NTR developed art of coalition politics in the era of Cong hegemony

By Mohammed Shafeeq

Hyderabad, May 28 (IANS): When N.T. Rama Rao single-handedly demolished the Congress in its traditional stronghold of Andhra Pradesh in 1983, a few months after floating TDP on the slogan of 'Telugu self-respect', the entire country began to take note of the legendary actor.

By challenging Indira Gandhi and ending the Congress' monopoly in Andhra Pradesh politics, NTR emerged as the new hope of opposition unity at the national level.

After the Janata Party experiment of the 1970s, NTR was the architect of coalition politics at the national level. He went on to play a key role in the formation of the National Front government led by V.P. Singh in 1989.

The TDP founder, who was inspired by his friend and actor-politician M.G. Ramachandran (MGR) from Tamil Nadu, further cemented his position in 1984 when his government was toppled allegedly by Congress by propping Nadendla Bhaskar Rao and misusing the office of the Ggovernor.

NTR hit the national headlines with the massive save democracy movement as opposition leaders from across the country descended on Hyderabad to show their solidarity. Leaders like Charan Singh, Sharad Pawar, Farooq Abdullah, Samar Mukherjee, H.N. Bahuguna and Era Sezhiyan addressed the public meeting with NTR in Hyderabad.

The actor-politician scored another huge victory when he was reinstated as the chief minister. He emerged as a regional strongman and became focus of national and international media

NTR further consolidated himself by seeking a fresh mandate in 1985 and retaining power with a higher tally. With his anti-Congressism, he became one of the early and strong proponents of opposition unity.

NTR was a strong believer in federalism. He opposed concentration of powers at the Centre and fought for cordial Centre-State relations. Political analysts say it was due to his efforts that the issue of Centre-state relations became part of the mainstream agenda.

The TDP founder used to often remark that the Centre is a myth. At a meeting of opposition parties in Calcutta in 1984, he made it clear that India is a union of states and the Centre existed only through the states.

With the office of governor being misused to bring down his own government in 1984, NTR had demanded abolition of the institution of the governor. He believed that the Centre uses governors as its agents.

He hosted a meeting of leaders of opposition parties in Hyderabad in January 1986 for coordination and joint action on various issues. Leaders of 13 parties had participated in the meeting, which passed Hyderabad declaration to forge a common forum for discussion and action.

NTR against hosted a meeting of opposition leaders in Hyderabad in 1988. He stepped up efforts to bring together warring opposition parties with the sole aim to defeat Congress.

It was due to sustained efforts by NTR and his series of talks with leaders like V. P. Singh, Karnataka Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde, Janata Party leader Chandra Shekhar and Lok Dal leader H. N. Bahugana that National Front was formed on August 6, 1988.

Emerging as a leader acceptable to all, NTR was chosen as chairman of National Front. At the first public meeting of the Front in Madras on September 17, 1989, NTR stated that in the past the Congress freed the country and now the time has come to free the country from the Congress misrule.

He also declared that his dream of bringing together all opposition parties has come true. The supporters of TDP founder began to see him as the Prime Minister in waiting

Many believe that if TDP had not lost 1989 elections, NTR would have been one of the strong contenders for Prime Minister's position. The TDP was not happy when the post of Deputy Prime Minister was not offered to NTR.

In fact, NTR wanted to float a federal party to fight for the rights of the states. After the 1985 electoral victory, TDP passed a resolution for the formation of Bharata Desam. However, it never took off as NTR was undecided on its shape and ideology.

NTR has also campaigned for Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) in 1985 Assam assembly elections. In 1987, he campaigned in Haryana assembly polls in support of Devi Lal led Lok Dal. The next year saw him campaigning against the Congress party in the crucial by-elections in north India.

Senior journalist Ramesh Kandula wrote in the epilogue of his book ‘Maverick Messiah' that NTR was the only regional leader who campaigned extensively across the nation to build a national political alternative.

"NTR also remains the only regional party leader who was able to attract huge crowds in north India. The TDP chief campaigned in 16 states, including J&K, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Assam and Nagaland, in support of the National Front," he wrote.



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