Remembering NTR the politician in his centenary Year – Part 2 – His was an autocratic regime, and a Police State 


 NTR’s political career in the later part was marked by Lakshmi Parvati’s prominent role. Her introduction in 1991 as his biographer, secret wedding in 1992, public announcement in 1993 in a rally, were all quick developments. She was 30 years younger to him. Not a single member of his large family of 12 children and their spouses supported the marriage, nor the main king-makers. He brushed aside all, brought her into politics; there were hints she would be his political successor too.  Her role in politics became controversial and led to a split, like in Periyar’s life. NTR reportedly claimed ‘national interests’ behind his marriage!  His supporters (Renuka Chaudhary, later Union Minister, now in Congress) said it was for the upliftment of women! (Amarnath K. Menon, India Today, 1993 October 15). Some expected her to become a Jayalalitha in the Telugu land. After NTR’s death in January 1996, she campaigned for her own party, NTR-TDP, as his political successor (Simha garjana rally, Vijayawada): with lion symbol, she contested with NTR’s picture on the flag. But her party soon withered away. If 1989 defeat was the first setback for NTR, 1995 back-stabbing by CBN was the second tragedy.

Part-1 published on June 9, 2023 discussed how NTR’s big political dynasty, spread over several parties, is beeing wooed by one and all, including  Modi who speaks about opposing dynasties. It deals with NTR’s larger-than-life image, exposes his  shallow and false claims of ‘Andhra pride’, and how he was brought into politics and came to power so soon after his new party was established. The lobby , including Eenadu Telugu daily, which brought him in, dumped him in a later stage . All this established NTR as a mere ‘hero’ who delivered others’ script. If 1983 was a big hit, 1989 and 1995 coup were  big flops for NTR , the same star.

See Part-1 here:

The Big Media outlets are not ready to publish the other,  darker side of the NTR story. Books on him also don’t publish much of it. They project as if as NTR’s charisma swept the polls, also in 1985 when he sought a fresh mandate. But they have no answer why TDP, and NTR personally too, were defeated so soon after, in 1989. We shall see some reasons for his fall in this part-2, which exposes the autocratic ways and repressive rule by NTR. Instead of uniting Andhra nationality as he claimed, he promoted feudal and casteist forces. It deals briefly with his class outlook, how he handled Govt employees strikes, the Karamchedu dalit rural poor massacre, and with his autocratic and extremely repressive policies that need to be recorded.

NTR’s feudal class nature is ignored by many: CPI and CPM hobnobbed with NTR and TDP most of the time (even now), and admittedly surrendered much of the communist mass base.

We hear every day about Chandrababu’s back-stabbing NTR. It should be recalled that it did not happen in 1989, but all the same NTR was defeated : The 1989 defeat of TDP  by Congress in 1989  was at a time the Congress was defeated across India and VP Singh became PM.

Shouldn’t they answer the question why NTR, who was able to overcome betrayal by Nadendla (August 1984, month-long crisis), could not do anything in the second August crisis of 1995?

It was all due to the follies and crimes of the ‘directors’ and script-writers and the ruling class they represented. Today they cover up all that, and seek to use NTR as an icon for 2024 elections, even though they ditched NTR’s policy of saying Centre is a myth.

With the anti-Congress atmosphere in AP, NTR was able to stand up after taking the first blow (1983 August betrayal) due to the strong protest of the people.  NTR did not have a bad reputation at that time.  It is said that ‘power corrupts any one, absolute power corrupts absolutely’. The same happened in 1989: TDP won only 74 of the state’s 294 seats (216 seats in 1985).  It lost 9.67 percent of the votes cast and got 36.54 percent.  Meanwhile, Congress under the leadership of Chenna Reddy set a record with 47 percent votes and 181 seats.

The reason for these developments?  What happened to NTR’s talent?  What are the reasons for TDP’s defeat in 1989? Often the word ‘anti-incumbency’ is used, but why it developed is not much explained: In all three regions of AP, resentment and opposition grew, not only among the peasantry and laborers, but middle-class employees too. Let’s see some details.

NTR Vs. Strike by Govt employees and teachers

When govt employees and teachers went on an agitation during early 2022 in AP, TDP and its media made lot of noise about how the govt handled it. There were indeed some usual threats and inconveniences caused by the Govt., before it conceded many demands, including wage hike, even before a strike commenced.

It raised age of retirement too to 62, but did not concede to restore OPS (old pension scheme) as promised earlier.

OPS was repealed by NDA in 2004 when TDP was in it, and recently NDA reiteratd its opposition to restoring it. But the media, the TDP, as also its Left friends who still support TDP evade this fact. The TDP which formally quit NDA on a local issue (special status to AP) is still wooing it, and declared (now once again) its support to Modi on all issues (in Rajya sabha).

(CPI and CPM) that support TDP did not recall how NTR handled  strikes by the Govt employees in 1983 and 1986.

It’s worth recalling as NTR’s loss of confidence in the middle  employees began in 1983 itself: upon his very arrival, the retirement age of government employees was lowered from 58 to 55 (which was raised earlier by Congress CM Chenna  Reddy, in 1979). They went on strike from July 16, 1983, and the second time from Nov 5, 1986. One went on for 53 days, the second also for several weeks.

NTR almost waged a war-like mass campaign against employees. The TDP organized it, including bandhs at a few places against the strike. NTR asserted he would not bow before 6 lakh employees, he was elected to serve 6 crore people. Above all, he tried to pitch the ‘farmers’ as against government employees, openly incited the former as against the latter. He replaced the Chief Secretary BN Raman, who was asked to go on leave, with his favorite from Delhi,  as the former differed in handling the strike. NTR went on AIR, wrote an article blaming NGOs as ‘ a new class or caste’ above law. They had to call off the strike even though not a single demand was conceded by an adamant NTR: A raise was suggested by PRC 1986. But NTR said that he would not give one rupee more than Rs. 740 (NGOs insisted on Rs.750).  The govt insisted that it will come into effect in July and not from January as requested. (India Today Aug 15,1983, 1986 Dec 31).

Autocracy was the order of the day: ESMA was imposed; using the National Security Act, Govt jailed 12 leaders. An (illegal)Ordinance was issued to amend Fundamental Rules with retrospective effect. Even the autocratic clauses in Article 311 of the Constitution (enquiry is not a must before dismissal under certain conditions) were invoked. The economic conditions were far worse then for Govt employees, but NTR acted autocratically : Today they have an increased salary and facilities that reached them into the upper middle class level.

Autocratic rule continued under NTR

Prohibitory orders by police that prevailed, under Congress rule, in the capital Hyderabad ceaselessly for years, were continued by NTR, renewed week after week. People were denied permissions for meetings and processions (eg. OPDR meetings in 1985-86-89): In 1986, after the permission given by the High Court, the police occupied the meeting hall, that in a peaceful small town, Gudivada, in NTR’s home Krishna dt, and blocked an OPDR conference.

The TDP tried to repeal Act 1/70 that was ostensibly  meant to protect, but that did not protect, tribal land rights.  The travails of Srisailam Project evictee refugees for years contributed to the electoral defeat, of NTR himself in Kalvakurti constituency.

Apart from such things, there were other political reasons for the defeat of 1989: NTR, with an autocratic attitude, suddenly dissolved the cabinet in early 1989 and reconstituted it without consulting even senior ministers: As a result, Jana Reddy, Nallapureddy Srinivasula Reddy, Vasantha Nageswara Rao, KE Krishnamurthy, Mudragada etc. withdrew from the party and started a separate party: Telugu Nadu.  All of them eventually joined the Congress before the elections.

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Karamchedu 1985:  political casteism and the class aspect

Karamchedu was not merely one notorious incident, but was developing into a phenomenon at the time. Kanchika cherla was a village in Krishna dt, where a dalit man was set on fire in 1968, and that was a ghastly but an ‘individual’ incident. Karamchedu was a mass massacre, followed by Neerukonda village massacre (July 1987) wherein five rural poor (SCs) people were killed. Later, the atrocities continued under Congress rule and eight Dalits were killed in Chundur (August 1991).

In this chain of events, NTR never acted in a way to gain people’s trust, nor against the landlord classes.  Apart from the hyped dialogues (against caste system) in the movie Maharathi Karna (of Mahabaharat), he did little to unite Telugu people across castes.

Now we briefly recall Karamchedu, a big and rich village of coastal Andhra: On 1985 July 17, six dalits of farm labor class were brutally attacked, killed and some bodies dumped in a canal. Many were injured, 20 of them severely, not even sparing pregnant women and mothers with small children, and four women raped. They beat up, tortured and chased the Dalits. Hundreds were displaced.  A female key witness of the massacre was murdered later in 1987 August.

The CM NTR paid a formal visit, but only to pacify the people. The police in Karamchedu did not protect the victims, which showed complicity of the ruling party. For several days, the culprits were not even arrested.

The incident was wrongly projected as a ‘clash between the two castes’. All this was in fact was a carnage by landlords and their henchmen who in that village belonged to NTR’s Kamma caste, who felt the TDP win in the January election was their victory, and ‘dalit labor’ must be subjugated, taught a lesson.

The provocation, rather an alibi, was a small incident wherein dalits objected to their drinking water source, a tank, being contaminated by a Kamma boy  ( washing a buffalo, and letting the soiled water back  into the tank. A Madiga boy objected to this).  It was an affront to landlords who owned most of the farmlands in the village.

The assailants were guided here by Kamma feudals, of Daggupati clan, closely related by marriage to NTR: his daughter Purandeswari was the daughter-in-law of the Daggupati family, who were also big guns in film industry. (In Chundur, it was Reddy landlords, under Congress rule.)

While it was wrongly projected as ‘caste clashes’ by the ruling classes, others saw it as merely ‘caste oppression’. Among others, OPDR had sent a Fact Finding Committee that brought out the class conflict that was brewing, and the semi-feudal exploitation that was being covered up. Landlords instigated and mobilized their castemen, while the ruling party backed them.

The police did not act effectively. The government did not work sincerely to punish the murderers.  With that, in addition to the government and police repressive measures, NTR had announced : ‘we will form Village Defense Forces so as to enable the freedom of the landlords, and we will give gun license to two (Pettandars, village elders) in every village.’ It was a private army contemplated with State support. Of course, amid severe opposition by democrats and wider public opinion, the idea got silently buried.

It is notable that CPI, CPM were allies of TDP and NTR those days. Karamchedu itself had communists, but class collaborationist politics led to TDP swallowing up them.

Ongole district court initially sentenced 159 people to life imprisonment, which was later struck down by the Andhra Pradesh High Court due to the proverbial ‘benefit of doubt’, and ‘management’ of judicial processes.

The final verdict was delivered, (23 years after the massacre), by the Supreme Court in 2008: While the lower Court sentenced 159 people to life imprisonment, the Supreme Court said: the prime accused would serve a life sentence, while 29 others would serve three years in prison. But it was too late. Many of the accused had already died.

‘Management’ of judges was thus started on a large scale by TDP in those days. If you count the number of judicial inquiries ordered by NTR and completed (only to give clean chit, supporting the Govt in all cases), it will be obvious that the TDP ‘manages’ courts so effectively. Courts in the last four years gave ‘hundreds of orders’, unusually, against the Govt, now led by YSRCP! Thus TDP, as a ruling party or opposition, is effective in manipulating courts.

Politically speaking, arrogant with a heady election victory, the landlord class of the ‘script-writers’ indulged in massacres against the dalit rural poor, ‘to teach them a lesson.’

DMS (Dalit Maha Sabha) etc in course of time were reduced to a position where they can be “manipulated, co-opted, controlled and subjected to the dynamics of macro-politics,” wrote a scholar sympathetic to dalit-bahujan politics.

Vangaveeti Ranga’s murder aggravated political casteism

The murder of Vangaveeti Ranga on Christmas night by TDP goons (when he was in a fasting tent on some anti-Govt issues) in December 1988 was another dark chapter of NTR’s regime, and that was a beginning of NTR’s fall. There were local rowdy factions in and around Vijayawada by the time NTR of the same dt arrived on political scene. Ranga was a small time factionist of Kapu caste, who was emerging as a leader, soon to be elected as Congress MLA. Instead of countering the then endemic rowdyism by fair and proper means, and promoting unity of Telugus, TDP encouraged the faction of Kammas, and organized the murder, which aggravated a big caste turmoil in the  ‘central coastal Andhra’ zone, spread over four dts. Within three days of the murder, revenge, arson and counter-violence led to 42 deaths, hundreds injured, state-wide bandh, curfew for several days; and Rs. 100 cr worth property was damaged. The police, partisan, miserably failed. TDP leadership (Babu and NTR) initially winked at it, but ultimately it led to a political crisis : Two Kapu ministers (Mudragada, and Chegondi who narrated TDP role in his auto-biography) resigned blaming TDP and NTR acting with a pro-Kamma bias.

Finally to control the damage, and counter the threat to CM’s seat, belatedly, the culprit TDP MLA Devineni Nehru surrendered; Home Minister Dr. Kodela Siva Prasada Rao, and DGP Ram Mohan, all Kammas, had to resign too on Jan 4. (India Today gave graphic details in its next week edition.) But that was too late, and NTR was defeated in 1989 polls. The impact of these factionist and casteist political developments even today haunts AP politics, and hence their importance.

NTR continued the Police State

The first setback for arrogant and aggressive TDP was in their own ‘kamma stronghold’, Ongole dt: it was caused by the death of three farmers in Tanguturu police firing in that district in 1983, months after NTR’s first victory. There were police firings elsewhere too, eg., Kaaldari, Tadepalligudem (West Godavari dt) and Annapureddy palle in Telangana.

And the suicide of 20 cotton farmers, angered the peasants who had voted for TDP.  “They look at us as worse than the cigarettes that have been smoked,” said 70-year-old farmer Pamidi Kotayya Choudhary, and farmers’ leader Yalamanchili Shivaji. Tanguturu farmers refused to accept monetary compensation for police crimes; they said that they were not poor, and demanded punishment to the police who misbehaved with women too.

While accusing others (like former CM YSR and his faction) of being ‘rowdies’, rival murderous thugs have been given a major boost in the TDP itself, apart from white collar criminals. Paritala Ravi, a former fellow-traveler of Naxalites who was admitted into TDP, who was jailed for dozens of murders, was later made a minister. Civil rights leader, Prof. Seshaiah (who died in recent past) had said that 41 of Ravi’s opponents were killed in fake police encounters. He published relevant details. Such is the lega cy of factionalism allowed by NTR, and advanced by his successor CBN.

NTR spoke against the Center on some issues, including its autocracy, and it is blown out of proportions. However, he never even slowed down, let alone stopping the Center’s autocracy and police-military rule over the people. Even though the Home Ministry is in the state list, the TDP Govt had joined hands with the Center and continued the police state. Under NTR rule, people experienced tyranny, arrests, custodial tortures and killings, police firings, black laws, and it was virtually a police state in the name of tackling naxals:

Especially in Telangana, (as also in North coastal Andhra) the Central Armed Forces (CRP BSF etc ) were allowed to go berserk. Central laws, black laws like TADA and ESMA were used indiscriminately. The notorious ‘Disturbed Areas Act ‘ was invoked as in Northeast:

TDP, which came to power in 1983 saying Naxalites are patriots, does not talk about this ‘bloody history’ created by NTR.  This is not ‘visible’ as Congress was a pioneer in establishing police raj.  What was shown in the recent, much-debated,  Telugu movie Viraataparvam represented complete reality:

In villages those days, any young men wearing pants were afraid to step in: Scores of villages were encircled by armed police in the early hours (3-4 am), people were lined up and branded Naxalites, hundreds of people were rounded up, illegally detained and kidnapped, thousands were framed up in false (even sedition) cases, blocked, beaten up, tortured by third-degree measures.

In UP’s BJP- Adithyanath regime reportedly killed 150 ‘criminals’ in its tenure, quite a record. Compare it with NTR regime those days. There were a series of encounter’ deaths: about 200 shot dead during 1983-89 alone, and 75 in 1994-95 when NTR-TDP rule was back. And they were not criminals by any reckoning. All this was meant to suppress the movement of the rural poor.

Democratic Rights movement sought to be suppressed

After 1975-77 Emergency, the civil and democratic rights movements had to work over-time again after 1983.   Even wall writing had become a crime those days. The slogan ‘Police Rajyaam-Tupaki rajayam’  became  very popular once again during NTR’s tegime.

 Several Civil Rights leaders were harassed, and worse: Dr. Ramanadham , a devoted doctor who treated children of of policemen too, was shot dead by police (in disguise), on Sep 3, 1985, soon after NTR returned as CM.  Japa Laxma Reddy of APCLC  was likewise murdered by police (fake encounter) on Nov 7, 1986. and Dr.K. Balagopal was kidnapped, by the police in August 1989 ( it was feared he too would be killed in an encounter) during this period! This story, unknown to the younger generation, which is ‘forgotten’ by the elders, covered up by media that extols NTR, needs to be recalled in some detail even for the sake of civil rights movement.

No wonder NTR is being recommended by ruling classes, and being considered by BJP and Modi too, for a Bharat Ratna award.

There are many ‘Leftists’, their parties and Unions who ‘forgot’ all this and are backing TDP and CBN today with vested interests and wrong politics. Some of them in civil liberties movement are hobnobbing with TDP today.

 Did they forget that Chandrababu regime trampled ordinary protesters with horses, and resorted to police firings? Later, popular singer Gaddar was shot at (aiming to kill him) by ‘unknown persons’ (police) during TDP regime (April 7, 1997).  Gaddar recently said that the shrapnel of those days  are still hurting him (in the back) and the criminals should be punished.

When the workers protested about their issues, they were labeled as Naxalites and suppressed using the Arms Act.  Singareni coalmine labor activists and leaders were arrested, and tortured (with third degree methods) for days in police stations; ‘Roller treatment’ was given.   False cases were filed.  Singareni Mine workers Union (SGKS) Secretary Mogiliah was tortured and forced to dissolve the union!  Eventually he was fired from work. Arrest was not shown even after 15 days of illegal detention. For example, in 1989, unable to bear the torture, an activist tried to commit suicide by stabbing himself in the neck with a broken bottle. The fact-finding committees of OPDR and similar organizations, the Rural Poor Organization (GPS) revealed the above facts.

Similarly in Rayalaseema.. eg.  Srinivasulu, a construction worker, died in police custody on June 18, 1989 at Kalyanadurgam in Anantapur district. When thousand people demonstrated in protest, police opened fire on them!  In 1987 in Tirupati, false cases were filed against leaders of Navodaya Yuvajan Sangam, who protested against hooligans and urban land-encroachers and fraudsters in the name of chit fund companies.

Media freedom  curbed

The killing in 1985 by pro-NTR forces of Pingali Dasaratha Ram, an unconventional journalist with his own magazine, was a mile-stone. Bihar Model Press Bill to silence the press, the ‘Defamation Bill’, and the Police Bill so as to empower  them with magistrate’s powers, so as to strengthen the police state not only in villages but also in towns.

Sensing the public mood and intensifying movements, NTR announced, in mid-1989, talks with the Naxalites would be held, but that was too late. Congress led by Marri Chenna Reddy, who promised civil liberties would be restored, defeated NTR, who was perceived as an autocrat and nepotistic : Control of TDP by two sons-in-law (Venkateswara Rao and Chandrababu) alienated many from NTR.

And that was also a reason for the TDP’s defeat in 1989; even NTR himself was defeated in one (Kalvakurti in Telangana  of two constituencies he contested, sensing uncertainty. It should be noted that TDP lost with a margin of ten percent votes. And defeated in 1989 elections at a time Congress was down, and defeated all over the country.

NTR won again in 1994, but not because of faith in him. Congress riven by factionalism had three CMs in five years, and that helped TDP. Congress, which became infamous by changing three Chief Ministers, gave him the weapon of Andhra’s self-respect, for the second time. Corruption was no issue, for both parties were equal, people saw.

Anti-Congress mood in the people, TDP’s strong party structure (in which NTR’s  role was limited), financial strength, contest with alliances (at one stage simultaneously with the Left and BJP) helped TDP and allies win in 247 seats. Out of 213 MLAs of TDP, however,  only 21 people went with NTR, post-split.

 Experiences of Tamil Nadu – in Andhra?


TDP was known for its opportunism, NTR was no exception, as can be sen in this cartoon by Eenadu, part of the lobby that brought NTR to power.  Driven by nepotism , NTR ditched his own principle not to admit those who contested against TDP when it was founded in 1983, he admitted Chandra Babu Nayudu , his-son-in-law , (depicted in the cartoon) who was a Congress candidate and was defeated by TDP. CBN has been a master-tailor who stitched up alliances with Left and BJP simultaneously, as in 1985 and later too. Post-NTR, Telugu Desam Party that was founded with the plank of uniting Telugus, allied with separatist TRS  and with Congress too in Telangana. TDP had joined BJP and  NDA walked out of it, during PM Vajpayee times, and again during Modi regime. He broke from Modi-led NDA on some local issues, and very recently declared he never had differences with Modi and his policies. TDP voted with NDA in Rajya sabha on CAA, Art 370, Farmers’ Bill, President’s Election etc.  

There are many similarities between Tamil Nadu politics and NTR’s example – Rs 2 kg rice (Anna rice), MG Ramachandran’s film charisma, ‘second woman role’, and MGR’s opportunism too.  If civil liberties leaders, including Justice VM Tarkunde, were even manhandled in Tamilnadu, NTR went ahead, did not hesitate to kill  them too, as seen above.

There are differences too.  MGR, ditching claims of autonomy,  joined hands with Congress by abandoning the anti-Congress Dravidian politics and creating a rift in DMK. Whereas in Andhra, NTR initially won by using the anti- Congress mood, by grabbing the communists’ mass base and the communist vote. However, opportunist  NTR, who won in 1983 against Congress, in 1984 campaigned in favor of MGR’s party, which was an ally of Congress at that time.  MGR openly said that alliance with whoever is in power at the center was his policy,i.e.,  opportunism was his policy.  TDP too joined hands with both BJP and Congress.

NTR mouthed slogans of  opposing Centre calling it a myth,  midhya. However, he had no program like Akalis who demanded the Centre must keep only a few subjects under it like defence, foreign policy, communications. 

It should be remembered that BJP leaders not only came to the funeral of Jayalalithaa, who was caught in huge corruption cases, but also glorified her.  Sasikala, who was jailed after Jayalalitha, also belongs to that category. Modi-led BJP used the AIADMK party and its factions in Tamil Nadu to win and get four MLAs.

Likewise BJP  – in fact everyone in vote-bank politics- in AP is celebrating NTR’s  centenary by hiding his dark side.  They want to give Bharat Ratna, for the services he rendered to the ruling classes.  Let’s see how and to whom  NTR would prove to be  useful in Andhra politics!

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See Part-1 here:

(This is a modified and enlarged, English version of a short article published in Trending News, a Telugu web magazine, in August, 2022, when the birth centenary commenced, and was ongoing.

The author is a Telugu media person who contributed several articles to

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