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Naidu brother shifts to Cong

Hyderabad, Dec. 1: Chandrababu Naiduís brother Ramamurthy has switched loyalties to the Congress, adding to the chief ministerís troubles after his call for early elections.

The decision, to have been announced today, has been put off for a week on the advice of the Sai Baba of Puttaparthi.

Ramamurthy is expected to challenge Naiduís Telugu Desam in home district Chittoor, where the party has been in the doldrums for a while.

The brothers have been estranged for almost two years now after Ramamurthy was asked to stay out of the chief ministerís office in Hyderabad and constituency office in Kuppam after reports of mass corruption and abuse of office. Ramamurthy was also sidelined in the Desamís district unit.

Matters came to a head six months ago when Ramamurthy and his rebel flock were forbidden from recruiting fresh members into the Desam during revision of party rolls.

Since then, Chittoor has been a virtual battleground for the brothers.

Two family members of late Desam patriarch .T. Rama Rao ó widow Lakshmi Parvati and brother-in-law D. Venkateswara Rao ó are also set to cross over to the Congress. They may not be given tickets but could be used to unleash a slander campaign against Naidu, whose party is on a sticky wicket in Chittoor.

In the 1999 Assembly polls, the Desam won only six of the 15 segments in the district, the remainder going to the Congress.

Ramamurthy, who contested from Chandragiri, lost to Galla Aruna of the Congress.

Naidu won from Chittoor in 1978 and lost in 1982. In 1989, he contested from Kuppam.

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