The appointment of NTR’s widow N Lakshmi Parvathi as the chairperson of the Andhra Pradesh Telugu Academy by the Jagan Mohan Reddy government has revived the debate over continued relevance of NTR more than 23 years after his death.
The YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) government issued an order on Wednesday (November 6), appointing the 64 year old biographer of NTR as the chairperson of the academy.
By this move, the YSRCP wants to honour the memory and legacy of NTR and further embarrass the Telugu Desam Party led by N Chandrababu Naidu who had dethroned his father-in-law and took over the reins of the party in 1995 in what is largely seen as a dark chapter in the history of the regional party.
Though Lakshmi Parvathi, who was once a key player in the TDP, is a spent force now. Her recognition by the government carries a political messaging. NTR is a revered figure in Andhra politics as parties across the political spectrum recognise his colossal contribution, not just to the Telugu film industry but also to the state politics and administration.
After NTR’s death in 1996, Lakshmi Parvathi floated her own party NTR Telugu Desam Party (Lakshmi Parvathi) which failed to find traction among voters. After years of political hibernation, during which she fought legal battles against the official TDP, she joined the YSRCP floated by Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy in March 2011.
A post-graduate in Telugu Literature from Telugu University in Hyderabad, Lakshmi Parvathi entered NTR’s life as his biographer in 1991. Thus began an unusual love story, culminating in their marriage a year later. As was his wont, NTR made a dramatic announcement at a public meeting in Tirupati about his marriage. It triggered a series of cataclysmic events, the reverberations of which are being felt even today.
She authored a few books including ‘A Biography of NT Rama Rao’ and two novels ‘Abhigna’ and ‘Vaidhehi’.
NTR, the matinee idol of the Telugu cinema had floated TDP in 1982 and stormed to power in the combined Andhra Pradesh in the 1983 elections, ending monopoly of Congress in the state. Dethroned in a midnight political coup following a revolt led by his son-in-law Chandrababu Naidu in August, 1995, NTR, the three-time Chief Minister of AP, died a heart-broken man in January 1996. He never pardoned his son-in-law for ‘back-stabbing’ him and usurping power through backdoor.
NTR’s political legacy continues to impact voters in a state where politics is inexorably linked to the film glamour. Despite presiding over the party for the last 24 years, Chandrababu Naidu still faces criticism for the alleged betrayal.
However, by winning a public mandate in the post-NTR political era in the 1999 elections, Naidu had finally silenced his critics and declared himself as a sole inheritor of NTR’s political legacy.
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Lakshmi Parvathi, NTR’s second wife, was projected as villain of the piece in the TDP’s bitter family drama in 1995. Her emergence as the “extra-constitutional authority” with “growing interference” in the party affairs was cited as the main reason by the Naidu faction to stage a revolt against NTR that eventually led to his unseating from power.
Though the TDP and Jagan’s YSR Congress party are bitter rivals, NTR carries a larger-than-life image that transcends political barriers. In fact, the YSRCP leaders never miss an opportunity to hit out at Chandrababu Naidu for “usurping power” from NTR and undermining his political legacy.
NTR’s elder son-in-law Dr D Venkateshwara Rao is with the YSRCP and had even contested the last assembly election, though without success.
The maverick director Ram Gopal Varma’s “Lakshmi’s NTR”, released in the run-up to the April general elections, had touched the raw nerves of the TDP leaders as it sought to portray Naidu as the villain.
The controversial movie presents the story of NTR through the perspective of Lakshmi Parvathi who is a persona non-grata for the present TDP dispensation.
The film focuses on the final stages of NTR’s life when he was tormented by the rebellion within his party led by Chandrababu Naidu. It is a hard-hitting take on the political drama surrounding NTR’s dethronement and portrays Naidu in poor light.