One feature of the 2019 election campaign in Andhra Pradesh has been to turn the clock back and deride Chandrababu Naidu as a person who backstabbed his father-in-law NT Rama Rao. With Naidu contesting elections without an alliance partner this time, the list of his political rivals is long and each one of them spares no effort in reminding the crowds of the August 1995 coup when he dethroned NTR and took away his Telugu Desam. Six months later, NTR passed away, a broken man.
Over the weekend in Mangalagiri, veteran actor Mohan Babu who has now joined the YSR Congress, reminded people of the backstabbing chapter, urging the people of Andhra not to believe Naidu. Mohan Babu’s attack on Chandrababu was deeply ironic because he supported him during the coup despite NTR helping him become a film star and take an active part in politics. In fact, Mohan Babu who also hails from Chittoor district like Naidu, was even sent to the Rajya Sabha by the TDP in 1995.
Mohan Babu subsequently fell out with Naidu when the TDP initiated disciplinary proceedings against him for allegedly assaulting a party colleague. At that time, Mohan Babu said he regretted betraying NTR. He was to repeat the same regret in Mangalagiri. (see video)
Ditto with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Referring to Chandrababu’s comment that he was senior to the PM in politics, Modi turned it around to say that Naidu is senior only in matters like backstabbing his father-in-law. While Modi is factually correct, it also begs the question why Naidu’s past of betraying NTR was not a factor five years ago when the BJP shook hands with the TDP.
NTR is very much a factor in this election though it is anyone’s guess if it will have any impact on the voting behaviour. Ram Gopal Varma’s `Lakshmi’s NTR’ also released all over India except Andhra Pradesh this Friday. This movie focuses on the last two years of NTR’s life, starting with his controversial marriage to Lakshmi Parvati, the coup of 1995 by Naidu and his demise in January 1996. The TDP managed to stave off its release in Andhra theatres in order to do damage control.
The YSRC is likely to use Lakshmi Parvati in its campaign in the last phase, again to invoke NTR and castigate Naidu. To give her credit, Parvati who is now a YSRC leader, has not indulged in double-speak about Naidu and has been consistent in her criticism of the Andhra chief minister.
On its part, the TDP continues to ask for votes in NTR’s name and his slogan of Telugu atmagauravam (self-respect). Paying homage to NTR’s bust remains an integral part of every TDP event. It had pinned its hopes on NTR’s biopic in which his son Nandamuri Balakrishna (TDP candidate from Hindupur) played the title role but the two-part movie failed to set the box-office on fire.