We can love him. We can hate him. But we cannot ignore him. That is the charisma of thespian and Telugu Desam Party founder late NT Rama Rao. Like the inexhaustible quiver of Lord Rama, NTR’s name is the taraka mantra for the survival of political parties in the Telugu states. Whenever elections come, he is the force to reckon with for the ruling and opposition parties, be it for offensive purposes or defensive ones. This is mirrored by what is happening in the Telugu states. It has been more than two and a half decades since his death. It also has been almost four decades since NTR single-handedly transformed the political landscape of the combined Andhra Pradesh forever and sent shivers down the spine of then indomitable Congress party at the national level. Further, it has been almost a decade since Andhra Pradesh was divided into two states. Both states exist independently and go on their own course of progress and development. And here is the man who has commanding presence in both Telugu states. Politically he is strongly ruling both the states incognito. A rare feat indeed. His political dominance and invincibility have become the survival mantra for the parties, whether ruling or in the Opposition.
Going without latching on to the name of NTR or working in disregard of him can cost a lot for the parties. The irony of the situation is that for the ruling party to retain power and for the opposition party to come to power, the chanting of his name has become inevitable in both the states. And no party can survive by rejecting or relegating him. For the ruling parties of the respective states, his name is a boon and becomes a potential political weapon for them to retain power and drive out the very party that he had established and nourished. Ironically, for both ruling and opposition parties in Andhra Pradesh, his name acts as a potent weapon. The ruling YSR Party uses the same name to corner the opposition Telugu Desam Party to the point of dismantling it, while the very same party is hanging on it to come to power. Really it is a rare case of a legend whose persona is used and utilised by a party for the purpose of coming to power or preventing another party from coming to power.
Since the attainment of Independence, India has seen many a leader who dominated contemporary politics and after whose demise, the aura of the personality also evaporated. But for the Telugu states, the aura of NTR is so pervasive that it has become a survival strategy and a base for political existence. That is the personality of NTR who embodied the political soul of Telugu states.
With the arrest of TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu, the name of NTR has come to the fore again for political gains. The ruling BRS government in Telangana had to resort to this as part of damage control and to regain the confidence of the Andhra people in Telangana. Political parties may have their own strategies to lure and ensure their vote bank, but underneath all that, it is going to be NTR all the way.
In politics, it is expediency that matters. Leaders never hesitate to use any opportunity that benefits them and discard anything that harms their interests. There have been many examples to establish the point. In the run-up to the Assembly elections in the Telugu states many surprising things are bound to happen surrounding NTR and his undiminishing power of influence. Like a colossus, he has been continually influencing politics in Telugu states without being present physically.