Hyderabad, Sep 20 (IANS) When Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy was alive, the role of women in the Andhra Pradesh chief minister's family was more or less confined to the home. But his death in a helicopter crash and the arrest of his son Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy last year changed their world, forcing them to step out of their settled domesticity .
YSR's widow, Y.S. Vijayalakshmi, is fighting for her son; Sharmila for her brother; and Bharathi Reddy for her husband.
Jagan, as the YSR Congress party chief is popularly known, has been behind bars for more than a year in a disproportionate assets case. Defending him in the face of serious allegations by political rivals, keeping the party afloat and running his business in his absence are the three women who have succeeded in developing an emotional chord with the people.
Vijayamma, as Vijayalakshmi is popularly known, is honorary president of the party and is handling its day-to-day affairs. Jagan's sister Sharmila has taken up the responsibility of reaching out to masses like him by undertaking 'yatras' or walkathons. His wife Bharathi is managing the business empire.
Before YSR's death in a helicopter crash in 2009, all the politics Vijayamma knew was the stories which her husband used to share after returning from his visits to various parts of the state.
Though heading the party in the assembly, she can barely express herself. Telugu is the only language she can speak in public, but the 57-year-old is still trying to keep the morale of the party cadre high in the absence of Jagan, the most popular face of the fledgling outfit.
"When YSR was alive, we never imagined that we will be in politics," Vijayamma told IANS during a recent interaction. Claiming that her son is innocent, she is confident that he will come out on bail. "How long they will keep him away from the people? I have full faith in God, who is all powerful." said Vijayamma, who always holds a Bible in her hand.
Jagan may be devising the party strategy in jail but it is left to the triumvirate to implement it on ground. When the Congress party recently decided that Andhra Pradesh should be bifurcated, Jagan realized that the party has no stakes in Telangana and hence should cash in on the united Andhra sentiment in Rayalaseema (the region he comes from) and coastal Andhra.
Sharmila was quick to embark on a 'bus yatra' in Seemandhra, as the two regions are together known, to take on both the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) for "colluding" to divide the state.
It was only in July that that Sharmila concluded her 3,000-km-long 'padyatra', said to be the longest by any politician in the state's history. Like her father, she reached out to the masses and like her brother, she tried to develop a personal rapport with every family by visiting their houses and attempting to understand their problems.
Sharmila's yatra was aptly called "Maro Praja Prasthanam" (One more journey with the people). 'Praja Prasthanam' was the name of YSR's 1,500 km 'padyatra' of 2003, which brought the Congress to power in 2004.
Sharmila, wife of evangelist Anil Kumar, is staying away from her home in Bangalore for the sake of her brother and to keep alive YSR's legacy.
Once a shy housewife, Bharathi is today a businesswoman. The 34-year-old is not only looking after the two daughters but also the business empire which Jagan built over the years, including Telugu daily 'Sakshi' and a 24-hour news channel, the mouthpieces of the YSR Congress.
"Children feel very bad. It has been very difficult for us," she said on 15 months without Jagan.
A symbol of grit and determination, Bharathi visits her husband regularly and coordinates with the legal team defending him. An articulate spokesperson for her husband, she rubbished allegations that he amassed wealth through quid-pro-quo investments into his companies when his father was chief minister. She pointed out that Jagan was a businessman long before he became an MP in 2009.
With the CBI completing its probe, the case has reached a climax. The family is hopeful of his release on bail in the coming days but till then, the three women are determined to continue playing their roles.
(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)