Home > News > Elections 2004 > Special
The Rediff Special / George Iype and Syed Amin Jafri
April 14, 2004
Telugu Desam Party
Nara Chandrababu Naidu
How did the party come into being?
After a long and successful reign as the Telugu film industry's most popular actor Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao -- or simply NTR -- was keen to do something for the people. He resolved to dedicate his life to social work after he turned 60. While filming Sardar Paparayudu in October 1981, he suddenly announced plans to float a political party.
When was it formed?
In March 1982. NTR turned 60 on May 28, 1982.
A film star in politics. How did he fare?
NTR built his Telugu Desam Party with the support of media baron Ramoji Rao, who owns Eenadu, the largest circulated newspaper in the state, and Congress dissident Kotla Bhaskara Rao, who later staged a coup against NTR in August 1984, with Indira Gandhi's help, and became chief minister for a while. Both stalwarts were members of NTR's Kamma community.
How did the party fare?
In January 1983, the TDP was catapulted to power with an absolute majority, winning 198 of the 294 assembly seats.
Was he that popular?
Have no doubt of that! NTR was a hugely popular actor, especially owing to several mythological roles which gave him the status of a demi-god in the minds of people. But that was not the only reason.
What was the other reason?
Andhra Pradesh was a Congress stronghold. In 1982, T Anjaiah was the chief minister but NTR was unhappy because he felt the government was being run from Delhi. The state had seen three chief ministers in five years.
The final straw came when Rajiv Gandhi, then a Congress general secretary, publicly rebuked Anjaiah at Hyderabad's Begumpet airport. There was an outcry and NTR decided he had had enough. He decided to contest the assembly election in January 1983.
What was his slogan?
Telugu atmagauravam (Telugu self respect)
Where did he get candidates from?
He invited applications from educated people to contest the elections.
Did he get any support from other parties?
He allied with Maneka Gandhi's Rashtriya Sanjay Manch.
Who runs the party now?
NTR's younger son-in-law Nara Chandrababu Naidu.
Who is Chandrababu Naidu?
He used to be a Congress leader till he lost the assembly election in 1983. He then joined the TDP. The nuts-and-bolts man, he helped build the party organisation and also served as minister under NTR till he rebelled in August 1995.
Did NTR court controversy?
When NTR was out of power between 1989 and 1994, he married Lakshmi Parvathi, his second wife.
Who is Lakshmi Parvathi?
She met NTR while writing his biography. When he suffered a stroke and was bedridden, his family is alleged to have all but deserted him. At that time, Lakshmi Parvathi stood by him. Once he recovered, he offered to marry her.
Why didn't Naidu get along with her?
Not only Naidu, none in NTR's family is said to have liked her. After NTR regained power in 1995, she is reported to have become an extra-constitutional authority, which made her even more unpopular. Naidu, presumably worried that he was no longer NTR's heir apparent, rebelled once he was certain such a mutiny would get the support of NTR's family and TDP MLAs.
What did NTR do?
He could do nothing when Naidu took over the party and the chief minister's post with almost all the TDP MLAs backing him. Naidu was sworn in as chief minister on September 1, 1995.
What happened to NTR?
He died soon after, in January 1996.
How has the party fared since then?
Naidu is absolutely no match for NTR in charisma, but retained power in the 1999 assembly election on the plank of good governance. Since then he has made a widely publicised effort to develop and modernise his state. Naidu's critics say much of this initiative is make believe; the fruits of development have not passed on to most of the state's people.
How is the party governed today?
It does not have an elaborate organisational structure. Its apex decision-making body is a 14-member politburo headed by Naidu.
Its Parliamentary strength?
With 29 MPs, it has the largest number of members in the Lok Sabha among all the regional parties. Naidu formed an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party before the 1999 general election, this after being convener of the United Front, which ruled India between 1996 and 1998,
Nara Chandrababu Naidu
What is his contribution?
He has strengthened the TDP network and is credited with making the party a major player in Indian politics. After the 1996 general election, he declined to lead the United Front government and instead preferred to be the kingmaker. His alliance with the BJP has paid off -- he has secured many sops for his state, more than any other BJP ally, even though he supports the the National Democratic Alliance only from outside.
Fight problems, not people in politics.
Naidu is the TDP's only leader. There is no second-rung leadership. It is doubtful if his policies have made a positive impact in rural Andhra Pradesh. The farmers' suicides may come to haunt the TDP this election.
What makes the TDP different from other parties?
It was the first political party in India that issued a Vision 2020 document, which foresees an Andhra Pradesh where poverty is eradicated; where every citizen has access to not just the basic necessities but to all opportunities that will help him lead a happy and fulfilling life.
Its unique appeal?
Naidu is seen as a progressive leader. He enjoys the image of an IT-savvy chief minister, one who performs and delivers. He is the darling of the Westernised business class.
Naidu is now the longest serving chief minister of Andhra Pradesh.
No mean feat that, when you consider some of the notables who have occupied that chair before him -- Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, P V Narasimha Rao, Kasu Brahmananda Reddy, Jalagam Vengal Rao, Marri Chenna Reddy, and, of course, NTR.
Telugu Desam Party web site
Chandrababu Naidu profile
Photograph: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images