In Naidu directed drama 25 years ago, seasoned politician-actor NTR booted out of power

Hyderabad: It has been 25 years since erstwhile combined state of Andhra Pradesh witnessed an unprecedented turbulence in politics. The infamous “August coup” in Telugu Desam Party against legendary actor-turned-politician chief minister N T Rama Rao by his son-in-law N Chandrababu Naidu to usurp the throne had all the elements of a political thriller that interests reader even today.  

The week-long action-packed drama that began on August 23, 1995, unfolded with the revolt from Naidu and his group of MLAs against NTR for reportedly deciding to hand over the party reins to his second wife N Lakshmi Parvati and ended with dethroning of NTR from the hot seat on August 31.

On September 1, 1995, Chandrababu Naidu was sworn-in as the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh.

The sequence of events in that shook the Andhra Pradesh politics goes like this:

August 23, 1995: NTR and Naidu returned to Hyderabad from Visakhapatnam, after addressing a series of public meetings as part of Prajala Vaddaku Palana (government to the doorsteps of the people) in north-coastal Andhra.

The seeds of discontent in Naidu’s group were sown during this period, as Naidu, who was finance and revenue minister, was vehemently opposing the importance being given by NTR to Lakshmi Parvati and NTR was not happy with the way Naidu had put up a big show in Visakhapatnam. There was a talk that NTR was planning to sack Naidu from the cabinet sooner or later.

So, after returning to the state secretariat, Naidu started confabulating with his group of MLAs in his chambers in Secretariat. More and more MLAs poured in as he discussed strategy on how to keep Lakshmi Parvati at bay.

In the afternoon, Naidu sent a team of three senior leaders – P Ashok Gajapathi Raju, T Devender Goud, and S V Subba Reddy to NTR’s residence with a message that a revolt in the party was imminent, if he did not rein in Lakshmi Parvathi and keep her away from party politics. But NTR was furious and rejected their mediation.

Even as the MLAs were flocking Naidu’s camp at Secretariat, NTR’s sons Nandamuri Harikrishna and Balakrishna met their father twice and tried to convince him but in vain.

By evening of August 23, Naidu’s camp moved to Hotel Viceroy, owned by Prabhakar Reddy, brother-in-law of Naidu’s close confidant and then Srikalahasti MLA Bojjala Gopalakrishna Reddy. 

August 24: NTR’s elder son-in-law Daggubati Venkateshwara Rao flew down to Hyderabad from Delhi and met NTR. But when he went back to his house, he changed his mind after talking to NTR’s sons. Naidu also came down to Daggubati’s residence and both had worked out a strategy on what to do.

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In the evening, Naidu went to NTR’s residence and had a heated discussion with his father-in-law for over three hours. He reportedly tried to prevail upon NTR to stop Lakshmi Parvathi from interfering in the party and government, but NTR was adamant on his stand.

Senior IAS officer Jayaprakash Narayana and top cop H J Dora met Naidu group and NTR separately to bring about a patch-up, but it did not work out.

By night, Hotel Viceroy buzzed with activity with more than 140 MLAs and they had an impromptu meeting to remove NTR as the leader of the Telugu Desam Legislature Party (TDLP) and elect Chandrababu Naidu as the new leader in his place. Daggubati proposed Naidu’s name and Ashok Gajapathi Raju seconded. The TDLP resolution was faxed to Governor K Krishna Kant on the same night. 

August 25:  At around 3 am, NTR came to know about the open revolt by the TDP MLAs and the election of Naidu as the new TDLP leader. He immediately convened a cabinet meeting early in the morning, but only a few ministers attended it.

The cabinet passed a resolution sacking five ministers – N Chandrababu Naidu, T Devender Goud, K Vidyadhar Rao, P Ashok Gajapathi Raju and A Madhava Reddy from their posts. It also passed another resolution dissolving the state legislative assembly to go in for fresh assembly elections.

NTR also wrote a separate letter to assembly speaker Yanamala Ramakrishnudu stating that all the five ministers were expelled from from the TDLP and also from the primary membership of the party.

Later, he straightaway drove to Raj Bhavan at 7.45 am to hand over the cabinet resolutions to the Governor. But he was shocked to know that Naidu had already handed over the TDLP resolution, which removed NTR and elected Naidu as the TDLP leader, to the Governor half an hour before.

At 10-00 am, Vidyadhar Rao and Ashok Gajapathi Raju met the Governor and gave a letter requesting that he invite Naidu to form the new government.

A furious NTR decided to go on a state-wide tour along with Lakshmi Parvathi on his Chaitanya Ratham in the afternoon, starting from Secunderabad. But suddenly, his vehicle stopped at Hotel Viceroy, where the rebel MLAs were camping.

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A high drama took place at the hotel, NTR and his group of MLAs tried to barge into the premises, but the security forces did not allow him to get in. While NTR, standing atop the Chaitanya Ratham, was calling his MLAs to come out and not to betray the party, his followers including the MLAs clashed with the police.

At this stage, somebody from inside the hotel premises threw chappals at NTR’s vehicle. Though it did not hit him, it was a humiliation to the great leader who returned to his home humiliated. 

August 26: The Governor did not act on the letter given by Naidu’s camp seeking to invite him to form the government. In the meantime, the number of MLAs in Naidu’s camp increased. 

August 27: The Governor sent a message to NTR to prove his majority in the assembly by August 30. Though NTR asked for time till September 15, the Governor did not oblige but gave time till August 31.

August 28: Speaker Yanamala Ramakrishnudu who arrived from Tuni took a headcount of the MLAs sailing with Naidu in the assembly committee hall. NTR’s group boycotted it. 

August 28 and 29: NTR took up a whirlwind tour of some districts to expose the great betrayal by his own son-in-law. But there was not much response from the people. He came back to Hyderabad to meet National Front leaders led by V P Singh who came from Delhi to settle the dispute within the TDP. But they failed in their attempt.

August 30: TDP state executive committee meeting was held at Basant Talkies at Kachiguda, where NTR was sacked as the party president, and Naidu was elected as new TDP chief and Lal Jan Basha as general secretary.

August 31: NTR was supposed to prove the majority in the assembly but the session could not be held as he complained of chest pain and got admitted to Medicity Hospital.

At 10 am, Governor Krishna Kant visited the hospital, where NTR handed over the letter to him, stating that he was quitting the chief minister post. He realised that he did not have the majority MLAs with him. He got discharged from the hospital the same evening. The Governor invited Chandrababu Naidu to form the government on September 1.

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