With YSR Congress leader Jaganmohan Reddy in jail for alleged acts of financial fraud, it was his mother Vijayamma who took on the mantle of running the party in his absence.
Ably supported by her daughter Sharmila, Vijayamma hit the campaign trail three days back and interestingly has been drawing more crowds than her son did while he campaigned for the by-elections to the 18 assembly seats in Andhra Pradesh.
While Sharmila holds no official position in the party, she appears to be the star attraction of the campaign. And during her interactions with the people it becomes clear that she is more fluent than her mother.
However, members of the YSR Congress Party do not think that Sharmila holds the edge over her mother.
At the start of the campaign it was said that the public would be more sympathetic with Vijayamma as she is the one who has been portrayed as the person who first lost her husband in an accident and now her son is behind bars.
Moreover, she has a clean slate unlike her son who is facing series of allegations for financial crimes.
However, while speaking to the people, one gets the impression that the cases against Jagan are spoken about in length in the cities, but in the rural areas people are still ignorant. They do not understand the legalities of the cases which relate to his investment, the quid pro quo arrangements, etc. All they say is that the ruling party has fixed him in a case as they are unable to bear his rise and popularity.
Watching both Vijayamma and Sharmila, it is evident that the ploy to tear into the Congress using the sympathy factor has worked very well for them. There are supporters, fans of late Dr Y S Rajasekara Reddy and curious onlookers who form the mammoth crowd which follow the star campaigners wherever they go.
However people on the ground feel that Sharmila makes a better impression as she is more confident. They also feel that she is young and it would be nice to see a younger leader for a change.
These days Sharmila starts the campaign along with her mother at 10 am. They conduct road shows at the start and towards the end of the rally address a public gathering. Vijayamma has been speaking the same thing ever since her son was arrested.
She tells the public that her husband had promised to make Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi the prime minister in 2014, but (Congress chief) Sonia Gandhi sent her son to jail.
She has been more emotional in her approach and has been quite a hit with the older crowd, especially the women.
However, Sharmila has been fluent and more level-headed while she speaks and it is the younger crowd that she has been drawing in.
Every time Sharmila speaks she starts her address by saying, "I am Rajanna's daughter and Jagan's sister. Is ensuring a helicopter crash and sending a good man to jail good politics? I am here with my mother to seek your support and ensure that the golden rule of my father is brought back to Andhra Pradesh."
There is already talk about a change in leadership in the YSR Congress party. Many believe that it will be long before Jagan Reddy comes out of jail. Even if he does come out on bail he will not be able to function smoothly as he would be more busy with the cases against him.
Vijayamma has made it clear that she will hold fort only until her son returns. Even though there is talk that her daughter Sharmila is gaining in popularity, the million dollar question is whether she would take over the mantle. This is however denied by both Sharmila and her party workers.
Sharmila says she is just there to assist her mother and would never take over the party. She too feels that her mother and she herself are just holding the fort until Jagan returns.
Only Jagan should be the undisputed leader of the party and they want no confusion what soever, party workers say.
Both the Congress and the Telegu Desam Party are keenly watching this campaign. There are a couple of worried faces looking at the kind of the crowds that the mother and daughter are drawing.
However, in their campaign they are telling the public about how corrupt Jagan is and also the manner in which the family of YSR is resorting to cheap tactics to gain sympathy.
Image: Vijayamma (left) and Sharmila (right) campaigning for the Andhra by-polls at Payakaraopeta in Visakhapatnam district on Thursday.