Actor NTR Jr’s future association with his grandfather’s party has come into question with his mentor, Kodali Srivenkateswara Rao (also known as Nani) the TDP legislator for Gudivada, deciding to quit the party on Monday to possibly join the YSR Congress.
Nani joined the TDP and was given a ticket to the Gudivada constituency primarily on the strength of the actor’s status as N T Ramarao’s grandson and star campaigner.
Hours after the MLA announced his resignation and went to meet YSR Congress matriarch Y S Vijayamma, NTR Jr called a press conference to distance himself from his mentor’s defection and reaffirm his commitment to the TDP. But party insiders insisted that the Nani manoeuvre was NTR Jr’s way of hitting back at TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu with whom he and his father and Rajya Sabha MP N Harikrishna have had an uncomfortable relationship in recent months.To the TDP, Nani’s departure not only means the loss of another MLA but also a cleaving of the party in Krishna district into two groups, one owing allegiance to Naidu and the other to Harikrishna and NTR Jr. The district unit president Devineni Umamaheshwara Rao is in the Naidu’s camp, but the Vijayawada unit president Vallbhaneni Vamsi Mohan is Harikrishna’s man and had recently made a public show of his ardour for YSR Congress chief Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Jagan Mohan Reddy is said to be courting the support of powerful Kamma leaders in Krishna district, and Nani would come in handy. Other TDP elements disgruntled with Naidu’s leadership are said to be future targets for him. The NTR family of Nandamuris have been unhappy with Naidu’s leadership of the party which Naidu addressed by marrying his son Lokesh with actor Nandamuri Balakrishna’s daughter.
However, the move may only have further distanced NTR Jr, who bears a strong likeness to his grandfather and is seen in the party as a forceful personality.
It is against that context that the defection of Nani at this juncture has triggered speculation whether NTR Jr will put his heart and soul into the TDP in future.
Sources said NTR Jr is not thinking of an entry into active politics until the 2019 general elections when the coast may be clear for him to assume leadership of the party. “NTR Jr is looking beyond 2014. He has an ambition to be chief minister but he is prepared to wait,” said one party leader.
For the moment, Nani’s exit from the TDP is considered a tactical move by that clique. Nani was said to be doubtful of being given the ticket for Gudivada, the native place of N T Rama Rao, again in the 2014 election as there is talk of Balakrishna being fielded from there. Therefore the traipse over to YSR Congress.