscle cramps and sympathising with him for taking up the daunting task at the age of 63,” he said.

Though Sharmila is attacking Naidu every day, the TDP leader does not talk much about her since there is precious little they can say. Sharmila is too young for him to attack; and she was never in public life. So, Naidu's target is Jagan Mohan Reddy and the YSR family that had allegedly brought disrepute to the state by plundering wealth for their personal benefit. He keeps harping on how Jagan, officials and ministers going to jail or being listed as accused. “It is because of Jagan that the chief minister may one day have to hold his Cabinet meetings in Chanchalguda prison in future,” Naidu quips frequently.

Naidu has “retired hurt” after he sustained an injury when the dais from which he was speaking collapsed last Friday. He has been advised by the doctors to take rest. If Naidu cools his heels in hospital, he runs the risk of ceding ground to Sharmila. He, therefore, is keen to hit the trail fast.

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