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March 18, 1998

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Renuka peeved at denial of renomination to RS, may part ways with TDP

Ch Sushil Rao in Hyderabad

First she was denied a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha polls and now even a renomination to the Rajya Sabha. Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Renuka Choudhary, to say the least, is dejected.

For some reason Telugu Desam Party president and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has been ignoring over for the last few months. And the denial of a Rajya Sabha nomination to her is only the culmination of the cold war between the two.

Hard as she might try to keep her feelings to herself, Renuka finds the latest rebuff extremely difficult to handle. The insult obviously rankles, and Renuka blurts out, "This is not the end of the road for me. My goal is to serve the people, but the path may henceforth be different."

Will she now join the Bharatiya Janata Party? "No," says Renuka firmly. She told Rediff On The Netfrom her residence in Hyderabad today that joining the BJP may not happen in the future also.

For Renuka, who has dominated the national scene for 12 years as one of the more eloquent women Rajya Sabha members, Naidu's refusal cuts deeply.

"When I asked for a party ticket to contest the Lok Sabha polls, I was refused. This, when the other four Union ministers from the TDP were renominated. I was the only woman from the TDP in the Union ministry, but was denied the chance to contest the polls. Now all the others who have been nominated to contest the Rajya Sabha polls are men and I, being a woman, have been left out again," says Renuka.

Knowing only too well that Naidu was nursing a grudge against her, Renuka met him a few days ago. "I met him not only to clear any misgivings he might have against me but also to seek a Rajya Sabha ticket," Renuka says.

How did Naidu react to her? "He wouldn't even look straight at me. He simply listened to me," she says.

During the counting of votes, local media reports said Naidu was peeved with Renuka for advocating on television that it would be good for the TDP to support the BJP at the Centre. "I have never said that. It was a planted story in the Telugu press," Renuka sought to clarify.

Renuka herself is now at a loss for words to describe Naidu's decision to indirectly support the BJP.

Asked what her next course of action would be, Renuka says she expects the party to use her at the state level. "If that also does not happen, I will be glad to spend my time at home taking care of my children and family," she says.

Renuka describes the denial of a Rajya Sabha nomination as 'unfair'. At the time of distribution of tickets for the Lok Sabha elections, it was indicated to her that she would be nominated to the Rajya Sabha.

"I am disappointed no doubt, but I see this only as a small hiccup. My goal is to serve the people and I will continue to do that," she says firmly.

Renuka has already packed her things in Delhi and will vacate her ministerial bungalow in a couple of days. "My Rajya Sabha term ends in April and I have time till May to vacate, but I do not want to continue to occupy the house," says the firebrand politician who has now mellowed a little.

While leaving out Renuka, the TDP yesterday fielded five others to fill up six seats from the Andhra Pradesh assembly. Its ally, the Communist Party of India, and the opposition Congress are also in the fray.

The TDP candidates who filed their nominations yesterday are former home minister Kala Venkata Rao, Guntur zilla parishad chairman Y Venkata Rao, TDP general secretary C Ramachandraiah, former APCO chairman Rumala Ramachandra and AP State Tourism Development Corporation chairman P Prabhakar Reddy.

The Congress has fielded Deccan Chronicle and Andhra Bhoomi proprietor T Venkatram Reddy.

Earlier, the CPI's national council member Dasari Nagabhushana Rao had filed his papers.

Additional reportage by UNI

Elections '98

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