NTR's political legacy is again at centerstage in Andhra Pradesh


by IANS | Wed, Mar 27, 2024, 02:41 PM

Amaravati, March 27 (IANS) With Andhra Pradesh heading for simultaneous elections to state Assembly and Lok Sabha, the political legacy of late Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao is taking the centerstage.

When it comes to political dynasties in the country, few can match the charisma and the melodrama associated with the personality of NTR, as the actor-turned-politician was popularly known.

Even 28 years after his death, the legacy of the founder of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister dominates the political scene in one way or the other.

Two of the parties in the fray are helmed by his family members. While his son-in-law N. Chandrababu Naidu continues to head TDP for nearly three decades, his daughter Daggubati Purandeswari is leading the state unit of BJP, a party NTR ideologically differed with.

Interestingly, despite sailing in two boats, Naidu and Purandeswari are sharing public platforms as the two parties have revived their ties and together with Pawan Kalyan-led Jana Sena Party formed a tripartite alliance to take on ruling YSR Congress Party.

While 73-year-old Naidu is apparently fighting the last elections of his career, the poll outcome is crucial for the future of TDP and Naidu’s son Nara Lokesh, who had an unsuccessful electoral debut in 2019.

Purandeswari, who was named BJP’s state unit President last year, is contesting for Lok Sabha from Rajahmundry, hoping a reversal of political fortune after the disastrous performance in 2019 when she had finished a distant fourth in Visakhapatnam Lok Sabha constituency.

NTR’s son and popular actor N. Balakrishna is another key member of NTR family hogging the limelight. He is seeking re-election for a third consecutive term from Hindupur, a constituency which his legendary father represented thrice.

Balakrishna is brother-in-law of Chandrababu Naidu and also father-in-law of Lokesh, who will be once again trying his luck from Mangalagiri Assembly constituency.

Balakrishna’s second son-in-law M. Bharat, who narrowly lost Visakhapatnam Lok Sabha seat in 2019, will be contesting again as TDP candidate.

An interesting feature of this election is the active participation of Chandrababu Naidu’s wife D. Bhuvaneswari in political activity.

Bhuvaneswari, who along with daughter-in-law Brahmini run family-owned firm Heritage Foods, rarely appeared in public. However, they came out on streets to protest after Naidu was arrested in September last year in alleged Skill Development Corporation scam.

Naidu’s wife is still continuing her ‘Nijam Gelvali’ (Truth must prevail) yatra, consoling families of TDP workers and supporters who died of shock after Naidu’s arrest.

Like every election since NTR’s death in 1996, his name, portraits and statues remain an integral part of the TDP’s campaign.

NTR’s family, however, is not confined to TDP but is spread across the political spectrum.

NTR took a plunge into politics in early 1980s to end the monopoly of the Congress party and altered the political landscape of the state for forever.

The matinee idol, who enjoyed the status of a demigod among masses, stormed to power within nine months after floating TDP on the slogan of Telugu self-respect.

With his pro-poor image and populist schemes like Rs 2 a kg rice, NTR created a niche for himself in the politics.

After five years of Congress rule in between, NTR returned to power with a landslide majority in 1994. His second marriage with Lakshmi Parvathi, however, created a rift in the family.

In August 1995, NTR’s son-in-law Chandrababu Naidu led a revolt, citing Lakshmi’s growing interference in the government and party affairs. Backed by NTR’s sons and daughters, Naidu became the chief minister.

A few months later, NTR died of cardiac arrest at the age of 72. He had eight sons and four daughters from his first wife Basvatarakam, who had died of cancer in 1985. However, it was Chandrababu Naidu who carried NTR’s political legacy forward.

Lakshmi Parvathi initially claimed NTR’s political legacy but found no public support and went into political oblivion. She is currently with YSR Congress Party headed by Jagan Mohan Reddy, the bitter political rival of Naidu.

NTR floated TDP on an anti-Congress plank but his daughter D. Purandeswari and her husband D. Venkateswara Rao joined the Congress in 2004. Purandeswari, who was elected to Lok Sabha twice on Congress ticket and even became a minister in UPA’s second stint, switched loyalty to BJP in 2014.

She contested from Visakhapatnam Lok Sabha constituency on BJP ticket in 2019 but finished a poor fourth. Her husband, however, preferred YSRCP and contested unsuccessfully for Assembly from Parchur. After the defeat, D. Venkateswara Rao, the former Rajya Sabha member, has distanced himself from active politics.

Naidu, who had been grooming his son as his political successor for the last few years, was facing some resistance from another brother-in-law and actor N. Harikrishna, who died in a road accident in 2018.

Harikrishna was keen to see his son Junior NTR taking over the TDP mantle. Named after his grandfather and popularly known as Junior NTR, he is one of the top actors of Telugu film industry.

It is also interesting to note that no member of NTR’s extended family is into active politics in Telangana, which came into being with bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014.

Chandrababu Naidu fielded Harikrishna’s daughter and Junior NTR’s half-sister N. Suhasini from Kukatpally Assembly constituency in Hyderabad in the 2018 Telangana Assembly elections but she lost the poll.

For the first time since its inception, TDP did not contest the recent Assembly elections in Telangana as Naidu decided to focus only on Andhra Pradesh.

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