…. చంద్రబాబు అనగానే వెన్నుపోటుదారు అనే పదం గుర్తొస్తుంది… తనంటే పడనివాళ్లు ఈ విషయంలో చేయని విమర్శ లేదు… పిల్లనిచ్చిన మామనే వెన్నుపోటు పొడిచాడు అంటూ తిట్టిపోస్తారు, ఆడిపోసుకుంటారు, ఆక్షేపిస్తారు… తనలో అధికార కాంక్ష నిజమే… కానీ ఆ సందర్భంలో చంద్రబాబు వెన్నుపోటు పొడిచాడా..? పార్టీలోని సీనియర్ల మూకాభిప్రాయం మేరకే తిరుగుబాటుకు నాయకత్వం వహించాడా..? ఎన్టీయార్ సరైన సమయాంలో సరైన నిర్ణయాలు తీసుకోలేక, చివరకు కాడి కింద పడేయడమే చంద్రబాబుకు కలిసొచ్చిందా..? అప్పట్లో చంద్రబాబు గనుక ఇలా చేసి ఉండకపోతే తెలుగుదేశం పార్టీ ఘోరంగా నష్టపోయి, కాలగతిలో అప్పుడే కలిసిపోయేదా..? ఇది ఎప్పుడూ ఓ డిబేటబుల్ సబ్జెక్టే… అప్పట్లో Deccan chronicle తరఫున తెలుగుదేశం వ్యవహారాలు రాస్తూ ఉండే సీనియర్ పాత్రికేయుడు ఎ.సాయిశేఖర్ విశ్లేషణ, వివరణ, అంచనా, అవగాహన, పరిశీలన వేరు… తను వెన్నుపోటుదారు కాదు, అది అనివార్యంగా సంభవించిన తిరుగుబాటు మాత్రమే అంటున్నాడు… సుదీర్ఘంగా… ఇంగ్లిషులో ఉన్న తన జ్ఞాపక కథనం ఇది… చంద్రబాబును ప్రేమించేవాళ్ల కోసం… కాదు, కాదు, తనను ద్వేషించేవాళ్లకోసం మరీ ప్రత్యేకంగా… యథాతథంగా…
#LongStoryAlert #NaiduNotABackstabber #NaiduTookNTRHeadOn…….. It’s 25 years today. The September 1 of 1995 witnessed a epoch-making political development that evolved within the Telugu Desam Party which replaced its founder President N T Rama Rao with its Finance Minister and General Secretary of the Party N Chandrababu Naidu. It’s a palace coup, as we, the media, limned it.
But, was it really an act of ‘backstabbing’ as made out by the TDP’s patriarch NTR? Or had NTR given up the fight? Or, was the popular endorsement – at least, history did not repeat itself like in 1984 – to Naidu’s act of commission an expression of righteous indignation by the people against NTR?
I want to bring out a new perspective to the sordid episode, which was dotted with supernumerary histrionics and an impromptu screenplay at which the reel life thespian had failed miserably and his crafty son-in-law excelled (in real life).
In retrospect, I feel, Chandrababu Naidu had taken NTR head on. Naidu had pledged his cozy and bright career at stake and swung into action-packed episode taking the highest risk of a possible political hara-kiri, if the mission failed.
For sure, one could easily assert that Naidu was not at all pusillanimous, despite being aware that he was going for an overkill through some kind of a David and Goliath fight or a mountain and squirrel squabble.
Wasn’t Naidu the modern-day Machiavelli within the TDP? Of course, he was. He had demonstrated his maneuvering ability and political astuteness in the 1984 August coup staged by Nadendla Bhaskara Rao. When NTR’s popularity was at its crescendo, Bhaskara Rao struck him at the behest of Indira Gandhi only to lick his wound perennially. Naidu had fired all cylinders to garner popular support and sympathy for NTR and struck when the iron was hot.
Over the years, Naidu learned the don’ts and unlearned the do’s to make do with the situation, but not before tightening all the loose ends and plugging all the possible loopholes.
Fissures within the TDP were not uncommon by then. The party crossed the stage of being a fledgling toddler and entered its teens by 1995.
The simmering discontent over the overenthusiastic interference of NTR’s newly-wed wife Lakshmi Parvathi in governance had taken the matters to a flash point. A section of media launched a ‘smear campaign’ against the Government causing a debilitating effect, making things worse for the patriarch to fight the enemy within.
Who is the enemy? Was it Chandrababu Naidu or Lakshmi Parvathi?
NTR’s infatuation for his biographer-wife was all too well-known and he grew so impudent whenever any attempt was made to raise a pointer at Lakshmi Parvathi, no matter who did it.
While everybody else was able to feel the heat of the simmering discontent within the party, NTR chose to remain deliberately blind and impervious. Perhaps he was blasé about the allegation that Lakshmi Parvati became an extra-constitutional authority in the government, as similar complaints galore even against Chandrababu Naidu before Parvathi entered NTR’s life.
However, NTR wantonly refused to distinguish between the roles played by Naidu and Parvathi. Naidu, in spite of being NTR’s son-in-law, has been senior to NTR in politics and his brief was different. Naidu earned his position in the party through a lateral entry by adroitly jettisoning several seniors. Parvathi’s only qualification being that she was NTR’s wife irked the party men.
The party had two groups by then – one owing allegiance to Dr Daggubati Venkateswara Rao and another by N Chandrababu Naidu. Whether the two sons-in-law nurtured the groups within the party on purpose was not known initially, but they were led by circumstances to spearhead the two groups.
Some leaders from both groups began singing paeans to Lakshmi Parvathi, expecting larger roles and bigger doles. Some did reap benefits out of the brazen display of sycophancy. This obviously led to cracks in the TDP. I published a full-page special story on June 11, 1995 on these unsavory developments.
NTR’s Officer-on-Special Duty Dr Goteti Ramachandra Rao, a scholarly man, had called me and asked me to go over to the residence of the Chief Minister on Road No. 13 Banjara Hills. Obviously, it was at the instruction of NTR that Dr Goteti called me. So, as I went and called in to the chamber of NTR, he laughed out loudly and said: “Come on, brother. Please have a seat.”
Only I was there, apart from Dr Goteti. Or, should I say, along with Dr Goteti, as I requested him to be with me. He had already hinted at the subject of discussion, for he was made to read out the entire article aloud to him and NTR had marked certain portions of the same for a discussion later with all those who mattered.
NTR did not mince words in saying that it was a complete trash. He tried to give rebuttal, but it was as strong as the weakest link within the party and the family. I know my professional limitations. I am not there to defend my case. After the big man gave his views, I offered to write his take on the story, if the Chief Minister preferred so, as a response to my analysis and findings.
NTR thought for a while. A lion-like roar, more like a sigh, escaped from his nostrils. Immediately, he had a bagful of apples fetched. He said: “Brother, your English is immaculate. Some words were archaic – the kind of words we learned in AC College, Guntur. Journalism is an art. You are very good at that. We both are artistes. We need to have mutual respect for each other. Please accept these apples as a token of my appreciation. But, your story is a brazen attempt to tarnish our image. It’s full of white lies. There are no groups in the TDP. There is only one group, i.e. NTR group. It’s ok. It’s after all politics. I want to share my view. You don’t have to write this.” Huh! I heaved a sigh of relief and took leave of him.
But, yes, that story was like a writing on the wall. It was a prophecy with substantive information. Next day, when I had met with Dr Venkateswara Rao, I narrated what had transpired between me and NTR. He smiled and said that it was good story.
The dexterous Naidu, when we crossed paths the same evening, patted on my back and moved on. After all, sources don’t talk.
The puerile Lakshmi Parvathi, however, felt that the story was totally unfounded and it was mischievous on my part to write like that.
Chandrababu Naidu was so perspicacious that he could successfully incite exasperation, not only among the legislators rallying behind him, but even among those hierophants of Dr Daggubati Venkateswara Rao. Naidu already had NTR’s recalcitrant son Harikrishna on his side.
A lot of them began stoking rebellion more overtly rather than covertly against peremptory approach of Lakshmi Parvathi.
NTR did not pay heed to the advise of seniors and elders, who used their propinquity with him to get his ear about how the rank and file was fulminating about the goings-on in the party.
The time came. Matters worsened. Naidu gave ample signals that he was under pressure from several party functionaries to spearhead a revolt. While the thought of rebellion was getting on the nerves of NTR, he refused to see the empirical situation.
Action began on August 17 when NTR launched his “prajala mungita prabhutvam” (government at the doorstep of common man). Eight MLAs, including thenTelugu Yuvata chief and Nellore MLA T Ramesh Reddy, were suspended from the party. Two ministers of State – Kadiyam Srihari and G Nagesh – were served show-cause notices as to why action should not be taken against them.
Chandrababu Naidu’s nominees conquered most of the District Cooperative Central Bank elections, defeating the “official” nominees of the TDP, meaning the dissent had percolated deep down into the grass roots of the party.
The preparations and confabulations among the rebels began in Vizag, which was the epicenter of intra-party uprising for a week.
Naidu returned along with NTR couple in an aircraft from Vizag in the morning of August 24. Naidu, who used to, otherwise, portray a polite demeanor when NTR was around, would have occupied the front seat in the car in which the NTR couple would go home.
But, the Chief-Minister-in-the-making didn’t join NTR, much to the latter’s consternation. All the rebellious activity under the auspices of Naidu was being reported by media. Still, NTR didn’t budge. The emissaries sent by Naidu could not broker a rapprochement. That was not the intention either.
They – Ashok Gajapathi Raju, T Devender Goud and S V Subba Reddy — were smarty pants themselves. They ensured that the “talks failed”. A furious NTR, however, came out and described the disturbance within the party as just “a storm in the tea cup, and withers away in no time.” But, that was not to be.
Even before the rebel camp moved to Hotel Viceroy (now Marriott), the Intelligence Chief R P Singh and Advocate-General S Ramachandra Rao went and “advised” NTR to recommend dissolution of the Assembly, as he had a majority of Cabinet ministers available with him, before anything could be done by Naidu.
NTR did not believe that Naidu could engineer a coup. But when inexperienced folks like us were able to smell the rat; and senior leaders, bureaucrats and intelligence officials were signaling the tocsin, why NTR did not make the wise moves? Why had he delayed the Constitutional process? Had he given up? I don’t know. Why did NTR hold his resignation letter when Governor Krishan Kanth came to see him at the MediCiti hospital where he was admitted to. It was he who had signed it, but funnily alleged that it was “snatched” from his hands and given to the Governor. Some drama there.
But, Naidu’s quiddity got him make all the moves right. He was so focused that Naidu did not see anything other than the throne within the party as also in the government.
It was September 1, 1995 that Naidu was sworn in the Chief Minister.
All of 44, Nara Chandrababu Naidu, a hitherto backroom boy with a humble background, stormed into the hot seat meticulously. It was a “State mourning day” what with the assassination of Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh in a car bomb blast. So, no ostentation.
Also, Naidu had choreographed it as a solemn occasion of “leadership change”. As if to buttress this strategy, he, along with his wife, Nara Bhuvaneswari, drove straight to NTR’s residence to seek the blessings of the patriarch. However, NTR did not accede. Naidu had waited for quite some time looking for NTR to limber up and mellow down his anger and “bless” him.
NTR also could not enlist popular support when he had toured the State before stepping down in a bid to explain to his electors the sinister designs of his son-in-law. But it did not cut much ice.
Naidu fixed September 2 as the day of “exclusive interviews” to all media houses. He gave me (Deccan Chronicle), R Bhagwan Singh (The Asian Age) and K Balasubrtahmanyam (Andhra Bhoomi) – all from the same group – an “exclusive interview”. The place was K Block in the “now-demolished” secretariat which, until then was the office of the Minister for Finance, suddenly became the Chief Minister’s Office. Thanks to Dr Vijaya Kumar Sammeta and Dr K Lakshminaraya, OSD, meeting Naidu was never difficult as Finance Minister. Personal rapport with Naidu himself, of course, helped many a time. He did not mince words in asserting: “We don’t need NTR.” Rest is history.
It is highly perceptional to call Naidu a backstabber and the act, a coup. I wouldn’t demonize Naidu for this episode. I may have my reservations about his policies and programs; and the devious ways he always pursued in politics.