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February 9, 1998


Another NTR son-in-law makes his move

Ch Sushil Rao in Hyderabad

D Venkateshwara Rao Just when one had almost forgotten him, N T Rama Rao's eldest son-in-law, Rajya Sabha member Daggubati Venkateshwara Rao joined the Bharatiya Janata Party last fortnight.

Though the BJP may see it as a prize catch, the shift has made little difference to Telugu Desam Party president and Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who is married to another of NTR's daughters. For that matter, neither the Congress nor NTR-TDP leader Lakshmi Parvathi appear very worried by the news since Rao has little political following.

But like Lakshmi Parvathi, Rao too is bent on ousting Naidu from the gaddi. For Naidu had promised him the deputy chief minister's post when he led the successful coup against their father-in-law in 1995. Once ensconced in the seat, Naidu ignored his kinsman by marriage.

Hurt, Rao retired to the NTR-TDP. But there too, he claims, an insecure Lakshmi Parvathi -- his stepmother-in-law -- tried to sabotage his attempt to become a Rajya Sabha MP, paying MLAs to vote against him. But he still made it to the Upper House by a slender margin. Later, when he decided to leave that party too, he found he had no following. Now he is a little upset that Lakshmi Parvathi too has allied herself with the BJP.

"When I joined the BJP, there was no scope for this alliance. I will not share the dais with Lakshmi Parvathi and this is what I have told the BJP leadership," he says.

Venkateshwara Rao worked with NTR from the time he decided to launch the TDP, though it was Naidu who usurped power later. Does he feel disappointed?

"There is something called luck. It is I who brought many people into politics by introducing them to NTR. Naidu was then in the Congress and even announced that he would contest against NTR. The very people I helped chose to sail with Naidu. I do not blame them," he says.

After Naidu assumed power, he sidelined Rao, deciding not to create the deputy chief minister's post.

"Babu wants all the power to be concentrated with himself. He cannot tolerate credit going to another person. That's why he kept me away," says Rao.

Lakshmi Parvathi, he says, "has the same mentality. When NTR was alive, she destroyed the party with her ambition. After his death, she tried to sabotage even my election to the Rajya Sabha. I just could not work with her anymore and left the party," he says.

And now, just when it seemed he had vanished from the political arena, Venkateshwara Rao joined the BJP.

"Don't say everyone forgot me," he corrects you. "It is just that the newspapers did not write about me. In Parliament I was raising questions and I was there when people needed me, during natural calamities or other problems," he says, putting the blame squarely on the newspapers, particularly the ones in Telugu. published from Hyderabad.

"Everyone knows this. A newspaper did not even think the fact that I joined the BJP was news. Chandrababu Naidu has bought them all," he alleges.

Didn't the stigma of communalism attached to the BJP worry him?

"The BJP is not a communal party. In the states which it is is in government, there are no instances of communal violence. Moreover, I am in favour of Vajpayee becoming prime minister. That's why I chose the BJP," he claims.

Rao says he was contemplating joining the BJP for some time. When he made up his mind, he also informed NTR's family about his decision. Asked what they felt about it, he says evasively, "Let's not drag NTR's family into this."

Venkateshwara Rao is showing more zeal, more life, than he has shown for some time now. "Every politician aspires for something," he says, declining to elaborate. But he will not contest the general election.

"I don't need to. I have a few more years left in the Rajya Sabha. I have fought direct elections several times since the TDP's formation and won. I was even a minister. When I have to contest, I will not shy away from it," he says.

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