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Naidu: NDA's conscience keeper

Syed Amin Jafri in Hyderabad | November 14, 2003 12:07 IST

As and when elections are held in Andhra Pradesh, the nation will follow the fortunes of National Democratic Alliance's conscience keeper N Chandrababu Naidu.

The chief minister has managed to maintain his position as the undisputed leader in his state for over eight years now and in this period, his influence at the Centre too has never waned.

Naidu is a poster boy for those who advocate fighting polls on the basis of development issues.

He started his political career as a Youth Congress leader in his native Chittoor district, and was elected to the assembly on a Congress (I) ticket from Chandragiri in 1978.

In 1980, he was inducted as a minister of state by then chief minister T Anjaiah. In September 1981, he got married to film actor N T Rama Rao's third daughter, Bhuvaneswari. He served as a junior minister in the cabinets of successive Congress CMs -- Bhavanam Venkatram and Kotla Vijayabhaskar Reddy till 1982.

In 1983, NTR floated the Telugu Desam Party on the slogan of Telugu self-pride. In the assembly election that followed, Naidu lost his seat. He switched sides and joined the TDP, which came to power in the state. It was when NTR was dislodged from power during August-September 1984 that he got an opportunity to showcase his political and organising skills. He came up with the 'Save Democracy' campaign, launched by the TDP with the support of the Left parties and the Bharatiya Janata Party. It eventually led to the governor sacking Nadendla Bhaskar Rao, who had taken NTR's place.

During 1985-89, Naidu's firmly entrenched himself in the party and government becoming TDP general secretary and NTR's key adviser.

When the TDP was in the opposition during 1989-94, Naidu, as deputy leader of the party in the assembly, kept up the pressure on the then Congress government.

He was appointed as TDP coordinator in the run-up to the 1994 assembly election, in which NTR regained power with a massive mandate. The TDP won 223 out of the 294 seats in the assembly.

Naidu was appointed finance and revenue minister.

In 1995, piqued over the 'uncalled-for interference' of NTR's second wife Lakshmi Parvathi in the party and the administration, he rebelled.

NTR had failed to read the mood among members of his family and party as his sons, a majority of party legislators and senior functionaries deserted him.

They rallied behind Naidu, who got himself elected as president of the party before being sworn in as chief minister by the then governor Krishan Kant on September 1, 1995.

In due course, he began taking an interest in national politics, serving as convener of the United Front, which came to power in 1996.

In the 1996 and 1998 Lok Sabha elections, the TDP had allied with the Left, but did not do well, conceding 22 out of the 42 seats in the state to the Congress. He ditched the United Front after the 1998 general election.

In 1999, when simultaneous parliamentary and assembly polls were held, the TDP forged an alliance with the BJP. It won 29 Lok Sabha seats and 180 assembly constituencies. The result helped the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance to retain power at the Centre and the TDP in the state.

It seems the TDP and BJP plan to continue their poll alliance for the ensuing assembly election and the Lok Sabha polls in September 2004.

After being in the chair for eight years and three months, Naidu already has the record of being the state's longest serving chief minister. In recent times, retaining power has been a Herculean task. To do so twice will catapult Naidu to another league.

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