As Andhra Pradesh completes the elections and after the debacle of YSRC party, the legacy of former Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, fondly known as YSR, is at the center of political tussles. With the opposition space wide open, various parties vie to claim YSR’s mantle, promising stability and development to the state’s voters.

Ideally, it should have been a family coming together moment. Instead, the event in Vijayawada to commemorate YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s 75th birth anniversary turned out to be just an extension of the bitter politics that has become the hallmark of Andhra Pradesh. The event organised by the Andhra Pradesh Congress was a party affair with several leaders from both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in attendance.

Nearly fifteen years after YSR passed away in a helicopter crash, the fight for his legacy is now out in the open. YSRCP, the party that bears its initials, crashed to a humiliating defeat, winning just 11 seats in the 175-seat Andhra Pradesh assembly. Such is his son YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s situation now that he may not even be recognised as the Leader of the Opposition. Not that YSR’s daughter YS Sharmila fared any better. The Congress once again could not win a single Lok Sabha or assembly seat.

But what the YSRCP’s down in the dumps state has done is to give the Congress the right to taunt its claim over the YSR legacy. The verdict is a rejection of Jagan’s claim to be the sole inheritor of his father’s legacy, says the Congress. And that it believes is a good starting point in Andhra Pradesh, where the opposition space is now up for grabs.

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Sharmeela Effect

With Sharmila as its mascot, the Congress wants to reclaim its right over YSR as a loyal soldier of the party instead of allowing another party to own him completely. That explained why so many leaders – from YSR’s close friend KVP Ramachandra Rao to several ministers in the Telangana cabinet – chose to mark attendance at the event.

In the run-up to the elections in Andhra Pradesh, party in-charge Manickam Tagore had spoken about how a YSRCP defeat would open up possibilities for the Congress. That is because when YS Jagan Mohan Reddy launched the YSRCP over a decade ago, many in the Congress, both leaders and cadre, disappointed with the leadership of the then chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, chose to switch sides to the political start-up. The Congress believes the humiliating defeat for the YSRCP at the hands of the NDA will translate into political trouble for many of their leaders and activists. That is why the YSR event was also used as a forum to appeal to those who left the party to do a ghar waapsi.

What went wrong?

But such a wish would be a case of building castles in the air. The YSRCP, despite its paltry numbers, still clocked a healthy 39 percent vote share, which cannot be taken lightly. In contrast, the Congress did not register even a 2 percent vote share. For all the hype surrounding her candidature, YS Sharmila, who is the Andhra Pradesh Congress president and Jagan’s sister, came a poor third in the Kadapa Lok Sabha contest. While there is no denying that the YSRCP has fallen on bad days, the Congress too is not primed for take-off.

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But with the Congress in power in neighbouring Telangana and Karnataka and an INDIA bloc party DMK ruling Tamil Nadu, the Congress is not short on hope. Dubbing Jagan without naming him as someone who was using the YSR name for doing “political business”, Telangana Chief Minister Revanth Reddy, who was among those in attendance at the event, rooted for Sharmila as YSR’s “true inheritor”. It is true that Andhra Pradesh is an INDIA bloc-mukt state, given that it sees the peculiar situation of both the TDP-Jana Sena and the YSRCP being on the side of the BJP. The latest proof was Jagan’s support to Om Birla in the election to the post of Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

Congress mojo in Andhra Pradesh

Now that its leadership question is sorted, the Congress needs to work on strengthening itself at the grassroot level. To look for talent to poach from the YSRCP would be akin to buying back its own shares that have now lost their sheen and market value. Instead, it should identify individuals and groups who are doing commendable work on the ground and have faith in the Congress ideology at the national level. Just like a young YSR was entrusted with the job of reinvigorating the Congress when NT Rama Rao was at the peak of his political popularity in the 1980s, the Congress needs to invest in youth in different constituencies in Andhra Pradesh. If it reposes its faith in moneybags whose loyalties are as fickle as the movement of a weak cyclonic storm in the Bay of Bengal, then there is no hope for the party.

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Challenges Before Jagan

The Congress also needs to realise that there is no space for any more passengers on the TDP bicycle. The alliance with the Jana Sena and the BJP would also mean that Chandrababu Naidu would always have to make sacrifices for the sake of accommodating his partners. With the YSRCP leadership a marked entity in most constituencies, most of the party cadre is lying low. That means the opposition space is up for grabs – both for the Congress leadership and for any new political talent that wants to make a mark.

Meanwhile, there is speculation in Andhra Pradesh that Jagan, finding his position uncomfortable in the state assembly, may choose to ask his cousin Avinash Reddy to vacate the Kadapa Lok Sabha seat. While the YSRCP has neither confirmed nor denied such rumours, the Congress may look at the possibility of making it a brother verses sister contest, should such a by-election happen, in order to further push Jagan to a corner. The Congress’s best bet of a revival is in eroding the base of the YSRCP. In this endeavour, the Congress could even receive support from the ruling Telugu Desam, confirming the adage that an enemy’s enemy is a friend. #hydnews #khabarlive

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