Hyderabad: In 1984, when the general elections for Lok Sabha were held post-assassination of Indira Gandhi, Telugu Desam Party president and then chief minister of combined Andhra Pradesh N T Rama Rao offered the party ticket to a Communist Party of India (CPI) leader to contest from Mahabubnagar parliamentary constituency.
Those days, NTR had a soft corner towards the Communists, who stood by him in his fight for restoration of democracy after he was pulled down from power by Nadendla Bhaskar Rao in August 1994 coup.
Maybe because of this particular reason, he offered the MP ticket to the Communist leader, who had then just completed his term as the state legislative council member. But there was a rider: he should contest the election on the TDP ticket.
But the ex-MLC politely turned down the offer, saying being a Communist party worker, he cannot contest on the other party’s ticket and he would not like to change the party. “Once a Communist, always a Communist,” he had said.
Had he accepted NTR’s offer, he would have become a Lok Sabha MP and it would have been a turnaround in his fortunes. But he remained committed to his faith in the Leftist ideology.
He was my uncle – A Shyam Sunder Rao, an MLC from Mahabubnagar-Ranga Reddy-Hyderabad Teachers’ Constituency, who is still revered in the teachers’ community. Three decades later, he died like an ordinary worker and his mortal remains were draped with the red flag as a mark of tribute.
Such was the commitment of the Leftists of the older generation to their ideology. But unfortunately, this commitment seems to be missing in most of the present generation Communists, if not all. It was sad to see hundreds of Leftist leaders, along with thousands of their followers, taking a completely “Right” turn in West Bengal after the crumbling of the Communist regime a decade ago. There was a mass exodus of the Leftist leaders and cadre into the Bharatiya Janata Party in the last few years. What is worse, they defended this “change” stating that they had to do it out of political compulsion, as they had no other option to take on the mighty Trinamul Congress led by Mamata Banerjee.
So, it was no surprise when former Telangana health minister Eatala Rajender, who came from a strong Leftist background, chose to join the saffron party only to counter the onslaught from the Telangana Rashtra Samithi led by chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao. Like the Leftist cadres in West Bengal, Rajender, too, was left with no option, as he has to wriggle out of the cases foisted against him by the TRS government.
During his college days, Rajender was an active leader of Progressive Democratic Students’ Union (PDSU), which is a student-wing of the CPI (Marxist-Leninist) New Democracy, a splinter group of the Naxalites. He was my junior in the University College of Science, Saifabad in early 1980s and used to be very aggressive in his arguments.
Though he joined the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and entered electoral politics in 2004, Rajender did not completely give up his Leftist thinking in his initial days and he even sacrificed some of his properties for the Telangana movement. The Leftist rhetoric used to reflect in his talk, which was obviously not to the liking of the TRS leadership.
Rajender made it clear that despite having come from the Leftist background, he had joined the Rightist party only to pull down the TRS from power. May be because of his Leftist background, he is not able to speak the ultra-Rightist language, unlike other hard core BJP leaders like Bandi Sanjay.
Former Karimnagar Zilla Parishad chairperson Tula Uma, who joined the BJP along with Rajender, was also from the Leftist background.
These are the days of “Aaya Ram and Gayaa Ram,” and political ideologies have gone for a toss and political interests have taken the centre stage. And it is not confined only to shifting of loyalties from the Left to the Right, but also from the Right into the Centrist parties and from the Centrist parties to the Right.
Take the case of BJP MP from Nizamabad Dharmapuri Arvind. He was originally from the Congress background.
He was completely alien to the ideology and culture of the saffron brigade. He once told me that before joining the BJP, he was not even aware of the connection between the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the BJP.
So was the case with former Peddapalli MP G Vivek. Belonging to a hard core Congress family of former Union minister G Venkatswamy, Vivek joined the BJP, after a brief period in the TRS, to safeguard his political and business interests. Like Arvind, he, too, has no affinity towards the RSS or the BJP ideology.
Former state minister D K Aruna, who also hailed from the Congress family, comprising her father Chitten Narsi Reddy, father-in-law D K Satya Reddy, husband D K Bharat Simha Reddy, and brother-in-law D K Samara Simha Reddy, was also ‘compelled’ to join the BJP to safeguard her political career. Despite being alien to the Rightist ideology and lacking the BJP background, she rose to the position of the BJP national general secretary.
Former Union minister Sarvey Satyanarayana, once an ardent “loyalist” of the Sonia Gandhi family and former Congress MLC Ponguleti Sudhakar Reddy, were among the many such Centrists who gave up their ideologies and joined the BJP to remain in active politics.
The list is endless and one doesn’t know how many leaders are going to take the ideological shift in the coming days, as the political parties have been keen on attracting leaders from other parties irrespective of their ideological background.
So, what is Left today might be Right tomorrow!
A Srinivasa Rao is Senior Journalist based out of Hyderabad covering developments in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. He has over three decades of reporting experience.