Telangana politician and YSRTP chief YS Sharmila is in the news again after she was arrested – third time in four months – for allegedly making objectionable remarks against BRS MLA Banoth Shankar Naik, when she was on her Praja Prasthanam padyatra in Telangana’s Mahabubabad district on Sunday. Her long walk across the state was disrupted yet again as she was detained and brought to Hyderabad to avoid a law and order situation.
Sharmila was arrested after Shankar Naik’s wife staged a protest against her remarks, which led to a clash between cadres of both sides forcing the police to step in. The YSRTP chief, who is the sister of Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, later held a press conference at her Lotus Pond office and lashed out against the K Chandrashekar Rao-led government.
YSRTP chief YS Sharmila’s Praja Prasthanam padyatra across Telangana was disrupted yet again as she was detained and brought to Hyderabad to avoid a law and order situation. (Image: News18)
“We were yet again attacked and threatened by hundreds of BRS goons this morning, in support of Shankar Naik. While the fact remains that Shankar Naik used objectionable language against us, calling us names and referring to us as migrants. We only responded to him strongly and paid back in the same coin. I wonder how this can be a crime or a sin? How can the padyatra that was permitted by the honourable high court be stopped and permission cancelled?” she asked.
Earlier on Saturday, speaking at a public rally in his constituency, Sharmila criticised Shankar Naik for calling her an “outsider” and speaking to her in a derogatory manner. “This MLA has the nerve to use derogatory and filthy language against us for questioning his misdeeds and his failure to ensure good governance to the people of this constituency,” Sharmila had said.
She also called Shankar Naik corrupt for allegedly not fulfilling any promise made before the 2018 assembly elections and for his alleged involvement in land grabbing activity. “I warn all of you not to call anyone settlers or migrants. Your wife is from Nellore and I dare you to separate from her to prove your love for Telangana,” Sharmila had said while addressing Shankar Naik. She also accused the MLA of misbehaving with a female government officer, and grabbing the lands of tribal people.
Sharmila further said she felt disgusted to assert that the BRS regime’s cruelty had hit a new high, where it was targeting women, using abusive language and was trying to muzzle dissent. She also objected to being called a settler from Andhra Pradesh by Shankar Naik.
She added: “I condemned the word ‘settler’ for me and mentioned Shankar Naik’s wife as she hails from Andhra. This, by no means, was demeaning to her. There are endless encroachment and cheating cases against Shankar Naik, and his misbehaviour with a woman IAS officer is well known. He did not even spare journalists and cheated them too. I say yet again, with the same intensity, that there is no MLA or MLC or MP from the BRS who does not have some or the other allegation against them.”
The leader has been booked under sections pertaining to intentional insult (504) of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Sharmila has repeatedly crossed swords with the state government over the course of her padyatra and has relentlessly attacked it on issues of corruption and misgovernance. She even wrote to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India over alleged irregularities in the Kaleshwaram irrigation project and has accused KCR of leaving farmers in the lurch.
During her previous arrest in December, dramatic visuals of her driving her car while it was being towed away had emerged. She also launched a fast-unto-death after the state government refused to grant her permission for her padyatra.
In another similar incident in November 2022, Sharmila was arrested and brought back to Hyderabad from Warangal district where she was holding her padyatra. Clashes had broken out between YSRTP and BRS members after some from the ruling party allegedly burned down a caravan which she used for resting.
On the concluding day of her padyatra on March 5 in Palair, Sharmila will have covered 4,000 km across Telangana. In a span of around 17 months, she has travelled the length and breadth of the state, covering 83 assembly constituencies, 65 municipalities, 2,185 villages, and five municipal corporations in over 255 days.
While she is no stranger to controversy, she is no stranger to padyatras either. Her father, the late YS Rajasekhara Reddy, brought the Congress to power in Andhra Pradesh in 2004 after he completed a 60-day yatra to highlight issues of districts reeling from drought. He used the anti-farmer image of the then chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu to his advantage.
His son Jagan Mohan Reddy who had by then launched a new party called YSR Congress Party, 15 years later, became the CM of Andhra Pradesh after a similar padyatra. Sharmila’s troubled ties with the BRS and her brother’s alleged closeness to the BJP has often led to speculation that she is the “B team” of the saffron party.
A political analyst, however, pointed out that the BRS seemed to arrest her only when it wanted to divert attention from any of its own controversies.
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