NTR then � Chandrababu Naidu now

NTR then � Chandrababu Naidu now

Comparisons may be odious but are inevitable in some cases. They are all the more necessary when they pertain to two persons of such dissimilar nature...

Comparisons may be odious but are inevitable in some cases. They are all the more necessary when they pertain to two persons of such dissimilar nature as NT Rama Rao and his ambitious son-in-law Chandrababu Naidu. The only other such combination that comes to mind for those who are familiar with a dynastic tradition in our country is that of Nehru and his 'bête-noire' son-in-law Feroze Gandhi.

Except that both Feroze and Naidu made their fathers-in-law spend sleepless nights, there is no other point of comparison as Feroze never aspired for power and Naidu actually usurped the position of his simple and guileless father-in-law in a major coup for which he has, like all such situations in history, his own very plausible reasons for good of the State.

NTR, a novice in politics, stormed into the picture in a filmy style, as one who was hurt by the Andhras being sidelined by the Centre on every issue and wanted to restore the self-respect ('Atmagouravam') of the Telugu people. This slogan appealed to the people by and large who had been treated till then as 'Madrasis' with scant respect.

He believed sincerely that the Telugu people had become the most subservient creatures and it was divine command for him to rescue them from further ignominy. Then the 'NTR phenomenon' became the rallying point of all and it clicked. In his unbounded enthusiasm, he promised several things to the people.

The list of his achievements before the first 100-day function was quite impressive -- rice at Rs 2 a kg for low income groups, prohibition, reduction of age of retirement from 58 at 55, abolition of several corporations, cancellation of pension to legislators, women's university, abolition of legislative council, banning of capitation fee and so on. Chaitanya Ratham He emerged at the national level as a very charismatic and popular leader, next to Indira Gandhi. Leaders of 14 different parties, including four chief ministers from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, and Vajpayee and Jagjivan Ram, rallied round him at the 'conclave' organised in Vijayawada. About 5 lakh assembled at the venue and a lakh- strong procession followed NTR's Chaitanya Ratham through the main streets of the city. With all that he was thrown out, betrayed by his own party men.

When he fought successfully and came back to power with a convincing majority, it was widely believed that he would act with renewed vigour and prove his mettle as the saviour of the common man. Things started falling apart with his losing grip as much by his own folly and arrogance of his invincibility as by the clever manipulation of his party men led by his own ambitious son-in-law Chandrababu Naidu.

Most of his proposed reforms have been either rejected by the people or thrown out by the courts. He was a disillusioned man. Poor NTR, with all his charisma and massive support from the people, betrayed by his own people, died a very heart broken man.

His divine roles, charisma, intense desire for doing good to the people and his integrity did not save him from the machinations of people who let him down, particularly his own clever son-in-law Naidu, whose administrative abilities proved to be much better than NTR's charismatic appeal to the people.

Walkathon Chandrababu Naidu ruled for nine years and that period was marked by lopsided development of the State with all available resources spent on the capital, neglecting all other areas. He believed that it would ensure his continuance in power for a long time and, trusting him, the BJP government at the Centre advanced elections by eight months under the mistaken belief that the sympathy wave for the attack on his life would help them.

It was their grievous blunder as none could tell what would have happened during those eight months. When that failed and the BJP lost power, Chandrababu lost no time in openly declaring that his defeat was due to his support for a communal party.

He distanced himself from them and tried to win the support of the minorities offering several sops to them. Then to regain the lost ground, he found the conditions in the State very congenial when it was literally plunged in darkness and unprecedented corruption at the highest levels.

He undertook his long march � walkathon � for seven months, promising to everybody everything right and left. In his desperate effort braving all odds, he has failed to take into account the Telangana factor which has now reached a stage where it will have to take a concrete shape with BJP and other parties actively working for it at the national level.

What is his position then? Will he then move to the center-stage as some parties fondly believe that it will be a third front at the Centre and win the top post which he rues he had given up earlier when it was within his reach in favour of a municipal-chairman level leader!

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