35-Year-Old Rivalry Between Reddy and Naidu Families Pushes Andhra Pradesh to the Brink Again

Bengaluru: The ‘march to Athmakur’ has resulted in a face-off between the Naidus and the Reddys in Andhra Pradesh once again. The Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which seems to have recovered from the most humiliating defeat in the recent Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, has taken the ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) of Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy head on, alleging large-scale and systematic harassment of its cadre by the government.

By preventing the TDP cadre from marching to Athmakur near Guntur, where the alleged atrocities took place, the Jagan government has given enough airtime to the TDP, which was highly demoralised after the serious drubbing at polls.

Interestingly, Naidu’s son Nara Lokesh, who had disappeared from public view after a humiliating defeat in his maiden Assembly election, has re-appeared, leading the TDP march against the YSRCP.

Ground reports suggest their fight is likely to continue in the years to come.

With this latest face-off, the 35-year-old rivalry between the YSR family and Naidu’s family has come to the fore again.

Not many today are aware of the fact that the late YS Rajasekhara Reddy and Naidu had entered the Andhra Pradesh Assembly together in 1978 on Congress party tickets. Both were made junior ministers in the T Anjaiah government on the same day. They had a good rapport and shared a healthy personal relationship till Naidu quit the Congress to join his father-in-law and then chief minister NT Rama Rao’s TDP in 1984.

Around the same time, YSR became the youngest president of the Andhra Pradesh Congress. He took on the NTR government and friends-turned-foes in Andhra politics.

The rivalry between Reddy and Naidu was not as intense between 1989 and 1999 since YSR was an MP in New Delhi. In 1999, he became leader of the opposition in the state assembly during Naidu’s second term in office. Naidu was then at the zenith of his power, remote-controlling the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in New Delhi.

But a feisty YSR did not lose confidence. He took Naidu head on and slayed him in the 2004 elections. It was an emphatic victory for both YSR and the Congress. A shocked Naidu took months to recover from the defeat and became bitter. YSR returned to power again in 2009 and many had written off Naidu in Andhra politics.

Between 2004 and 2009, Naidu attacked YSR and his son Jaganmohan almost daily, calling them corrupt and criminal. YSR also hit back at Naidu in his inimitable way.

After YSR’s tragic death in a helicopter crash in September 2009, the once-powerful and progressive Andhra Pradesh descended into chaos. Exploiting the period of anarchy, K Chandrashekar Rao of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) successfully divided the state, creating Telangana in 2014.

After his father’s death, an angry Jagan left the Congress to form his own party — YSR Congress Party — to take on the TDP. He alleged that the Congress had betrayed him and YSR followers. Sensing that the late YSR’s son might pose a big challenge to him in the future, Naidu allegedly helped the Congress high command in New Delhi to “fix” him in a disproportionate asset cases in 2012. A wounded Jagan swore revenge from a Hyderabad jail.

In the 2014 Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, Naidu surprisingly returned to power in the truncated state. The woes of a shocked Jagan continued for another five years under Naidu.

However, Jagan managed to establish a good relationship with the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre and the Naidu's exit from the NDA last year helped the YSRCP to bounce back.

Targeting only Naidu and his son Lokesh, Jagan led a spirited fight against the TDP. It paid off handsomely, ensuring a huge win for the YSRCP in the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in May this year.

After coming to power, Jagan promised the party cadre that he would investigate the alleged atrocities committed by the TDP against them during Naidu’s rule.

That pent-up anger is now coming out and the rivalry does not seem to be ending anytime soon. Naidu, 70, has vowed to continue the fight, telling his party men that his son would continue to fight after him. His rival, Jagan, is just 46 years old and son Nara Lokesh is 36. It has raised hopes on both sides, although most agree that Nara Lokesh is no match for Jagan.