Vijayawada: The Telugu Desam Party, founded by thespian N.T. Rama Rao nearly four decades ago, is facing existential threat under the leadership of his son-in-law N. Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh. Elections for urban and rural bodies became the latest trigger, bringing the party on the brink of disaster. A wave of defections to the ruling YSRC (Yuvajana Sramika Rytu Congress (YSRC) is a grim pointer to this threat.
TDP in Telangana
The separate statehood movement in Telangana accelerated TDP’s exit. A party that has got strong cadre and vote bank ruled Telangana region in different spells since 1983 failed to have representation in the State Assembly after its two members switched their loyalty to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi. It was not able to even field candidates in the last year’s Parliament elections. The veterans of the separate Telangana movement like Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao successfully projected the TDP as an “outsider” party with roots and interests in Andhra area. Thus, TDP lost its relevance in the country’s youngest state.
A similar threat looms large over the Naidu’s party in the successor state of Andhra Pradesh also after it’s worst-ever drubbing in the last year’s State and Parliament elections. It secured just 23 seats in the 175-member Assembly and three out of 25 Lok Sabha seats with 40 percent vote share in that elections. Heavy migrations rattled the TDP before the general elections. When Naidu used the trick of encouraging defections from the YSRC on a large scale during his tenure as the CM, his rival Jaganmohan Reddy is paying Naidu back in the same coin now after he came to power.
The party president Naidu met Andhra Pradesh Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan with a request for issue of re-election notification in more than 360 MPTCs (Mandal Parishad Territorial Constituencies), citing inability of his party nominees to file nominations in view of terror allegedly unleashed by the ruling YSRC. This speaks of the TDP’s vulnerability. During the local body elections at the village, mandal and zilla parishad levels, it is tough time for any party devoid of tough and militant leaders in the faction-hit Rayalaseema and parts of coastal Andhra areas to even find candidates.
Strong leaders start to desert TDP
When strong leaders began to desert the TDP, its candidates are finding it difficult to remain the election fray in Rayalaseema with four districts and neighbouring Prakasam district. In the CM’s home district of Kadapa, the Naidu’sparty lost its existence with the latest defections. S V Satish Reddy, former Deputy Chairman of AP Legislative Council, who remained with the TDP for over two decades facing odds with the YSR family in Pulivendula, crossed over to the Jagan’s party. Similarly, another party’s old guard and militant leader P. Ramasubba Reddy of Jammulamadugu also followed the suit. The family of K E Krishnamurthy, former Deputy Chief Minister in the Naidu’s government in Kurnool chose to stay away from the elections by not fielding the party candidates. Krishnamurthy’s brother and former minister KE Prabhakar sent out feelers favouring to embrace the YSRC. In Prakasam district, the sitting MLA from Chirala and rabble-rouser from Kamma community Karanam Balaram joined the YSRC along with his son Venkatesh. Four MLCs and three MLAs changed loyalties from the TDP till date. YSRC Secretary General and Rajya Sabha member said at least 10 more MLAs of the TDP have been lined up to cross over to the ruling party.
Why is the party suffering the exodus on such a massive scale? A senior TDP leader, wishing to be unnamed, said Naidu after taking the party reins, failed to build loyalty as how his mentor NTR did. Besides, defections from YSRC during his rule had spoiled the eco-system within the party. Naidu’s decision to use the Legislative Council under dominance of his party in the
one-upmanship with Jagan, resulting in its abolition left all the council members of his party disillusioned, the leader observed.