'Modi and Jagan are working overtime to peddle lies'

Interview | Y.S. Sharmila, Andhra Pradesh Congress president

Y.S. Sharmila | PTI Y.S. Sharmila | PTI

Y.S. Sharmila, Congress's new hope in Andhra Pradesh, is not sparing her brother, Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in her effort to restore the Congress's presence in Andhra Pradesh politics. She accuses both Modi and Jagan of spreading lies and making excuses to hide their failures.

Sharmila is optimistic that the upcoming polls to the Lok Sabha and Andhra Pradesh Assembly on May 13 will signal the start of the party's revival in the state. She is running for Lok Sabha from Kadapa, the constituency of her late father, former chief minister Dr Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy aka YSR. Edited excerpts:

Congress was quite strong in AP once. Now, its vote share is below 2 per cent. What are your expectations for the party's future in the state?

Andhra Pradesh was a Congress stronghold. My father resurrected the party here with his iconic Praja Prasthanam Padayatra, and even former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh credited his role in the UPA’s back-to-back victories in 2004 and 2009. People in Andhra Pradesh drifted away from the Congress for some time, but I am confident that they will bless me and the party in the ongoing elections, and the Congress will be back to its glory days. 

How do you perceive the battle to retain your father's stronghold, Kadapa, this time? Your rival is your cousin and the incumbent MP.

The people of Kadapa have YSR in their hearts. And as the daughter of that great leader, I am here to carry his legacy forward. After living through the pathetic past decade, people today are convinced that only Congress can provide the right mix of development and welfare. My father's legacy, coupled with the trust that people have in the party, will ensure my victory in Kadapa.

Additionally, the election for the Kadapa Lok Sabha seat is a battle between the righteous and the evil. On one side is me and my sister Dr Suneetha, who has been fighting for justice for almost five years. And on the other side is the person accused by the CBI of being involved in the murder of my uncle, my father’s brother. The people have picked their next representative, I feel.

Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy alleges that the Congress is contesting this election as a spoiler, which would only benefit the NDA alliance. How do you respond to this accusation?

When a leader has not done any good for the people, he finds excuses for the ensuing poll debacle. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy are working overtime to peddle lies and to find excuses to mask their failures. The people of India are intelligent enough to see through this ploy and will pass their judgment through the ballot.

If Congress emerges as a significant force in the state, would it be willing to extend support to YSRCP?

The Indian National Congress will emerge as a significant force in Andhra Pradesh. If we fall short of the mandate to govern Andhra Pradesh, the party will play the role of an efficient opposition in the state.

After the Telangana assembly polls, some strategists are drawing parallels between your entry and that of Chief Minister Revanth Reddy. They say you could revive the Congress in AP, as he did in Telangana. What's your take on this?

I am happy that Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and senior leaders such as Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have reposed their trust in me and chosen me to lead the party in the state. With the inspiration I draw from them and the support I get from the party cadres in the state, I am confident of rebuilding the Congress party from the grassroots. Additionally, I would like to state that India is a democratic country, and individuals do not matter beyond a certain degree. It is the trust that the people of Andhra Pradesh have in the Congress which will re-establish us in the state.

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