It is a rare occasion that by-elections of any kind attract national attention or significance. The eighteen assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat that go to polls in Andhra on the 12th of June have all the makings of a political tsunami.
Much has already been written on the political events leading up to these bypolls starting with YSR’s untimely death, his son’s rebellion against the Nehru-Gandhis and the split within the Andhra Pradesh Congress.
Much has also been written of the events leading up to the campaign for these bypoll seats once held by YSR loyalists starting with the CBI’s arrest of individuals associated with Y.S. Jagan and individuals who transacted business with his Father’s government. That sequence of events reached its logical conclusion with the arrest for the first time of a serving Cabinet Minister in the Kiran Kumar Reddy lead Congress Government and finally with the sensational arrest of Y.S. Jagan himself.
Here is where the story has taken an unforeseen, climatic turn – a turn perhaps Jagan himself did not anticipate would happen.
#1 The CBI through relevant Court orders has essentially shut Y.S. Jagan completely out of this campaign by boxing him in Jail and in their custody for repeated interrogations
#2 The plan to to make Y.S. Jagan’s mother Vijayamma the face of the campaign in his absence didn’t quite pan out as envisaged
Instead in an anti-climatic manner, while Jagan cools heels in Jail, Andhra has witnessed the rise of his sister Sharmila (married to tele-evangelist Br. Anil Kumar).
To be honest this blogger attributed frequent news reports on the impact of his sister’s campaign to the usual hype withing news reporting. That was until this campaign stop in Tirupathi.
Two things stood out from her final campaign stop in Tirupathi:
#1 – The size of the crowd
#2 – More importantly the spontaneous response of the crowd
A little probing on YouTube revealed similar scenes from other campaign stops.
Her campaign speech from stop to stop doesnt vary at all. She mostly sticks to the script, delivering the same lines. There is some improvisation in the body language and the15 min long speech is delivered naturally.
What was striking though (assuming the YS Jagan owned Sakshi TV was not doctoring the video footage) – the animated scenes of the crowd responding to her, reminding me of only one other campaign that had the vocabulary of political betrayal written all over it with this kind of crowd response - NTR’s fight back rallies after he was unceremoniously ousted by Nadendla Bhaskar Rao through a Congress engineered coup.
One cant help but observe the stark contrast between these animated crowds and the lack lustre response to Rahul Gandhi’s rallies during the Uttar Pradesh elections. The fact that the Nehru-Gandhis have not dared to step into Andhra since the blundering began is a reminder of how disconnected they have become from the political reality of their own base.
Political Tsunamis of public sympathy can be heartless as Rajiv Gandhi once bitterly discovered – raising you to the top and then dropping you back to the hard ground.
It is anybody’s guess at this time how the Sister’s rise will play out within the family while the the Brother’s fate remains clouded in Jail. Can she keep up with all the politicking that is likely to follow ?
But for the moment it would seem Andhra is witnessing the rise of a new Political Star in Sharmila with the potential to eclipse both the Congress and Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP within Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, if not in Telangana.