NTR's son Nandamuri Harikrishna's demise marks an end of resistance to Chandrababu Naidu's control over TDP

The untimely demise of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) politburo member Nandamuri Harikrishna marks an end of the resistance to Andhra Pradesh chief minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu in the succession battle within TDP.

Of late, there has been feeble yet pronounced competition for appropriating former chief minister NT Rama Rao's political legacy between the Nandamuri and Nara families. Harikrishna occasionally differed with and distanced himself from Naidu, only to return to work under his leadership as he lacked dexterous political acumen to challenge his brother-in-law.

In fact, Harikrishna — along with all the other family members — rallied behind Naidu during a revolt within the party in 1995. Despite his close affinity with his father and the then chief minister NTR, Harikrishna chose to be with Naidu as the entire family was annoyed with the role of NTR's second wife, Lakshmi Parvathi. Most of the party rallied behind Naidu as the revolt against NTR was perceived as a sacred responsibility to save the party from the extra-constitutional role of Parvathi in TDP affairs.

Thus, Harikrishna chose to be with the party rather than his father who founded the party itself. Appreciating the role of Harikrishna, Naidu inducted him into his Cabinet that assumed office after dislodging NTR.

File image of Nandamuri Harikrishna. News18

File image of Nandamuri Harikrishna. News18

Eventually though, Harikrishna differed with his brother-in-law and left the TDP to form his own political outfit Anna Telugu Desam Party. NTR was fondly called Anna ( brother) by everyone. The name of the party floated by Harikrishna suggests that he was trying to project himself as the true political heir of NTR. This marked the first and most prominent conflict between Nandamuri and Nara families for appropriating the cherished legacy of NTR.

In fact, Harikrishna personally drove the chariot (chaitanya ratham) during NTR's time, making campaign tours crisscrossing the entire state. However, he failed to sustain the separate political party as Naidu already held full control of his own party and even NTR could not do anything in his lifetime to undo the revolt led by his own son-in-law. Thus, Harikrishna returned to the TDP fold.

This political journey of Harikrishna indicates the love-hate relationship he had with Naidu. As the head of TDP, Naidu, however, accommodated Harikrishna in the party apparatus as he felt NTR's son could cause more damage if he was left out. This was the carrot-and-stick approach adopted by Naidu towards Harikrishna. Yet, Harikrishna being the son of NTR and with his forthright approach, could not be an all-weather ally of Naidu.

Now, with the passing away of Harikrishna and with Naidu's son Nara Lokesh being married to Brahmani Nandamuri, the daughter of Balakrishna (NTR's son), Naidu could establish a sway over NTR's political legacy.

NTR 's daughter D Purandeswari, who could not adjust with Naidu, later joined the Congress and became a minister in the Manmohan Singh government. Owing to the state bifurcation, she defected to BJP in search of greener political pastures. No other member of the NTR's family was in active politics. Subsequently, after the marriage of Lokesh, Balakrishna joined active politics and is now a TDP MLA from Hindupur, which his father and brother earlier represented.

Harikrishna's son and popular film actor Junior NTR at one point of time displayed the potential to be a challenger to Naidu's son and the present Andhra Pradesh IT minister Lokesh. But the defeat of TDP in 2009 elections, in which Junior NTR played a stellar role in the campaigning, diminished this challenge.

Naidu was desperate to win the 2009 polls after five years in Opposition. He was pitted against the strong regional satrap of Congress, YS Rajasekhara Reddy, who could, to an extent, beat the anti-incumbency with his slew of welfare measures. Naidu joined hands with TRS and the Left parties to form a sort of mahagatbandhan. He left no stone unturned to return to power. Thus, he roped in popular actor Junior NTR, who physically resembles his grandfather, the senior NTR. But all this did not fructify .

With the changed political idiom post-bifurcation, Naidu came to power, keeping Harikrishna and Junior NTR aside. Thus, Naidu tried to make Harikrishna politically redundant within TDP.

However, in a clever move, Naidu accommodated Harikrishna. He was appointed to the politburo, the highest political decision-making body within TDP. This helped Naidu to contain Harikrishna, known for his unsparing attitude which Naidu himself acknowledged after his death.

In fact, Harikrishna hoped for re-nomination to the Rajya Sabha. However, he also had Hobson's choice as his experiment failed and he could not prove to be an alternative to Naidu and his political descendant Nara Lokesh. The induction of Harikrishna into the party politburo, despite his deserting the party earlier, was a calculated move to send a message that Naidu holds NTR's family members in high esteem.

With the tragic death of Harikrishna, Balakrishna remaining a trusted ally and NTR's daughter Purandeswari no longer in TDP politics, Naidu's control over TDP is now complete.

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Updated Date: Aug 31, 2018 07:07:26 IST

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