Many ups and downs in TDP's 40-year journey


by IANS | Wed, Mar 30, 2022, 11:44 AM

Amaravati, March (IANS) There have been many ups and downs for the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in its four-decade-old journey.

Floated by N. T. Rama Rao, a.k.a NTR on March 29, 1982 on the slogan of Telugu self-respect, the party changed the course of the politics in the then undivided Andhra Pradesh.

It remained a dominant political force in all the regions of Andhra Pradesh till bifurcation of the state in 2014 and since then, has largely remained confined to the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh.

The party's efforts to have a presence in Telangana did not yield results with its entire leadership migrating to Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) over the last eight years. Seen as the 'Andhra party', the TDP currently has no presence in Telangana Assembly.

Despite losing power to YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) in Andhra Pradesh in 2019, the Chandrababu Naidu-led party remained the formidable political force who can challenge the ruling party. Led by a seasoned leader and the longest-serving Chief Minister in undivided Andhra Pradesh, the TDP celebrated 40th formation day at a time when it is gearing up to take on the YSRCP over various issues and keep up the pressure in the run-up to 2024 elections.

Till the emergence of the TDP, the political scene in Andhra Pradesh was dominated by the Congress. NTR, who enjoyed the status of a demigod among Telugu masses, was not happy with the Congress as it was seen ruling the state from Delhi.

He gave the slogan of Telugu self-respect and launched the TDP. He had a phoenix-like rise in politics as the TDP created a record by coming to power within nine months after floating the party.

The pro-poor image NTR built with his schemes like Rs 2 a kg rice and scrapping Patel-Patwari system to usher in governance reforms made him one of the most popular regional leaders in 1980s.

He successfully dealt with resistance to some of his revolutionary measures like slashing the retirement age for government employees. When the Congress engineered a revolt against him and installed N. Bhaskar Rao as the Chief Minister when NTR had gone to the US for treatment, the actor led a state-wide agitation for restoration of democracy and returned to power with a new vigour and more popular support.

Though the TDP lost power to the Congress in 1989, NTR remained a key political figure not just in the state but also at the national level. As Chairman of National Front, he played a vital role in bringing together regional parties and in the formation of the V.P. Singh-led government at the Centre.

Riding on his popularity and various poll promises including total prohibition, NTR stormed back to power with a record majority. However, this time he was accompanied by Lakshmi Parvathi, his biographer-turned second wife whom he married secretly in 1992 but publicly announced in 1993. NTR was then 70 and Parvathi was as almost half his age and had separated from her first husband.

In August 1995, NTR's children from his first wife led by his son-in-law Chandrababu Naidu staged a revolt and captured power, citing growing interference in party and administration by Lakshmi Parvathi.

NTR was heart-broken over the revolt and claimed his party to be the real TDP. Five months later, he died of cardiac arrest.

Though Lakshmi Parvathi tried to run the party NTR TDP after her husband's death, it could not survive politically.

With a firm grip over the party and administration, Chandrababu Naidu rose to the status of a big leader. The reforms he introduced and the big push he gave to the information technology sector and creation of world-class infrastructure transformed Hyderabad into a technology and knowledge hub.

Naidu also emerged as a key figure in national politics. In 1996 as the convenor of the United Front, he brought together regional parties to prop up the government of the third alternative.

However, in 1999, he joined hands with the BJP and became a key figure in BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Many saw in him a shrewd politician and few branded him a rank opportunist as he aligned with the BJP, apparently to ride on the Atal Bihari Vajpayee wave. He succeeded in retaining power.

Then known as the poster boy of new economic reforms, a reformist and a tech-savvy leader, Naidu mastered the skills of doing business with any formation at the Centre, irrespective of its ideology.

After losing power to his bete noire Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR) in 2004 following a record 9-year stint as Chief Minister, Naidu admitted his priorities were lop-sided which led to the neglect of agriculture in the state.

He promised a slew of freebies in the 2009 elections, which he contested in alliance with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and other parties but the people remained unconvinced and gave YSR a fresh mandate.

The death of YSR in a helicopter crash a few months later and subsequent developments threw the state into political chaos. The Centre agreeing to the demand for Telangana state and the strong reaction in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions posed a new challenge to the TDP.

The emergence of Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate in 2014 offered Naidu a chance to revive his political fortunes.

He not only joined the NDA once again but by campaigning with Modi, he succeeded in storming to power in the truncated state of Andhra Pradesh, as people preferred him, apparently for his experience in developing Hyderabad as a tech hub.

However, with Modi getting absolute majority, Naidu could not play kingmaker, a role which he always enjoyed playing at the Centre.

Not finding enough support from the Centre for his ambitious plans including development of Amaravati as a world-class city, Naidu walked out of NDA in 2018, accusing Modi of 'betrayal'.

From a great admirer of Modi, Naidu soon turned into his worst critic and even joined hands with the Congress, his party's sworn enemy of 35 years.

A second term for Modi with a massive majority dashed Naidu's hopes of salvaging some pride with a role at the Centre.

Though the TDP chief has been trying to mend fences with the BJP, the latter appears not keen in reviving the ties.

As the TDP completes its four-decade journey, Naidu has his eyes set on 2024 elections and political observers say he may come up with another surprise to bounce back.

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