HYDERABAD: Way back in 2004, a first-time Congress MP from Andhra Pradesh was delivering her maiden speech in Lok Sabha. The subject she was speaking on was the situation of agriculture in the country. Though the subject was somewhat dry, almost all members in the House paid attention to her. She stumped the members with an hour-long emotional speech on the plight of farmers.
Soon after her speech, the then Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar sent a slip to her praising the way she perfectly narrated the problems of farmers in her address. Congress supremo and UPA chairperson personally greeted the MP and patted her back, wishing good luck in her new endeavour as a Parliamentarian. In the next couple of months, she found her way into the Union Cabinet as a minister of state.
The MP was none other than TDP founder and Telugu legendary film star NT Rama Rao’s daughter Daggubati Purandeswari.
She was identified as NTR’s daughter only on the first day and that too until she began her maiden speech in Lok Sabha. After that, she made her own path on the political spectrum of Andhra Pradesh. She went on to become Union Minister of the State during the UPA-I regime and then Union minister during the UPA-II rule excelling in her field.
“I never speak without doing homework on any subject. I am a voracious reader and follow each development carefully. Based on my personal experiences, I prepare my speeches. Probably, this is the reason why my speeches strike a chord with the audience,” said Purandeswari.
It is an open secret that NTR’s daughter used to enjoy preferential treatment at 10 Janpath till she bid adieu to the Congress in protest against bifurcation of undivided Andhra Pradesh.
After quitting the Congress, Purandeswari unsuccessfully contested the 2014 general polls from Rajampet Lok Sabha seat in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh, which is the bastion of YSR Congress (YSRC), on BJP nomination.
Though she lost the Lok Sabha election, the BJP leadership seems to be considering her as a ray of hope for the saffron party to grow in the reorganised Andhra where it has virtually no political base.
What makes Purandeswari to outdo her peers in the state BJP to play a star campaigner role for the party in the state? Answer is simple. The woman politico is being considered by many in the Andhra political circles as another Sushma Swaraj for the BJP, particularly from the south.
Like her father NTR, who had the gift of the gab, Purandeswari too is a sliver-tongued politician. She can easily deliver power-packed political speeches to attract masses on any subject.
The convent-educated leader, who is a Bachelor of Arts, can read, write and speak five languages—English, Telugu, Tamil, Hindi and French—with much ease.
As the BJP has no political stars of its own in Andhra, it highly banked on film actor and Jana Sena Party founder Pawan Kalyan to campaign for the party during the last General Elections. But, the party, which wants to grow on its own in the reorganised state to fill the political vacuum, created in the wake of Congress Party’s downfall in the state, appears to be focusing its attention on nurturing its own political stars in the state to take on all political parties including its ally, the TDP, in the coming days. As part of this effort, the saffron party leadership appears to be, for now, zeroed in on NTR’s daughter.
The argument in the BJP circles is that if Purandeswari is pitted against the TDP leadership in Andhra Pradesh, as she is also from the influential Kamma community which backs the yellow party, the saffron party can successfully make inroads into the TDP in the coming days.
Proving this, Purandeswari has started spearheading the BJP tirade against its ally, the TDP. At a time when the TDP leaders are attacking the BJP-led NDA government over non-allocation of adequate funds to Andhra Pradesh in the Union Budget, Purandeswari, once considered as the bete noire of Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, led a 25-member BJP delegation, comprising the two BJP ministers in Naidu’s Cabinet, party MLAs and MPs from the state, to Delhi to apprise the BJP central leadership of the happenings in the state.
During their Delhi Yatra, the BJP team headed by Purandeswari called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party boss Amit Shah and other Union ministers to ensure that all promises made to Andhra Pradesh during the bifurcation of the state are implemented at the earliest.
Much to the chagrin of the TDP leadership, Purandeswari recently toured across the backward Rayalaseema region to study the drought conditions prevailing there. The tour was aimed at improving BJP’s electoral fortunes in the region.
“Purandeswari is a talkative politician. She speaks with ease on any issue. She has good command even on colloquial Telugu, which is a must-have quality to win over rural voters. What I learnt from her is that one should do a lot of homework before delivering political speeches,” said V Sashibhushan Reddy, BJP’s Kadapa district president who had closely moved with NTR’s daughter during her campaign in Rajampet Lok Sabha constituency in the last general elections.
When asked about her future plans in the BJP, Purandeswari told The Sunday Standard, “My aim is to strengthen the BJP in Andhra. We are trying to win over various sections of voters by explaining the welfare schemes of the Narendra Modi government.”
Battle in the family
Indicating that she is all set to lead the BJP’s charge against the TDP in the coming days in Andhra Pradesh, Purandeswari criticised Chandrababu Naidu’s government for the first time in the recent past, saying that though the Centre had expressed its willingness to supply fodder and seeds to farmers in the drought-hit areas, the state government did not come forward to avail this facility.Though, Purandeswari is the elder sister of Chandrababu Naidu’s wife Bhuvaneswari, it is an open secret that both Purandeswari and Naidu do not see eye to eye. Ever since her husband D Venkateswara Rao left the TDP in 2000, there has been no cordial relations between the family of Rao and Naidu.
Purandeswari after joining the BJP before the general polls, tried to get a winnable seat for her. But, Naidu formed an alliance with BJP and dashed her hopes of getting an MP ticket from Visakhapatnam or Vijayawada. Then, she had to unsuccessfully contest from Rajampet.