Life isn’t easy for the family of late YSR Reddy, but they have not given up. With her brother Jagan Mohan Reddy stuck in jail, pending the CBI investigation into his assets, YSR’s 34-year-old daughter Sharmila Reddy has tasked herself to walk for over 3,000 kilometres from Idupulapaya in Kadapa district to Itchapuram in Srikakulam district, from October 18. Called the Maro Praja Prasthanam (another great journey for people), the walk is aimed at boosting the fledgling YSR Congress that cannot wait for Jagan to come out of the jail and take up the cudgels, more so when former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu is criss-crossing the state with his band of followers on his 117-day Vastunna Meekosam Padayatra.
“Sharmila as Jagan Mohan Reddy’s sister, has the eligibility to undertake yatra on his behalf, though she does not have any position in the party,” her mother YS Vijayamma said. The Congress reacted to Sharmila’s and Chandrababu’s padayatras on expected lines. “What purpose will their yatras serve? They have no power to sanction even one rupee. Their yatras will not help people in any way,” Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy said.
It may take about five to six months for Sharmila to reach Itchapuram. The distance is the longest for anyone to undertake a padaytra. When YSR took up the yatra in 2003, it was named Praja Prasthanam. It began on April 9, 2003 at Chevella in Ranagareddy district, and ended at Itchapuram in Srikakulam district on June 15, 2003 — that is 68 days.
The YSR Congress felt that Sharmila is the best bet in the present circumstances, since she has the ability to cast a spell on the audience. Her crowd-pulling abilities came to the fore while she campaigned for the by-elections in 18 Assembly and one Lok Sabha seats in last June.
Her brother Jagan Mohan Reddy was arrested by the CBI towards the end of May, while he was in the midst of election campaign; the responsibility of continuing the campaign then fell on Sharmila who rose to the occasion. “I am Rajanna’s daughter and Jaganna’s younger sister. My name is Sharmila,” this was how she introduced herself to the people during her election campaign in June which she kicked off from Srikakulam district after her brother’s arrest; and the crowd went into hysterics. Sharmila, accompanied by her mother, had whipped up a strong sympathy wave for her brother which helped him garner massive number of votes in the by-elections, though he was sitting in the jail.
According to YSR Congress leader Konathala Ramakrishna, the response has been tremendous to the announcement that Sharmila would undertake the padayatra. “We are being flooded with calls from all parts of the state to ensure that she would traverse through their areas,” he said.
According to sources, Jagan Mohan had hoped to get bail from the Supreme Court, since he is in jail for more than 90 days as an undertrial. He was contemplating to take up the yatra himself so that the party would be in fine fettle by 2014. He had even worked out details of the route for his padayatra. But the Supreme Court asked him not to move the bail petition till the investigation gets over. “As Jagan Babu is still in jail and we do not know when he would get bail, Sharmila volunteered to take upon the yatra. As and when Jagan gets bail, he would take over from Sharmila and continue the padayatra,” Vijayamma said.