Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has surpassed even the darbaris as far as praising any dynasty is concerned. On Friday, he said, “Rahul Gandhi is a leader on his own. The Congress is a national party and the main anchor against the BJP…. we are all regional parties. There can be no ‘Mahagathbandhan’ without Congress.”
At a time when Congress seems to be desperate to return to power and TDP Chief Chandrababu Naidu is also on the same boat with the Congress, it is prudent to remember his father-in-law, NT Rama Rao, popularly called NTR by the people of both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and his pathological hatred for the party that Naidu is praising.
Post emergency and JP’s movement, it was NTR who delivered a crushing defeat to the rising stature of Indira Gandhi. This was done all in the name of ‘Aaru Kotla Andhrula Aatma Gauravam’ – means the ‘Self Respect of Six Crore Telugu People’. It was used even after two decades by the current Prime Minister when he won elections repeatedly in Gujarat by invoking the ‘Gujarati Asmita’.
The political journey of NTR, from being an artist who helped Congress Governments to raise funds during natural calamities (unfortunately the coast of Andhra experiences two cyclones a year on an average) to the man who put together a coalition against the Bofors tainted Rajiv Gandhi Government that included BJP and Communists as well, it was an eventful one.
It all started, as usual by the arrogance of the father of current uncrowned prince of Congress. In fact, it was Congress that wanted NT Rama Rao in its fold. The Congress was ruling Andhra at that time. The resurgent Congress after the Janata experiment had gone haywire had its centre in Andhra. Indira Gandhi chose to retain Medak and give up Rae Bareli to Arun Nehru. In the strict sense, she was the first Prime Minister who was the member of parliament from Andhra Pradesh between 1980 to 1984. Virtually, there was no opposition. Bored without any major external problems, she created few internal ones like the Punjab problem and was playing the political chess – by replacing chief ministers at her whims and fancies.
One unfortunate day, Rajiv Gandhi, then a political novice but the general secretary of Congress chose to visit Hyderabad. Anjaiah, the then CM of AP, in the true spirit of the slavish mentality of the Congress went to the airport to receive the then Yuvaraj. Instead of smiling benevolently, Rajiv shouted at the CM, who could barely understand English, publicly. It was reported in the local media and subsequent to the public humiliation, Anjaiah was removed from the post. Records say there were four chief ministers installed in the state between 1978 to 1982.
Learning lessons from the condition of leaders in Congress, NTR, who was known for never tolerating unnecessary comments, chose to enter the political arena – on his own with his one-point agenda – ‘Self Respect of Telugu People’. It is a wonder, in the first state that was created on the basis of language, after nearly three decades of Congress rule, a call for ‘self-respect’ bore such importance. One can understand the way Congress used to rule states in that point in time.
Congressmen launched a vitriolic campaign against NTR calling him with different names. Some simply scoffed off at him, saying politics is not ‘acting’ as if they didn’t act. NTR, who was born into a farmer’s family and struggled hard to become the superstar of Telugu movies, knew how to fight. His innovative ways of electioneering had changed the way elections had been fought in India.
After delivering four super-hit movies in which he played the role of an angry young man, military officer who rebels against the corruption, a justice (Justice Chowdhary was remade in Hindi also), a police officer who was ready to work hard- NT Rama Rao in reality worked really hard – he converted a Chevrolet van into his home on wheels for the next nine months and named it ‘Chaitanya Rath’, the first rath of Indian politics, only to be repeated by Advani almost a decade later.
With his son Harikrishna as the driver, NTR took to roads and travelled every single major village in the state. Crisscrossing the state, the father-son duo covered nearly 40,000 kilometres in their campaign.
NTR used to deliver speeches from the top of the van. He was the first one who started eating with general mass in the villages where he stayed for lunch, breakfast and dinner.
He was the first one who openly criticised the dynasty politics of Congress. He questioned the slavish mentality of the then Congressmen and compared them with the mighty Congressmen ‘Tanguturi Prakasam Pantulu’, the man who opened his shirt and showed his chest to the British Police and gave the slogan ‘Simon to back’, way back in 1927 in Madras. The Congressmen had no answers to NTR’s questions and they remained clueless. In line with the systematic destruction, Indira Gandhi had already ensured that there remain no ‘leaders’ in the party.
Whenever he used to be on travel, NTR did small conferences in all the places and then chose his candidates. When the elections were conducted nine months later, his party won 199 seats out of 294 and NTR became the first non-congress chief minister of the state.
NTR provided the first educated government to Andhra Pradesh. Himself a graduate, he was probably the least educated one in his cabinet. For the first time, a Doctor was the minister for Health and a Lawyer was having the Law portfolio. Engineers were in-charge of Industries and Irrigation. The much adapted ‘Single Window’ system was introduced by NTR only. Even today, the best government run transport corporation in the country is being run in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Not known to most of India, communal riots were also seasonal in the pre-NTR era. For the first time, he allowed the police to do their job and they did it better than ever before. As long as he was in power, there were no communal riots. Police even launched crack-downs on MLAs of Congress and Majlis if found guilty with no political interference given heed for their release. Even the Naxalites used to sing paeans in the name of NTR.
When he went to the USA to get his heart operated, Congress, true to its wicked politics lured the second man of NTR’s cabinet, who was left in charge of the state by NT Rama Rao himself, to split the party and then made him the CM. That exhibited the despair and limitations of the Congress’ think tank. The Congress installed Governor, Ramlal did not consider the majority of MLAs paraded in the streets of Hyderabad, supporting NTR. NTR, on his return from the operation, did what he was known for.
The ‘Chaitanya Rath’ was serviced and he took to the streets and started touring – with bandages on his body. All opposition parties from DMK to NC and BJP to the Left supported him. Indira Gandhi was forced to remove Governor Ramlal. A month later Indira Gandhi was assassinated and riding on the sympathy wave, Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister with a landslide victory. His only competitor in the Lok Sabha was TDP, with 36 MPs. It was the first time in the history of India that a regional party acted as the main opposition party. Contrary to the arguments what Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi made two years back, Rajiv Gandhi didn’t grant the leader of opposition post to Yerram Naidu, the leader of TDP in Lok Sabha.
As if to challenge Rajiv Gandhi, NTR dissolved the state assembly only to win 202 seats out of 250 contested seats in the coming elections.
Failed in containing the ever-growing popularity of NTR, Rajiv Gandhi used the most trusted weapon of the Congress – the Governor. NTR had to deal with four governors during his tenure from 1982 to 89, of which he had to endure Kumudben Joshi for almost five years.
The souring relations between NTR and Kumudben Joshi were as acrimonious as the relations between India and Pakistan. Ms Joshi converted the Rajbhavan into the state congress head office and did her best to trouble the most popular chief minister of the state.
When Rajiv Gandhi was under siege for the Bofors issue, NTR rose to the national frame and ensured all political parties to come on board in order to oppose the then Congress government. When the National Front was created, he was the Chairman with VP Singh as its convenor. However, through his eccentric behaviour, though natural for any artist, he failed to cope with the continuously increasing onslaught of congress wicked scheme of things and lost the elections in 1989.
But, by that time, he created a permanent impression in the minds of Telugu people. His act of vacating one of his party seats so that PV Narasimha Rao could contest and get elected to Loksabha with a record margin was a good retort to the Congress as he wanted to have PVNR elected to Rajya Sabha. In a way, NTR boosted the very much needed confidence of PVNR during the initial days of his prime ministership.
NTR returned to power for a third and final time in the December 1994 after winning the Andhra Pradesh state assembly elections with his party in alliance with the Left Front. This alliance managed to secure victory on over 250 seats in the 294 seat Assembly with the TDP alone winning 226. On August 23, 1995, after nine months into his third tenure, NT Rama Rao was removed from his post as well as from his party post as the president of the TDP by his son-in-law, Nara Chandrababu Naidu. He engineered an internal coup against NTR and usurped the offices.
In an emotional interview after the coup, NTR called the coup a planned treachery and lambasted Naidu for being power-hungry and untrustworthy. He compared Naidu with Aurangzeb, the Mughal Emperor who jailed his father and killed his siblings to become the King of the Mughal Empire.
The TDP was formed by NT Rama Rao to make Andhra Pradesh free of Congress. Now, after 36 years the state politics has taken such a turn with TDP becoming an ally of the Congress. Chandrababu Naidu is praising Congress President Rahul Gandhi. But it should also be remembered that Chandrababu Naidu began his political career in Congress in the year 1978. In 1980, Naidu was also got a chance to become a minister in the Congress state government. At best, Naidu can be described as the biggest opportunist in Indian politics. Before the formation of TDP, Chandrababu Naidu tied the knot with NTR’s daughter. In 1982, when NTR formed TDP, Naidu didn’t come and rather stayed with the Congress. He might have thought that a newly formed party could not challenge the might of the Congress in the state, however, NT Rama Rao successfully threw the Congress out of power. When the Governor tried to destabilize the TDP government, Naidu at that time stood with NTR. The TDP has been fighting against the Congress since its inception. When the era of coalition politics began, TDP was standing with the BJP instead of being with the Congress.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu was the convener of the United Front that was formed in 1996 after the Lok Sabha election result had thrown a hung parliament with the BJP emerging as the single largest party with 161 seats and 20.29 percent of the total votes. The vote share of the Congress was higher at 28.80 percent. Naidu at that time had played an important role in the formation of the post-poll alliance of 13 parties.
But in 1998, the BJP on its own got 182 seats. However, the alliance was still short of a simple majority by 18 seats. It was then the same Chandrababu Naidu who opted to go with the BJP and its allies. Chandrababu Naidu offered issue-based outside support to the alliance led by the BJP. While his party did not join the government, TDP MP from Amalapuram constituency, G M C Balayogi was elected as the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. His party’s tally of 12 seats was crucial in taking the BJP alliance (the alliance was not officially called National Democratic Alliance then) closer to the magic figure of 272. This was the beginning of the relationship between the TDP and BJP. Chandrababu Naidu’s party performed even better in the 1999 Lok Sabha election and the TDP-BJP alliance in Andhra Pradesh won 36 out of 42 seats. The TDP itself won 29 seats but ensured the transfer of its vote to BJP as well. Due to this, the BJP recorded its best electoral performance in the Lok Sabha election in the state by winning 7 out of the 8 seats that it contested.
In return, Chandrababu Naidu who was then developing the infrastructure in the state, especially in and around Hyderabad, and positioning the state capital as an IT hub and a preferred place for investors and businesses, had easy access to the corridors of power in Delhi. All the important projects related to the state of Andhra Pradesh were not only expedited but financial approvals and other procedural issues concerning red tape were also taken care of by the Central Government. This was not a bad deal for Chandrababu Naidu who consolidated his position in the state, in particular, his popularity among the urban middle class of the state.
After the state of Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated, Chandrababu Naidu joined hands with Narendra Modi, but in May this year, he took an exit route from the NDA. Now, after separating the hands with the BJP led NDA, he has joined hands with the Congress. He is out to undermine every principle of NT Rama Rao and the party formed by him stood for. With his move to join hands with Congress, Naidu has undermined every tenet of the party which his father-in-law had founded. Chandrababu Naidu’s embrace of the Congress is not only hypocrisy of the worst kind but also a betrayal of the long-fought struggle of NTR and the people of Andhra.
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