By Viplav Bhoomi
Hyderabad: Raised in abject poverty by a single mother, 26-year-old Karne Shirisha has unexpectedly emerged as a strong contender against the political bigwigs in Kollapur Assembly constituency.
Her voice seems to resonate with the anguish of hundreds of job-seekers enraged over lack of opportunities despite being educated. Shirisha’s mother raised her and her two brothers by working as a daily-wage labour. Shirisha too worked as a labourer to support her mother and managed to complete her bachelors in commerce, securing 78 per cent marks.
Lack of job opportunities forced her to take up rearing of buffaloes to earn a livelihood, which earned her the name ‘Barrelakka‘ (buffalo sister).
Her rise to prominence has a lot to do with the political situation in her constituency. From rearing buffaloes to giving established politicians sleepless nights, both Congress and BRS candidates from Kollapur constituency are seeing her as a force to reckon with, especially after she filed her nominations from the constituency for the upcoming Assembly elections.
Her door-to-door campaign in Kollapur grabbed attention after she and her brother were attacked by unidentified miscreants, who she alleged were workers of the ruling party.
Rising in restive constituency
Kollapur constituency is situated in the lap of the Nallamala forests on the banks of Krishna river, where defiant voices have been opposing feudalism since before the country’s independence.
The constituency has traditionally been the stronghold of the Velama community. Even after the independence, the political power remained concentrated in the hands of feudal leaders. The constituency was once of the epicenters of the leftist movement, led by the naxals from late 80s to early 2000s. Even after the neutralizing most of the naxal leaders during former chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s regime in united Andhra Pradesh, the movement had made a strong impact on the minds of people and turned their sentiments against the feudal lords.
This was probably the reason why two-time minister under both Congress and BRS rule, Jupally Krishna Rao, who had represented the constituency five times as the MLA, had to face the brunt of people’s anger in 2018 Assembly elections.
With vengeance, the people elected Congress candidate Beeram Harshavardhan Reddy as their MLA. Eventually, he also joined the BRS after winning the elections, which further enraged the people of the constituency.
Defying threats and attacks
Lying close to the banks of Krishna river, with faction-ridden Rayalaseema region on the other side, the influence of faction politics has always been visible in the constituency. What was thought to be a contest between Jupally Krishna Rao of Congress and Beeram Harshavardhan Reddy of BRS, Karne Shirisha emerged as a formidable contender, representing the voice of the enraged people of Kollapur.
A recent video of Shirisha, introducing herself to the electorate struck a chord with angry constituents of Kollapur and jobseekers across the state, who had been angry with the ruling party for the lack of employment opportunities.
Soon, a police case was filed against her for the video in which she had opposed the previous representatives. Her candidature emerged as a threat to both Congress and BRS candidates. After her recent video, people from across the state showed support for her.
However, she received death threats and her brothers were attacked by ‘henchmen of local leaders’ during door-to-door campaign in the constituency. Intimidation and failed attempts to lure her with money only strengthened her resolve to fight and change the status quo in the constituency.
Soon after the attack on her and her family members, she moved the Telangana High Court, seeking security during election campaign. On Friday, the high court heard her petition and directed police to allot a gunman for her security.
Mobilising support with no money
Despite her poor financial condition, moral and financial support keeps pouring in for her from across the state. Money, campaign vehicles and thousands who volunteered to support her candidature have been actively canvassing for her victory.
With a manifesto which talks about releasing a job calendar, construction of a hospital and educational institutes in the constituency, Shirisha has grabbed huge attention, becoming a mascot of change in Kollapur’s factional politics.
Whether she win the election or not, but Kollapur’s ‘buffalo soldier’ is ruffling many feathers in the power corridors of the state.